Prayer for Healing the Painful Past (especially if you think it’s hogwash)

Thank you for sharing your questions, comments and requests with me. I love hearing from you! Over the weekend, I was in DC for an event at Quantico and we had no wifi where we were staying (cue very long scream) so I did not post every day like I have been doing.  But today is Tuesday and I’ve committed to answering questions on Tues and thank goodness I have access to the wonderful world wide web!

Today I’m answering more of a spiritual question that has been asked more than once.  Thanks for asking it!  I love these questions.


Meditation Room


So, I just had a conversation with a Christian friend of mine who claims that sexual abuse doesn’t define who you are…prayer changes everything! What is your take on this concept?  I do not believe spirituality can change a person’s definition after having been assaulted!  What do you think?  I am way too uptight for meditation to work and who do I pray to if I am not a spiritual person?


Well, I actually totally agree with your friend in a spiritual sense.  Abuse does not define you, you get to do that.

But you say you are the person you are due to the abuse in your life.  It defined you as a young person and has carried you this far. Right?  The question I have for you is – What do you want to define you?   If you define yourself as a victim (which is your prerogative) you are still abusing yourself after the trauma and/or your abuser is done and gone.

This is why I like the analogy of trauma being like a sword – because a sword is outside of yourself.  You can remove it and use it to do good.   I wrote a 118 page workbook about it too!  It goes through the 5 Steps of the Sword.

  1. Acknowledging the Sword
  2. Removing the Sword
  3. Healing the Wound
  4. Using Your Sword
  5. Practicing Sword Play

The reason for the sword analogy is to show how the trauma is not you, it is something that happened to you.

Going back to your friend’s comment about prayer defining you, so does the inner dialog about yourself.  What you think and say about yourself defines you.  Your abuse defines you only if you allow it.  I believe that spirituality can in fact change a person’s definition after being assaulted. I also 100% understand the distain for that term too.

I know how you can get uptight and freaked out by the old Christian ways, rules, dogma and guilt that has been passed down from your trauma and/or your not-so-nice family.   I’ve been there. So many wonderful things about faith, prayer and meditation have been hijacked, contorted and deformed that it can send you running at full speed away from anything using such language.  I get it. I’ve hightailed it too.

But there are many ways to practice prayer and meditation that will greatly affect your life for the better while not having to take the prescribed pill of ignorance, control and fear.

Here some ways I practice that may work for you too —

Many Ways to Pray

Gandhi in my backyard


  • Change the thought patterns in your head.  Prayer does not have to be the typical on your knees, hands together.  Prayer has many forms and one of those is a forumla of words.  By saying to yourself in your head that you are lovely, a divine spark of spirit, loved, wonderful, a Goddess, a Queen and a love spark of God - you are practicing a form of prayer.  Replacing the old negative record in your head of being ugly, worthless, unloved, pathetic, etc with words and phrases that are the complete opposite is practicing a form of prayer.
  • Be thankful for what is to come. Many pray by asking for what they don’t have, but by expressing gratitude for what is yet to come, you are practicing a form of prayer.  It’s like making a commitment and wording it as if you already have what you’re asking for.  For example if you say aloud or in your head how you are grateful for the blessings being bestowed onto you, or for how the pain has left you or how the old story no longer affects you – you are speaking as if it already happened.  You are “letting go and letting God”.  You are trusting that it will be taken care of by giving thanks for it instead of asking for something you don’t have. Words are powerful things, even if they are not said aloud and only repeated in your mind.  Just like in the commitment page, the practice of wording it as if you already have it helps form the pathway in your mind for it to exist instead of pleading for something that seems out of reach.
  • Be in the presence of greatness.  Put whoever you think is amazing in the room with you or in your car as you drive.  Have Jesus in the passenger seat, or Buddha or Owl Goddess in the hallway.  Use whoever invokes a code of morals for you and inspires you to be a better person in their presence.  This is also a great way to stop negative patterns and habits too.  For example, are you really going to have that cigarette if you’re blowing it in Jesus’s face?  Or making the Buddha cough up a lung?  Probably not.
  • Create your own observance.  Is there something that reminds you of a happy time? Something that inspires calm within you?  I have a small smooth rock from a special trip I made.  I have a coin given to me by someone that reminds me of a very inspirational experience.  I also have a pin that means a lot to me.  When you find items that mean a great deal or remind you or a powerful time in your life and keep them either in your pocket or on your desk or any other place where you’ll see them – it reminds you of that time.  A form of prayer happens when you stop for a moment and feel the feeling the item brings up for you.  For example when I reach into my pocket and feel the smooth stone that a special woman gave to me, it sends me back to a meditative place by the lake.
  • Create a Sacred Space.  Do you have your own room?  Do you have a special place to sit and pause the play button on life for a bit?  It can be as big as your own room or treehouse or as small as a table with only things that invoke peace and calm within you.  You can also take a room back like I wrote about in Finding Angela Shelton and how I took my bathroom back.  Just like you can rewrite your old story and the definition of yourself, you can reclaim places and make them sacred.  In my book I talked about being uncomfortable in the bathroom due to past abuse.  I reclaimed that room and now I love bathrooms and am having a great time remodeling one now as a matter of fact!
Prayer and meditation can show up in many different ways.  You don’t have to subscribe to something that does not work or fit for you.  You also do not have to hold onto a definition of yourself that does not fit where you’re at in your life now.  You do not have to walk around with a sign around your neck alerting everyone to your pain, heartache and suffering.  You can let go of that old story and create a new definition or mission statement for yourself.   One of the hardest steps forward is letting go of the obstacles you just overcame.  Meditate on that and let me know how it goes.  ;)

What does prayer and meditation mean to you and how to do practice?

Please share in the comments below on Disqus or on Facebook.


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  • Angela Shelton

    Thank you so much for commenting. I have seen how prayer really does work – in all kinds of forms!

  • Charlotte Rains Dixon

    I love how you broaden the concept of prayer to include many practices.  When I talk about prayer, people sometimes freak out, but prayer doesn’t have to be the old down on your knees, asking God for help variety.  As a matter of fact, that’s generally not the best kind of prayer.  So thanks for a great post.

  • Angela Shelton

    Thank you!!

  • Jacki M SeiWell

    Understanding how the abuse in our live effects our way of thinking is the turning point.  Though I understand it doesn’t happen over night, and it takes a different amount of time for each one of us.  No one really dwells there in the darkness by choice, it’s a process and each will step away when they are meant to.  Prayer doesn’t make it all better, it’s just a tool to help you through the moment as is each piece of knowledge one finds.  I think that examples learned by watching others move forward helps the most, which is why I love sites like these that so many share with so that others can find all the stuff they need to have a great life.  Thanks Angela for your site and the others like it.