Updated: Aug 17
I came across this fantastic book by Debra Landwehr Engle a few months ago called The Only Little Prayer You Need: The Shortest Route to a Life of Joy, Abundance, and Peace of Mind. Despite its lengthy title, the book itself is a short, inspiring read. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I want to share some of my musings with you.
According to Engle the only prayer you will ever need is, “Please heal my fear-based thoughts.” (It doesn't really matter who you address, just pray to whoever you believe is listening.) The world is made up of two basic emotions that motivate our thoughts and actions: fear or love. Love based thoughts result in all the good things you’d expect: happiness, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, etc. Fear based thoughts result in things like jealousy, anger, resentment, guilt, etc. The problem is that both our ego and our world like to stoke fear-based thoughts. We are bombarded with fearful images, ideas, programs, newscasts, stories, and advertisements all day long. These fear-based thoughts are so prevalent that we barely even register they are there. However, they keep us stuck by hemming us in on all sides and convincing us there is no other way to live. They make us believe we (and our world) can’t change. They distract us with a million tiny things that are just taking our focus off what is really important. Even when we think we aren’t being motivated by fear, often we are in a subtle, twisted way.
“The term ‘fear-based thoughts’ acknowledges that, no matter how big the fear, it is just a thought, and thoughts can be changed.”
Consider your thoughts about money. Are you worried about paying the bills, having enough for retirement, or investing wisely? How much of what you think about money is based on fear? Humans being what we are, we can’t stop this loop of fear from going through our heads. We can, however, ask for help in healing these fear-based thoughts. “Please heal my fear-based thoughts” is a prayer to your higher power (whatever you believe in) to heal your thinking which eliminates those thoughts and gives you the space you need to see your situation clearly. By doing this your problems might go away, become much more manageable, or be a catalyst for growth. Suddenly you start getting unstuck from your issues and your life becomes calmer and more expansive.
“The prayer surrenders our problems to a higher power who can perform the healing we’re not able to do ourselves.”
After reading this book I started practicing this prayer in my life. At first I looked for obvious moments when fear was getting the better of me. I might start with something simple such as “maybe I should go camping this week.” It seems like a great idea until I consider that the weather is turning colder and it is going to be chilly at night. Then I remember the last time I went camping in the fall and I was so cold I could barely get to sleep. What if that happens again? And what if it rains and then I’m wet AND cold? My sleeping bags are all down and if they get wet it’s really hard to stay warm. And didn’t my tent have a leak the last time we went camping in a thunderstorm? Did I ever fix that? I can’t go camping again until I figure this out. I have come to call this string of fear-based thoughts the “spinout.”
You see how one thing leads to the next and suddenly I’m unable to do something I want to do? Fear based thinking is slightly different than fear. I’m not afraid of going camping, or sleeping in a tent alone, or thunderstorms. That is not what is stopping me. What gets me stuck is the thinking rooted in fear that makes me imagine a million things that could go wrong. Now, whenever I feel myself doing the spinout I stop and say the prayer. “Please help me heal my fear-based thoughts.” Sometimes I feel immediate relief. Sometimes it takes a while. Almost always I have noticed that when I go back to it I can think reasonably about my plans without the spinout. Then I can consider my options without fear ruling my mind.
“When we’re high on fear, we could be in heaven itself and not recognize it for what it is.”
Now, I just want to say that I totally understand what Engle is saying. We definitely do not want fear to stop us from living. On the other hand, there is certainly a place in our lives for wisdom and forethought. You know who tends to not make decisions based on fear or forethought or wisdom? Teenagers. And they do some pretty dumb things. So thinking about the logical consequences of our actions is an important thing for responsible adults to do. We just need to learn to do them without fear based thoughts taking over. So when I consider going camping, I think about the weather, the safety of the campground, and what I need to take to stay healthy during my trip. I can do all those things in a responsible way without the fear spinout taking me down a crazy, winding path toward inaction.
Living without fear-based thinking should not make you feel immune to the natural consequences of your actions. It does not eliminate legitimate concerns. If you are worried about paying your bills this month, you might find that fear-based thinking has you spinning out worrying about losing the house, your car, feeding your kids, etc. If you ask to be healed of your fear-based thoughts, you should still be concerned about paying your bills this month. However, now you can work toward making your bills get paid without all the added drama and negative emotion.
As I re-read Engle’s book this week I started thinking of some other ways to apply this prayer as well. She talks about fears becoming roadblocks keeping us from solving our problems because we are too afraid to take action. Even if you aren’t getting caught up in a spinout, sometimes quiet, insidious fears can creep into our minds and subtly alter our thinking to the point that we don’t see solutions to our problems. We think we are looking at a situation logically, but those fears are quietly setting up barriers we cannot see around. We are just as stuck as we were with the spinout, it is simply harder to recognize.
“The cause of your fear is in your mind, not in the external world. So when you heal that cause, the effect is to change the external world.”
So I started working with this today. I thought of problems that I’ve been working on for a while but haven’t made any progress on. Where are fears keeping me from seeing the solution to these? For example, I’ve been looking for a new place to live for a while. I’ve gotten pretty clear on what I want and how much I can spend. I’ve done all the energetic work to clear the way for a new place to live. Yet, somehow, nothing has shown up yet. So I started asking myself if any fear-based thoughts might be holding me back. After some reflection I realized that quite a few were in the back of my mind. What if I find a place I love but it is more than I want to spend? What if it seems great and then I move in and I have squirrels in the attic like my last place? What if I find a great place but it is further away from where I want to live? What if I can’t find a great place? Will I settle for a not-great place? Does settling mean I don’t trust the Universe to find me a great place? Ahhh!!
So, apparently the spinout was going on in the back of my head without noticing. I really had no idea most of these fears were there! I never consciously put them all together in one string to see how they worked together to create an immovable barrier for me. So immediately I said “Please heal my fear-based thoughts.” Every time it comes to my mind I say it again. I’m not even letting myself think about finding a new place to live right now. I do feel a little more mental space around the problem than I have in a while, but there are still fears that pop up every time I start to think about it. I need to give this some time to work through my mind. I’m interested to see where it goes.
What is fascinating is that saying this prayer feels just like energy work to me. These fear-based thoughts have energy to them that are creating blocks in my life. When I say the prayer I can feel that energy leave. Sometimes it is fast and easy. Sometimes it takes a while. But it does leave. With the energy gone, I have new space to think and take action. This is an amazingly quick and easy form of energy work that you can use for self-healing!
“Every minute of every day, we can make a better choice.”
So this week, listen to your thoughts and, when you feel that spinout start to happen, say the prayer. See what happens. I hope you feel the calm that comes from it just as I have.
If you have a bigger problem you’ve been working on, try the prayer on that. See if there are any sneaky fear-based thoughts lurking in the background keeping you from seeing a solution.
If you really want bonus points, get the book and read it for yourself! Engle is a great writer and has more to say on this topic than I can cover here. She provides lots of examples of how the prayer can work in your life. You can also check out all her work here: Debraengle.com
Want more about this? Read my other blog post Break Free from Fear.