As the product of an agnostic upbringing, the power of prayer has always been a source of comfort denied. In my early 20s I almost envied my Christian friends their faith, and they in turn sought to redress the imbalance in our respective chances of entering the kingdom of heaven by including me in their conversations about God.
Knowing that someone was praying for me always filled me with a warm glow – it seemed like a generous gesture on their part – but it didn't increase my confidence that my problems would be any nearer resolution as a result.
The ease with which believers communicated with their deity has always fascinated me. How could they know that their divine being was tapped into their prayers at any given time and was not steam cleaning the clouds or conducting choirs of angels?
And then there was the rosary or its non-Catholic equivalent prayer beads. I couldn't imagine how constant repetition of a desire would make its outcome any more likely. There seemed to my untutored mind something akin to nagging about it – as if asking someone for something often enough would eventually wear them down.
I have recently been introduced to the concept of manifesting: visualising a desired outcome as a fait accompli. It's a nod to the plasticity of the brain: that by telling oneself something often enough it will happen. The wording doesn't matter nor does the number of repetitions. My own mantra is repeated six times per "prayer" and each prayer is an expression of gratitude for an outcome spoken of as having occurred.
My home-grown version of manifesting has nothing to do with the sort associated with the winning of Tattslotto. It is my way of praying for the people I love. A set of rocks on a Victorian beach has until recently been my "happy" place: the place where I could sit and wish my loved ones better. A change of circumstance has necessitated my quest for a new happy place and God, or the cosmos, has provided.
My search for a quiet place of contemplation has taken me from the wild and woolly west coast to the peace and quiet of a rural town in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range: some might say from the ridiculous to the sublime. Praying to a deity provides comfort for the faithful, while non-believers can find their own way to peace by communing with nature. For those of us lucky enough to know what soothes us and how to seek it out, great comfort can be found in the beauty of our surroundings or the poetry of the written word. Psalm 23 speaks of green pastures and quiet waters. I have found mine and they truly do restore my soul.
Elizabeth Quinn is a Melbourne writer