Prayer Adventure Week Six: The End

Well folks, my Lenten prayer adventure has come to an end. At least for now. During this time, I have cried a lot, learned a lot, and spent a lot of time on trains. I’ve learned that the rosary doesn’t work for me but the examen does, and that I am too Protestant for Marian devotion, but find a lot of inspiration in the lives of female saints.

Here follows a summary of my experiences and my final ratings!

The Examen:

I wasn’t that impressed with it at the start, but I think that’s because I didn’t know how low things could go. Had I known that I was going to have a crisis over the rosary, I probably would have been more into this. I’ve revisited praying with the examen a few times over the other weeks of the journey, and it’s grown on me. For me, the examen provides a good method of working through my day, it helps me to be less anxious, and it doesn’t set off any of my major autism alarm bells. Is it as ~mystical~ as I would like? No, but it is solid and reliable, and that goes a long way.

8/10 - predictability makes autism brain go wheeeeee

The Rosary:

This was bad. I know lots of people like it, but I had a terrible time. I don’t really understand the purpose of it as a mechanism for prayer. I genuinely think it might be one of those things that only works for you if you grew up with it, the way that Polka Church is probably only a spiritual experience if you grew up as a Pennsylvania Lutheran and is otherwise incredibly weird. Also, Marian devotion does not make sense to me and no amount of Catholics patiently and kindly attempting to explain it has changed that.

0/10 - genuinely made me want to abandon Christianity altogether


I like liturgy as a whole. Predictability and rhythm are things that generally appeal to my brain, but it’s not the most incredible thing ever. I was not having a great time personally during this week, which probably influenced some of my reaction to the prayers from God Loves the Autistic Mind. But, they also inspired my next method, and were generally pretty good.

6/10 - the care that went into creating these prayers was not matched by my care in praying them

Prayers of Saints:

I have always preferred to be surrounded by the voices of women. I think it was only my sheer ‘I must do it myself’ stubbornness that meant I didn’t do something like this sooner. Let’s face it, in Christianity, there are a lot of men telling us what to do. I’ve been looking for spiritual mothers and sisters and aunts for a long time, and I think I’ve found them. I think there’s a DIY approach to much of their theology and practice. There was no space for them in their world, so they had to make their own, usually at no small cost to their security and wellbeing.

10/10 - time to get really into hagiography


Overall, I’ve been extremely grateful for the opportunity to have this experience, and for the interactions it’s inspired. I have learned so much and met some lovely people, and I hope that the conversations that have been started can continue. However, there are also some reflections I didn’t include in my original blog introducing the project, and I think they explain my experience and my journey, so I’ve included them below!

Prayer is a weapon as much as it is a gift. People don’t always pray for you out of kindness. Sometimes people pray for you to change your mind, to change who you are, to get you to come around to their way of seeing the world. Sometimes people pray for you because they’re convinced you’re bound for hell, and they make sure to tell you that loudly and in public. Sometimes people tell you to pray because they’re convinced that they’re right and you’re wrong and God will take their side. Saying ‘I’ll pray for you’ is a double-edged sword. It could mean that you want me to know how pious and godly you are, that you’re praying for me, who you don’t even like and who totally doesn’t deserve it but you’re doing it anyway cause you’re just so loving. Or that you want me to know that I’m in deep trouble with the Lord and your prayer is (in your eyes at least) the only thing keeping me from the fiery depths. Or you could be like my grandparents, who pray for me every time I get on a plane and during every significant life event, and whose prayers I genuinely welcome and appreciate because I know they come from a place of deep love for me and a lifelong reliance on God.

I went into this project with all of this on my mind. Prayer is a weapon I didn’t want to wield. I dismissed people who told me it would help me draw closer to God because I didn’t want to be closer to God. None of my experiences of being close to God have been particularly fun or comfortable for me and I wasn’t exactly looking to have more of them. I wanted my faith at an arm’s length because I was scared. I’ve never understood people who describe having beautiful, peaceful interactions with God. I generally feel like someone’s run up behind me, hit me over the head, and run off laughing again while I lay there in pain.

It's been lovely and gratifying to feel the joy and the care of God. Prayer is difficult as an autistic person because even when it’s a positive experience, it’s still an emotional experience, one that can be difficult to regulate for because it is unpredictable. And as every autistic person knows, engaging with things that are unpredictable, whether good or bad, is the easiest way to ruin your day (except for maybe having to wash your hands in an echoey public bathroom that only has really loud hand dryers). It’s frightening and stressful, because you don’t know what’s going to happen and it might result in an emotion you didn’t plan on having, which you will then have to take time out of your schedule to manage. This probably sounds strange to someone who isn’t autistic, but I don’t know how else to explain it. I think as I learn how to better regulate my own emotions instead of hiding from them, it will get easier.

So, as an autistic person’s review of praying I guess the most I can say is: it’s a bit like when I was a zipline instructor. The feeling in your stomach when you fling yourself into mid-air never goes away, but as you learn to trust yourself and your equipment you stop worrying about it.