Like a prayer: What it means to me

Fearne shares why she prays when she feels powerless in an extract from Bigger Than Us.

Two friends are having an incredibly tough time at the moment and I feel helpless. I want to be all action, hugs, biscuits and practical help to others but sometimes problems are too big and too out of my control to help at all. Prayer seems like my only option and, at this time of night, weirdly an intuitive choice.

Why do I only pray in SOS moments? Why isn’t it a part of my everyday existence? The first small hurdle I have to get over is how awkward it feels doing it. I prefer to speak the prayer aloud as it feels more impactful and as if I might speak my well-wishes into reality. I’m obviously well versed in speaking out loud but, to hear my own little voice bouncing back at me with no one to catch each syllable, I feel like a bit of a wally. I’m too aware of my own sincerity and, spoken aloud, my prayer starts to sound earnest. I need to seriously get over myself and just remember the meaning behind it.

The other thing holding me back is the worry that I’m a fraud. Prayer has been associated with religion for thousands of years without many of us realising they are not mutually exclusive. I’m not religious as I don’t align with one particular methodology, but I am deeply spiritual and want to cultivate my relationship with that entity that is bigger than us. In turn, that desire to develop a more connected relationship with something bigger than myself allows me to solidify a better relationship with myself. The universe is out there but also within me and within you. I know this to be true and understand that prayer could help me really honour this notion in my everyday life.


What prayer means to me

Here’s the bit about prayer that often gets misunderstood – we think that if the desired outcome doesn’t instantly manifest, something has gone wrong. We then feel let down, foolish or maybe even angry. My limited understanding of prayer is that the outcome might not be what we actually asked for. The element of prayer that we find hard to accept is the ‘letting go’ bit. Prayer is the ultimate surrender as we hand our worries and doubts over to something bigger than us. This ‘bigger’ might not even live outside of us, or typically, as we would imagine, above us; it might be IN us too.

Letting go means we are accepting that whatever the outcome, it’s the one we are supposed to receive. For instance, you might pray that you get the job you just interviewed for, yet the next day get a phone call saying you didn’t get the job. The meaning behind your prayer reached beyond your own comprehension and belief of what is possible. A few months later you get an even better job opportunity which wouldn’t have been possible if you had been offered and taken the previous one.

I’ve noticed this happen in my own life on so many occasions. I have expectations, pray, receive a different outcome, feel let down, then later down the line notice the beautiful opportunity that arrived later and in a different guise than I’d imagined. Life tends to only make sense retrospectively when all the puzzle parts start to join together.

How I pray

I’m not even sure who I am praying to. I don’t use a name but I do talk in a strangely relaxed and overly familiar way during my prayers. The prayer might start, ‘Hey’, as if I were talking to my best mate, or even, ‘It’s me, Fearne, sorry it’s been so long.’

I like the free-flowing dialogue that might not traditionally be associated with prayer. After the initial platitudes I ask for help.

I ask directly for the support or help needed, in this instance, for my two friends who both have big shit going on. I ask for them to be protected and guided and for them to feel supported and at peace. In this situation I also asked for what might seem impossible. A miracle perhaps? I don’t feel limited at all when I’m praying. Once I’m over the initial awkwardness I don’t feel judged. I know I can ask with wild abandon and that it will be welcomed if the desire is coming from a good place. Often in life we feel too nervous to ask for what we want. We don’t want to seem demanding, expectant, or maybe we have a belief we don’t deserve what we really want. Prayer seems to bypass all of this.

We are willingly handing over outcomes to something bigger. We are not burdening anyone or asking for too much, because we all know love is abundant and cannot run out. It’s there for everyone – we just might have to ask for it.

When someone I had known for many years died suddenly, I prayed nightly. I let tears stream down my face as I asked, almost begged, for their journey to be peaceful. I asked for their soul to transition without pain or shock and to now be in a state of blissful peace. We can pray for ourselves and for others, even strangers. We can pray for whole countries that are going through awful things. There really are no rules. Well, maybe there is one: you have to believe that your intention and words are going to do something. Belief! That’s it! You have to have belief!

  • Abridged from Bigger Than Us, published by Penguin Random House. Available now. 

See more on wellbeing