I need a belief system


Heather Havrilesky, Like a Prayer:

I don’t believe in God, but I need some kind of a prayer to repeat when things go haywire. I need a prayer because, as a writer with several unruly dependents under my roof, each day is a rollercoaster, a crapshoot, an exercise in uncertainty.


See how the tiniest events can shift the barometer just enough to stir up a storm? My buoyant mood sinks. The day that felt so full of promise sags, landing in a haze of exhaustion and niggling worries by the time I crawl into bed.

I need a belief system. I need a morning ritual. I need to say some bold and glorious words out loud at the start of the day, to remind myself who I am and what I’m doing and what the point of it all is. Unfortunately, I don’t like saying bold and glorious words out loud. So I need a prayer that’s not too prayer-like. I need a belief system that doesn’t require me to suspend my disbelief.


So instead, I just lay in bed and tried to think of every member of my family and every one of my closest friends. I started with my husband, my kids, my mother, my sisters, my brother, their spouses and kids, my aunts, and my father, who’s been dead for 19 years. Then I listed my close friends. I put them in alphabetical order so they were easier to remember.

The next day, it was much easier to remember everyone, even though it had been hard the first time.

And by the third day, the names felt almost like a prayer.

It’s been a month, and now every morning I just say my prayer of names. Doing that makes me realise that I do have a belief system: almost everything is superfluous, except people. People matter. And there’s a strange emancipation that comes from acknowledging the people you love, and giving them your love, even when you know they can’t always understand you, accept you or love you back. People are flawed. But people will surprise you.

We aren’t on this Earth to improve endlessly, forever approaching infinite perfection but never quite getting there. We are here to notice the enormity and beauty of everything around us, and to notice each other – to notice how flawed we all are, and feel connected anyway.

Read entire essay by Heather Havrilesky at Aeon Magazine @ Like a Prayer.

Image Credit: Tanya Moss


  1. I do this every morning – how strange to read the words…and I always add ‘thank you, wow and please (cause Annie LaMott got it right).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Funny how those thoughts remind me of God…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Clear Stream of Reason and commented:
    Really amazing post… reblogging this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. my new prayer………..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on On the Homefront and commented:
    This is wonderful and a great addition even if you already have a belief system………….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. She uses the word prayer … yet to me it is a meditation. My understanding is that prayer is a way that we speak directly to god. Meditation allows god to speak to us. By recalling the names of those she loves she is meditating and allowing her inner spirit to flow.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i love the last paragraph and could not agree more. great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. OneHotMess says:

    Gorgeous. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you have all the answers right now. Just listen.
    Reign in those distracting thoughts, and nestle in next to your core…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dave,
    If I may, I will refer to three men who understand belief systems best, in my opinion, since I’ve spent much time with each; C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

    Each had different beginings: Lewis was an atheist, Chesterton an aesthetic and Sheen, from birth, a Catholic. The first believed in nothing, the second believed in something and the last believed in everything-in that Catholic means universal.

    Lewis converted to Christinity-as an Angilcan, Chesterton became a Catholic and Sheen remained a Catholic, and answered the call to the priesthood. No better advocates could there be, than those who, from varying backgrounds, find their commonality.

    Although each began their journey separated in their beliefs, all ended in the same place. On a small hill in which was embedded a cross. And upon that cross was pinned the belief system for which they had searched. And from it is whispered a prayer, that can only be heard, as all prayers are heard, in stillness; “Come and see…see how much I love you.”
    These three men dedicated their lives to serving and saving many souls, because they believed in and were convinced by the man on the cross.

    They believed something significant began with the Words, “Let there be light,” and ended on that cross with the Words, “It is finished.” The cross acts as a key. What once locked the gates of Heaven to mankind was the disobedience of one man. What unlocked those gates and re-opened Heaven to mankind was the obedience of one man. Through the turning of that key, God has kept His promise; reconciling himself with the world.

    In all the other major religions of the world, man goes to God. Only in Christianity does God come to man. These three men discovered this truth in their searches and found themselves together at the foot of the cross.

    I recommend reading a work from each of these writers. It may be difficult. But, the value in achievement can only be measuered by the level of struggle in attaining it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan, I look forward, with anticipation, to your comments. And you never disappoint to sweep me away. I’ve never read anything by these men. Do you recommend a place to start? Thank you.


      • Yes, Dave. The following will be a good introduction into each writer.
        For G.K. Chesterton read: “G.K. Chesterton: Apostle Of Common Sense” by Dale Ahlquist
        For C.S. Lewis read: “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
        For Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen read: “Treasure In Clay” (autobiography) by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen;
        For the Archbishop, as a 2nd read: I’d also recommend “The Life Of Christ,” one of his greatest works.
        The great thing about these men is that despite the nature of the topics they write about; is the humor they leave you to find in each nook and cranny. They are human. More so than most, they find joy in this world; and offer the map that was offered to them which leads to endless joy.
        Happy reading, Dave.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. No matter what one believes, a morning ritual is a good thing to practice.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: