I’m not the type of person who typically asks someone to pray. That’s always seemed preachy, personal, and presumptuous. In fact, I’ve even bristled slightly at the word “prayer”—along with “God,” “Jesus,” and the “Holy Spirit”—because those words have such particular meanings to each individual, and my understanding might be very different from my neighbor’s.
But about thirty years ago, I started studying A Course in Miracles, which is described as “spiritual psychotherapy.” While this course includes Christian language, it’s a path not to religion, but to peace of mind—a deep peace that resides inside each of us with help from a higher power.
Even though I’ve studied and taught the Course for years, I still learn more about its teachings every day—and sometimes not in the most comfortable ways. Following any spiritual path typically is like a maze. As we make forward progress, we’re likely to take a lot of detours along the way. We don’t get all the answers at once. And even when we do have an “ah-ha” moment, we may find ourselves in a new and tricky part of the maze that we’ve never seen before.
A Small Event Takes On Miraculous Significance
This story is about a seemingly small event in my life that took on miraculous significance because of the lessons that came with it.
I’m not a theologian; in fact, I’ve found most of my spiritual sustenance outside traditional religion. But I believe we’re returning to a time when we “remember” and understand our individual connection to the divine. Each of us has a direct relationship with a higher power, and it’s by calling on and developing that relationship that we can experience what might be called miraculous changes in our lives.
My husband, Bob, and I have had our share of tragedies and hurts in our lives. And, in my capacity as co-founder of a spirituality and personal growth program, I’ve worked for years with women who are experiencing everything from the lifelong effects of early sexual abuse to the uncertainty of their primary relationship, their stage of life, or their children’s futures due to mental health or drug abuse issues.
The way we deal with all of these challenges defines the quality of our life and our peace of mind. And with the help of the Course, I also know that trying to do it without help from a higher power is not going to get us where we want to go.
How I Got From There to Here
It was January 11, 2013, and I felt like it had already been a long year. Earlier in the week, I’d made a significant mistake with a major client. And, even though everyone on my project team was gracious and understanding, I had a hard time forgiving myself for it. In fact, at three o’clock the next morning, I woke up panicked that I’d sent the wrong file to the same client. I felt like someone had shoved a lit torch down my throat.
Tired, and clearly not in the best of moods, I drove with my husband, Bob, to pick up our Honda CR-V at the body shop. The driver’s door had been damaged in a minor accident at a grocery store parking lot. After renting a series of cars, I was ready to climb into a vehicle that fit me again.
When I did, I was pleased to see that the dent was repaired, as was the gap between the window and the doorframe. Bob opened my driver’s door to check it out.
“It looks good,” I said. “I’m happy.”
But the door didn’t close properly. Bob opened it and shut it harder, but he had to slam it before it latched. My mood, which had been momentarily lifted, started again on a downward slope.
Bob talked to the body shop manager and made arrangements for more repair in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we figured, we could go ahead and return the rental.
Thoughts Rattling In My Head
I drove the CR-V, following Bob down the highway toward the interstate. Before long, I heard a rattle in the dash, then a vibration. Every time I hit a bump in the road, it seemed like the rattles got worse—and so did my attitude.
It’s not really fixed, I thought. It’ll never be right. From there, my thoughts took a nosedive. I thought about the fact that the accident had been preventable. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d been driving instead of Bob.
My thoughts headed fast into a cesspool, all blaming Bob, the body shop mechanic, or myself for weeks of inconvenience, expense and frustration. As I drove, I become more miserable.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent way too much time in that cesspool during my life. Despite the fact that I’ve long been a student of spiritual traditions, meditation, and spiritual practices—I’ve even taught them for many years—I still find my thoughts drifting too much to the negative. I can easily fall into irritation or frustration. When I’m stressed, I’m unkind and snippy, sometimes downright mean.
As we arrived at the car dealership to return the rental, I was exhausted. Not just from the last few minutes of negative thinking, but from years of it. In this case, I was afraid the CR-V would never be right. I was afraid I’d never forgive Bob. I was afraid I’d always be mad that he was driving the day of the accident. I was afraid we wouldn’t get reimbursed from the insurance company. I was afraid, as I’ve been many times before, that I would continue to be unhappy.
Please Heal My Fear-Based THOUGHTS.
As I sat in the CR-V while Bob went inside to handle the paperwork, I genuinely wanted to do something different, but that was just it: I couldn’t do it. My mind had created the problem, and I couldn’t fix it with that same mind. What I wanted was a breath of fresh air—a whoosh of love, acceptance, and healing. I knew that couldn’t come from me. It had to come from another power.
