Can You Have Too Much Prayer?

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at
Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at

Goodness, I hope this title doesn’t sound blasphemous. It isn’t meant to be. But, really, can you ever have too much prayer in your life? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Yes.” Yes, you can have too much prayer in your life, particularly if it is part of your OCD cycle.

Prayers and praying are a big part of Blake’s OCD. He is caught up in being “fervently religious.” Those words are in quotes, because they came from the Resource Specialist at school – a man, by the way, who knows something about religious observance. He was a monk for many, many years. But I digress…

Blake is concerned on a daily basis with getting in just the right amount of prayer and doing it in just the right way. He’s been late to school a couple times this past week because he needs to get a certain amount of praying in before he starts his school day, or it messes up his prayer schedule for the day. He cannot ever seem to get the schedule just right in the morning and he ends up praying outside of school. Sometimes it is by the car when I park to drop him off. Other times, he stands right in front of the entrance to school, deeply immersed in his prayer ritual, not noticing or caring that a good number of the student body are walking right by him and doing a double take at this kid with his head bowed and his lips moving faster than an Indy race car.

I feel for him when I see this. I want to walk over and gently encourage him to be done. I could tell him it’s good enough. Go to class. Sadly though, I know from experience that he will just get angry with me because I’ve interrupted the process and he will begin all over again. Better not to intervene. He doesn’t want my help with it right now anyway (rrrr…. teenagers!)

Yesterday, his first day of school after the time change presented a particular challenge. He came home from school feeling anxious and moody.

“I don’t like it getting dark earlier. It makes it harder to get in all my prayers.”

He has a rule that a certain number of prayers have to be done by dark. I think it fits in with some tiny thread of religious reality, but the many religious authorities we’ve consulted have told Blake that this is not the point. He’s not to get stressed out by this. Blake managed to toss their wisdom. OCD is its own religious authority.

So he ran into the house and began to pray. I don’t dare interrupt, lest I face his wrath. Or, maybe he will just ignore me. He’s gotten good at staying amazingly focused when praying at home. He seems to hear nothing.

“Whew!” he said, when he was finished with this round of prayer. “I feel so much better now!”

I grumbled a little inside. I wondered if it wouldn’t have been better for him to wait it out. Miss the prayer. Deal with the anxiety of it. But I reminded myself that he wasn’t there. He isn’t ready to be healthier. Not yet.

Dinnertime is another time that prayer takes over. Blake says a prayer of thanks before each meal. But if it is said “wrong” in some way, it must be repeated. Or, if he can’t remember if he said it correctly, he must leave the table, go repeat the prayer and keep repeating until he gets the feeling that it is “just right.”

Last night was a particularly prayer-filled meal. Blake left several times to re-do his prayer. On top of it, he stood several times during the meal to give silent thanks for any number of things. What, I’m not sure, but I think one thing was for coconuts (I think this because he asked me if he was eating something with coconut in it). The look on his face with each subsequent prayer was so deep, so emotional, I could only imagine what he must be feeling. And I can only imagine the exhaustion he experiences in trying to keep this up.

Every now and then, someone who doesn’t live with OCD in their family catches me on a tough day.  And, sometimes, their well-intended advice  to me is, “Prayer.  Remember to pray.”  I always thank them.  I know they are trying to help in the best way they can.  And, pray, I do.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I think to myself, “I think we already have enough prayer in our house to go around for everyone.”


6 thoughts on “Can You Have Too Much Prayer?

  1. Thanks for this window into what it is like to live with someone who has religious scrupulosity (my son Dan didn’t have this type of OCD). As you point out, how ironic that well-meaning people suggest you pray….

    1. You’re welcome. It’s an interesting thing living it. And what’s tough about the whole thing is where real religion is tangled up with OCD. It’s so difficult to explain to people. They wonder, “Hey, what’s wrong with having a religious kid?” And then I feel like an idiot.

  2. I have no idea how many book suggestions you get (or don’t get?) concerning OCD, but I was actually just looking into a book that is an autobiographical account of a girl with scrupulosity, like your son has.
    Perhaps you might find it interesting, it could possibly give you some insights into what Blake is going through in his own mind… I don’t know, OCD can be very different from individual to individual. (And sometimes shockingly similar, but I digress)
    Here’s a link to the goodreads page for the book, if you’re keen:

Comments are closed.