A Religion That I Don’t Know
By Melanie Barnes
I've always been one of those people who thinks to myself, “I'm not religious but I'm spiritual.” It's not something I've ever declared out loud, mainly because I’m pretty sure it sounds pretentious, and if anyone were to ask, I'm quick to point to my family's Baptist roots (though I can't say I've gone to service more than Christmas and Easter in my adult life). But what I do, every day without fail, is pray. I pray for those I know and those I've never met, a distant friend's Facebook post that I may have noticed but never clicked "Like," someone in the news who suffered a tragic death and I feel compelled to pray that their soul found its way to heaven and their family is comforted by.. whom, I'm not sure. The thing is, I have no idea who I pray to. I begin each prayer with "Dear Heavenly Father." I end every prayer with a thank you. But I honestly have no idea whose address goes on the letter.
I wasn't raised in Sunday school. Despite claiming that I'm Baptist, I've never been baptized. I'm pretty cognizant of not taking the Lord's name in vain, but I couldn't tell you if that's a Commandment or just something people have taught as a good idea (just Googled it--FYI, it's the third Commandment). I'm pretty sure if you asked any of my friends, or my family for that matter, they'd all be surprised if you told them I pray every morning, right between the eye cream and the facial moisturizer (it's important to have a routine!).
I take care not to ask for things unless it's strength and safety for my friends and family. Really, I feel like the important part is that I am expressing gratitude for this life, for each and every day. I address my troubles (though I don't dwell on them), and I think of my dad and other loved ones who have passed, who I hope look down on me from heaven and guide me toward my best, happiest life. Each prayer is almost the same, but they're all filled with the same sense of urgency: Please take care of me and the people that I love.
And you know what? When I'm done, I feel a lightness. It may be God or Jesus or the Universe or Mother Nature, but I feel like someone, or something, has heard me.
Do I know who receives these prayers? No. But it's an important daily routine for me to protect those I love, remind the ones I've lost how much I still care and express gratitude for all that I have -- even if it's just a beautiful day.