Starting Your Devotional Life

Beginning or altering a devotional, or devotion-full, life can be a daunting task. Often, we feel overwhelmed by all we need to do. We end up taking too much on our plate and feeling guilty when we fail to live up to our goals. Or we give up before any attempt, assuming the work is too hard. The Four Prayers the People say everyday may seem daunting. And going from zero prayers a day (or ever) to four is a lot. The Six Praises are even more intimidating. But if we break our devotional goals into chunks and honestly assess our ability, we will be able to live a devotional life easier. One in which we feel fulfilled, committed, and good about our devotions. One where we give devotions as is expected but don’t fall under the weight of the work, and one where we can experience joy in our prayers.

Before doing anything, we need to assess our situation and ourselves. Our devotional life is not separate from these things. If we are going to cultivate our devotion and worship, we need to take in the entirety of our lives. There are a few questions you should ask before changing or embarking on this new worship schedule:

  • Are you too busy to give proper, structured devotion?
  • Are you in a safe space physically to give structured devotion?
  • Are you in a place mentally and emotionally where you can give structured, scheduled devotion?
  • Where do these devotions and Gods fall in importance in your life?

The biggest hurdle most people have to devotional structure is being busy. If you’re working, going to school, handling a social life and/or relationship(s), family, etc. and already overwhelmed with your obligations, taking on another expectation can be the breaking point. Especially if adding on the devotions will only add stress; you’re more likely to give up the devotions and not return to them than stick with them. Instead, wait. For the People, there is no rush. You don’t have to immediately go from being interesting in the Gods to praying everyday right on time. Starting a new schedule when you’re already overbooked will only hinder its growth. It’s much more likely to teach you to resent your devotions. Don’t focus on what you’re not able to do; focus on what you’re already doing. Don’t stress about giving the ‘perfect prayers’. Give your prayers as you’re inspired to.

Once life has calmed down a bit, you can start building your structured prayers. Aim for a period when you’re comfortably busy; start your devotions at too calm a time and they’re likely to fall apart during heavy workloads. By integrating them into your schedule, you’re more likely to stick with them when times are tough, and they’re more likely to help you through those tough times. It is important to be aware if you constantly find yourself claiming you’re too busy for devotion. Ask yourself if isn’t that you don’t have time but that you don’t really care about doing them. If that’s the case, stop making excuses and try some devotion. Maybe you’ll hate it,  maybe you’ll love it. But you can only find that out if you try. If you’re still struggling with just the idea of giving prayers, you may want to talk to religious friends or perhaps get a consultation or counsel from a religious leader.

Being in a safe space to pray will also affect your devotional life. If you aren’t comfortable saying prayers where you are – maybe your family situation is difficult or you live with roommates who would mock you for it – that will put some wrenches in any devotional plan. If you’re imagining elaborate offerings or shrines, you’ll probably have to wait to actually make those a reality. It’s more likely that you’ll be praying in private, quietly and discreetly. And this is okay! There is nothing wrong with praying that way. But if you’re not in a good space to be more open about your prayers, you should stick to the most basics. If you have a partner or partners, you should discuss the issue of religion with them. Many people feel uncomfortable praying around their romantic partner(s) or other companions. The best way to get over this discomfort is to communicate. Negotiate where you will put a shrine, if any, and discuss if they’re uncomfortable with you praying when they’re in the same room. Getting these basics out of the way helps establish ground rules. It’s also good to let your partner(s) know about your new religious interest. They can help you discern and figure out if anything is fishy or dangerous.

While you do not have to be neurotypical or presenting as ‘normal’ to give devotion to the Gods, you will want to consider if you are in a good space mentally and/or emotionally for structured prayer. Would structure help you, or do you need to do more freeform prayers before committing to the structured devotions? Ultimately, you’re the only one who can know this. You also have to factor in what you are honestly able to accomplish. If you can do one prayer a day for a while, that is still a great accomplishment. Don’t shame or punish yourself for not doing everything ‘fast enough’. Set your goals realistically.

Figuring out where the Four Gods fit into your life is vital before you do devotional work. Are they going to come first, before anything else? Do you have another religious tradition that takes precedence? Are you more focused on your career? Having the gods be the primary focus of your life doesn’t make you ‘better’, just as focusing more on your career doesn’t make you ‘bad’. It does effect how much time you put into your devotions, though. If the Otherfaith is a secondary or tertiary religion for you, you’ll likely take longer to adjust to our devotional schedule because you will be busy with other religious work. The same goes for if your career or such is a bigger focus. Figuring out how the People’s devotions will fit into your life is an important step. This ties in with the first question of a crammed schedule; where does the Otherfaith fall in your schedule, and where do you want it to fall? After you’ve thought these over and addressed any other relevant issues in your life, it’s time to set up your devotional goals.

Goals should be clear and succinct. Don’t try to do each of the Four Prayers and Six Praises in one week off the bat – you probably won’t be able to accomplish that, and you’ll be left feeling guilty.  You need to factor in your life and actual habits when you set your goals. You don’t need any special tools to record your goals or keep track of them, unless those tools help you. Using a calendar, planner, reminder on your phone or computer, or other technology geared toward habit-making may be helpful, but only if you actually utilize it. If you’re better off without those tools, though, adding them now won’t help. Stick with what works for you.

A shrine to the Dierne.

A shrine to the Dierne.

Here are the recommended goals for the Four Prayers. You can adjust it as needed for your life.

  1. Say the Prayer at Waking everyday for two weeks
  2. Say the Prayer at Waking & Prayer at Midday everyday for two weeks
  3. Say the Prayer at Waking, Midday, and Evening everyday for two weeks
  4. Say all Four Prayers everyday for two weeks
  5. Keep saying them!

This schedule takes two months to implement each of the Four Prayers, and it builds on each prayer by adding the next. We begin with the ‘Prayer at Waking’ so that it is one of the first things you do in your day. These goals can be extended or shorted based on your need. I recommend shortening the time only to a week, so you have time to adjust to praying or integrating a new prayer in your devotional life. Probably the longest you should go between adding another one of the Four Prayers is a month; otherwise, you fall into a rut of only saying specific prayers! Before praying and after you’ve decided your goals (or even before that point!) there is a very important step to take – the Dedicant’s Prayer.

The Dedicant’s Prayer is not a dedication or commitment ceremony. It is a statement of interest in the Four Gods and a prayer calling out to them to hear your voice. It opens up a channel for you to reach the gods; one exists simply by you speaking, but the Dedicant’s Prayer is a more formal introduction. It is the way we say, “Hello” to the Four Gods, and it helps us feel more confident in our later prayers. There is no responsibility conferred by saying this prayer, though if you do chose to go another way instead of worshiping the Four it is polite to bid them goodbye and thanks. (That is polite even if you do not say this prayer!) We will cover that later in this series. This prayer requires the use of a bell to be run at certain times during it. Any bell that has a pleasant sound will do. It is important to do the actual ringing of the bell, so a device replicating the sound of a bell should not be used.

The Dedicant’s Prayer

Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne Laethelia Ophelene –

[bell is rung six times]

Hear me as I sing to you. I offer my hand to you. Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne Laethelia Ophelene – I offer my hand.

[bell is run six times]

West wind, carry my prayer to the gods dwelling there.

This I pray.

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

2 thoughts on “Starting Your Devotional Life

  1. Pingback: [Pagan Experience] Week One: Resolutions | of the Other People

  2. Pingback: [Pagan Experience] Resolutions | of the Other People

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