April 1, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

In a previous life–and I know this is hard to believe–I was a Baptist minister, a born-again Christian. Really. Today, my spiritual life is very different, and not something I’m going to bore you with right now. Suffice to say I am not a traditional praying man, and would be loathe to prescribe any spiritual practice for anyone else.

I don’t begin or end my days on my knees, don’t face Mecca five times a day for Salah, don’t pull out the siddur to guide my prayers. Instead, my prayer life is more like what St. Paul describes in First Thessalonians, my prayers constantly reoccurring (not “ceaselessly” as often mistranslated). All day, every day, my mind is flooded, and my lips are moved to say, “Thank you, God.” Really. It has become an automatic response to each change in events, even if that change is just my getting bored. This simple “Thank you, God” has replaced my previous mantra: “I f-ing hate this.” Whether this change is a cause or an effect is up to the theologians to decide, but I know my life is significantly better than it was 13 years ago.  Gratitude is powerful stuff.

My prayer life suffices for me for now, but I know many folks in and out of recovery like to keep a prayer list, an actual inventory of those for whom they intend to pray. If you are one of those folks, may I make a few suggestions for additions, folks for whom you may wish to pray?  Like many of you, I’ve lived in each of these circumstances, and may again. My possible additions to your prayer list:

  1. Pray for the institutionalized mentally ill. Twice in my life I’ve been in psychiatric hospitals for two months or more and a third time for a couple weeks. Each time, I wanted to be dead. Each time, I felt alone in the world. Each time, I never thought I’d feel any different, and certainly couldn’t picture feeling better. Pray for strength for these folks, to keep holding on—until their pain subsides, their meds kick in, they find the therapist who can help them unlock the solution. Pray for them at night, when things are often worst, and even more in the morning, when things are supposed to feel better but don’t.
  2. Pray for the actively addicted who are jonesing this very minute. Think of needing to catch your breath in a vacuum and you’ve got some little idea of separation from the substance that keeps you human. While much of humanity is worrying about the effects of Covid-19 on life, the addicted live in an eternal unbearable NOW where each shot simply resets the timer for the onset of the next dose of hell. Pray their needs are met, not necessarily for that next shot but certainly for an end to the pain and the beginning of recovery.
  3. Pray for the homeless, whether sleeping outside or in a shelter. Either way, it’s hard enough to have no home, but imagine being part of a group that’s seen as high-risk vectors for this pandemic. Not only are people around you judging you for your attire or the bag on your back, they now see you as today’s Typhoid Mary. Please pray these folks find homes and peace and respect.
  4. Pray for those in early recovery, who began this journey within the past few months. They’ve gone from being told “meeting makers make it” to needing to physically distance themselves from all those who have what they need—the secret to staying clean and sober for today and to reducing the odds they’ll use tomorrow. Please pray they recognize that while online meetings are not an acceptable long-term substitute for face-to-face meetings, they will help save your lives. Online meetings are not what we’d like, but they’re what we have for now. We live much longer on reduced calories than on no food at all.

(Click Here for local or regional online meetings)

Since I began writing this, I’ve made a decision I’ll now translate into action. I said truthfully I don’t pray in the morning and evening. Until Hope reopens, whether that’s three weeks or three months from now, I vow to begin and end my days with prayers for the four groups listed above. At some point habits become identity become character. Maybe when this is over I will have become a traditional praying man. Regardless, we know

Words matter. You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith