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Creative prayer without co-dependency

Lynne Baab • Friday May 10 2019

Creative prayer without co-dependency

I am the oldest child and the only daughter in my family of origin. My parents were highly competent and organized individuals, and my mother at 94 still is. They expected a lot of me, and I wanted to do what they asked. I was a responsible child who grew into a responsible adult.

That characteristic of being responsible has many good sides to it, as well as a few negative aspects. At times, my spiritual life and my prayer patterns are influenced by a tendency to try to take control of things that I am simply not responsible for.

Here’s what it looks like: I’m praying for something I feel strongly about, perhaps care for the environment, and I’m focusing my prayers on people who make policy decisions about the safety of chemicals and food. As I pray, I wonder if I’m doing enough to care for the environment in my own life, and the prayer time turns into me feeling bad about myself.

Or perhaps I’m praying for a friend with a serious problem. I’ve tried my best to show care for that person, and ultimately the problem is not something I have any control over, but surely there’s something more I could do to help. The prayer degenerates into brainstorming about what I need to do next.

I call this “codependence in prayer.” Codependency usually refers to human relationships where the codependent person enables another person’s addiction or destructive behaviors. I don’t mean it like that in reference to prayer. I’m thinking of a couple of statements about codependency:

  • Someone who is codependent often builds their identity around helping others.
  • Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.

Too often I feel the need to be a part of the answer to a prayer, rather than leaving the issue in God’s hands.

Surely all of us, even hyper-responsible people, are called by God in some instances to do more than we’re doing. But many times for me, I need to pray about things and leave them in God’s hands.

Some of the imaginative prayer I’ve described in a previous post is very helpful. As I pray, I can use my imagination and picture myself handing problems to Jesus or laying problems at the feet of Jesus. I can write my concerns on the pages of a journal and imagine God receiving that page from me.

I can also use my body. I can engage in breath prayer, and imagine that I am breathing out my problems into God’s presence. I can pray with hands raised to heaven as if I am entrusting the issue into God’s hands. I can put my hands on my knees face upwards and imagine lifting the situation into God’s hands. I can kneel or even lay flat on the floor in a posture of submission, indicating that God is lord of the universe and lord of this particular problem.

In the world of addiction and the codependency related to enabling addiction, many people use the language of “detachment with love.” The person with an addict in the family needs to keep loving that person, but detach in appropriate ways from that person’s life and decisions.

I’ve been pondering detachment with love in many areas of my life, including prayer. When I release something into God’s hands, and attempt to leave it there, I detach from the problem because it now belongs to God. Of course, it always did belong to God, so as I pray I am reflecting a reality that already existed.

I invite you to ponder what detachment with love looks like for you as you pray. I invite you to think about the ways you pray that enable you to leave things in God’s hands rather than snatching them back.

(Next week: creative prayer in seasons. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” below or in the right hand column of the webpage.)

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