Prayer Adventure Week Three: A Little Bit of Liturgy

This whole project was inspired by reading God Loves the Autistic Mind. It’s a remarkable book by autistic Catholic priest Father Matthew P. Schneider that is part memoir, part theological exploration of autism, and part prayer guide.  The second half of the book is a series of devotionals centred around the autistic experience.

The book as a whole was very interesting and lots of it resonated with me, although I think it is almost more aimed at parents or people in church leadership than it is at autistic people themselves. I personally found this frustrating, because it wasn’t quite what I had hoped the book would be like. The other thing about the book that I found frustrating, and the reason that I started this project, was that it didn’t answer my questions about prayer. At no point did the book actually address why we should pray. I think the author spent a lot of time trying to justify the fact that autistic people can and do pray and never got around to explaining why autistic people (or anyone) should pray.

Of course, he is a Catholic priest and his theological education has been very different to mine (and much more extensive), so perhaps he simply didn’t consider that this was something people might need answers about. In any case, I thought the prayers from the book would help answer some of my questions. I only had five days because Monday and Tuesday this week I was away and I forgot the book!

The devotionals are themed, and each one contains a short story, a Bible passage, a reflection, and a prayer. They’ve all been written by autistic people, most by the author and some by contributors.

Day One

The prayers were generally good, although I did start getting distracted and arguing with the book halfway through, which is a problem as an autistic person in general. When you have strong opinions about things, it’s really hard to use a prayer you don’t wholeheartedly agree with. I require a level of honesty in most communication that most non-autistic (not using neurotypical here because this also applies to people with other neurodivergences) people find odd and sometimes off-putting.


The devotion was focused on failure and whether we should blame ourselves for things we fail to do because of our autism. I find I am very sensitive around regarding oneself as a failure, because it’s something I’ve done for most of my life with predictably not fun results, often because of my autism.

I was diagnosed as a child but did not find out until adulthood, so I spent most of my teenage years supressing everything that made me different and constantly wondering why I didn’t enjoy the same things my friends did. My struggles with human interaction frequently made me feel like a failure, and people were very happy to tell me that they also made me a failure. Knowing that my brain works differently to other people’s and social interaction is actually harder for me than other people has been a massive help, but I’m still sensitive about it.

Day Two

I honestly wish these reflections were longer, or deeper. They’re quite short and also quite prescriptive. I think I do better when I am answering a question or working from a prompt rather than just reading someone else’s thoughts. That being said, I think they’re great and will be a good tool for others.

I think I engage with God very emotionally, sometimes in a way that I struggle to express verbally. I can have trouble defining my emotions and untangling them into the categories neurotypical  people seem to put them in. Things that other people consider ‘emotions’ and ‘not emotions’ are very tied together for me, like being hungry is very tied to being grouchy, and sometimes I think I’m angry for no reason but I’m actually just hungry and couldn’t tell. (Because autism also comes with decreased bodily awareness, both of our bodily needs like hunger and where our bodies physically are in space.)

All of this means that sometimes the easiest way for me to pray (as I’ve found from praying the examen, and as is actually recommended in this book) is to sort of scoop up a load of emotions that are all tangled up like yarn, and drop them in God’s lap, like asking a parent for help fixing shoelaces you knotted up as a child. I think it helps me unpick the knots.

Day Three

Because these really are quite short and I’m an overachiever, I read two today. I think I’ve identified two main themes springing from this book: deeper prayer and emotional connection.

Fr. Matthew talks a lot about “deep prayer” or “deeper prayer” like we all just know what that is with no explanation. I don’t know what this is or how we’re supposed to achieve it. Why is this the goal?

He also talks a lot about how autistic people don’t need or want emotional connection with God; they want a complex intellectual connection— which might be true for many autistic people, but I am the opposite. My primary connection with God is emotional because my primary connection with everything is emotional. I feel my emotions in my body and express them through stimming or talking or writing, but my emotions are the thing that allow me to experience the world in all the colour and light and joy that I do.

But my emotions don’t work the same way as anyone else’s, so I need something that allows me to feel my feelings and present them to God to help me sort out but doesn’t force me to have certain feelings or focus only on certain ones.

I’m also still not solid on why exactly we’re supposed to want to pray or desire prayer. People have told me they feel it’s like having a chat with a friend. They want to check in with God because it’s a friendly thing to do when you have a relationship with someone, the same way you still ask a friend how they’re doing even though you already know because you’ve seen their  Instagram stories. I don’t think that’s exactly been my experience of encounters with God, so I’m still struggling with the concept a bit.

Day Four

Part of the reflections for today had some language that triggered one of my pet peeves: “rising above autism”. I don’t do things in spite of my autism. I do things because of it. I don’t want to find a way to pray in spite of my autism. I want to find a way to pray as me. And the autism and me are inseparable. It’s not a condition I have the way my partner has diabetes. He always says that if he’s diabetic in heaven, he’ll be furious. If a miracle cure for diabetes appeared tomorrow he’d do pretty much anything to get it.

I would never want to not be autistic. As much as it can make things difficult, it also makes things wonderful. I wouldn’t trade my ability to recognise patterns and analyse human behaviour for a brain that doesn’t get overwhelmed when I have to stand too close to a boiling kettle. I wouldn’t give up my memory for poetry and music, or my eye for colour, or my strengths in complex problem solving, or my heightened empathy and strong moral code, just to have slightly better control over where my body is in space.

I like who I am. And I think God does too.

Day Five

It was fine. It felt like prayer. I went to church today and had a much more profound experience of God in community than doing this, but I think these prayers will be really helpful for some people.


Having two things that I didn’t vibe with in a row was really difficult. It made me feel very lost and alone. I’ve had a tough few weeks, and not feeling like I was able to connect with God during that definitely did not help. I think what I’ve learned is that I need my questions answered, and using other people’s words doesn’t always work for me. This week has also really driven home for me that when you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. It is such a spectrum of traits, and things that one person finds very helpful can be entirely meaningless for another person. I think it's emphasized the need for me to find my own way, prayer-wise.

Prayers from God Loves the Autistic Mind Rating:

Genuine connection with God: 4/10

Made me want to cry: 0/10

Note: I may revise my final ratings as the weeks go on, the round up post for this series will have a final list of ratings!