I thought about my options, and the only one that seemed feasible was to ask for help. I sat back in the driver’s seat, looked out over the sea of cars at the dealership parking lot, and found myself saying these words to the Holy Spirit: Please heal my fear-based THOUGHTS.
I had never said that prayer before. In fact, it just showed up. And at the time, it didn’t seem like anything remarkable. But what happened next took it to a whole different level.
What Does It All Mean?
When Bob got in the CR-V, I was still in a bad mood. The prayer hadn’t changed anything—or so I thought. “Well,” I began, with plenty of attitude, “there are big rattles in the dash, and one time I heard wind coming through the driver’s window.”
Bob jotted down notes for the body shop manager. “Anything else?” he asked, genuinely helpful.
“No,” I said glumly as I pulled out into traffic. “You’ll hear the rattles when we hit some bumps.”
I pulled onto the interstate, and Bob trained his ear toward the dashboard to hear what I was talking about. We hit a couple of bumps and . . . nothing. No rattle, no vibration. We hit more bumps . . . still nothing.
About halfway home, Bob said, “I haven’t heard anything yet, have you?”
“No,” I said, almost disappointed. How could I make him feel guilty if nothing was wrong? The problems seemed to have disappeared.
Huh, I thought, still pouting as we pulled in the drive.
When I went inside, part of me was glad, and another part felt cheated. I’d wanted to punish Bob by saying, “See, it’s really messed up and it’s all your fault.”
From Wrong-Mindedness to Right-Mindedness
I hung up my coat, looked through the mail, and then started hearing my inner voice talking. Essentially, this is what it said:
When you asked for your thoughts to be healed, the external triggers for those thoughts were no longer needed, and so the rattles went away.
Oh, I thought, in the mundane sort of way that sometimes precedes great change. A change in my internal perception had just shifted my external environment. This, in the teachings of A Course in Miracles, would qualify as a miracle, a return to what the Course calls “right-mindedness.”
As long as I was rattled, I needed rattles in my dash to help me heal. But when my thoughts were healed, the rattles were no longer needed.
This “ah-ha” moment spread through me slowly like a warm drink. I realized it was big—something that, despite all my years of spiritual study, I had never understood in quite this way before.
Wayne Dyer has long said: “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” In other words, change your perception, and your world looks different.
I get that. If I believe the world is a scary place, I’m going to see dangerous situations everywhere. If I change my perception to believing the world is a safe place, I’m going to see help and support everywhere.
But This Was Different
“Bob,” I said, “we have something important to talk about, and it’s really good, so let’s sit down.” I’m sure he could detect a change of tone in my voice.
I explained the whole trip to the rental car facility and how angry I had been. I told him how I asked for my fear-based thoughts to be healed—after which the rattles in the car had disappeared.
“I think this is what happened,” I said. “We come into this life with certain lessons to learn about love and acceptance. And so every situation and relationship is here to help us become more loving and accepting. They give us opportunities to learn.
“When we ask for our fear-based thoughts to be healed, we’re asking to replace fear with love and acceptance. When our thoughts are healed, we no longer need the lesson, and the circumstances or issues go away.”
It struck me that this truly is the secret. When our thoughts are healed, we no longer need the lesson, and the circumstances or issues go away. It’s also incredibly simple, which is why we struggle against it or forget to ask for help. How could it possibly be effective when it’s so easy? But when we can remember to ask for our thoughts to be healed, not only are we changed, our “problems” may eventually cease to exist.
So Here I Am, Asking You To Pray
I believe that when you use the prayer in this book, you’ll experience steady progress toward a life of greater internal peace. Much of the drama and chaos around you will subside. And what remains will have less impact on you, bouncing off of you because you’re no longer a willing host.
As crazy as it sounds, I think this prayer is an answer to prayer. It’s a path to a better life. And it’s the simplest thing possible. Now all we have to do is actually use it.
©2014 by Debra Landwehr Engle. All Rights Reserved.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. www.redwheelweiser.com
About the Author
Debra Landwehr Engle has been a freelance writer for many years and her initial publishing credits appeared in such magazines as "Country Home," "Country Gardens" and "Better Homes and Gardens." Her first book, "Grace from the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time," was published in 2003. Since then, she has contributed to several international collections of essays. Deb teaches classes in "A Course in Miracles" and is co-founder of Tending Your Inner Garden®, an international program of creativity and personal growth for women. She also teaches workshops that use journaling and writing as tools for self-discovery, as well as one-on-one and small-group sessions on creativity, writing, manuscript development and life skills. Through her company, GoldenTree Communications, she provides mentoring and publishing services to fellow writers.
Watch a video: The Only Little Prayer You Need
Debra speaks about Remembering the Light Within