I am a Unitarian Universalist and whether or not you are as well I am interested in having a conversation about how we approach prayer from our different traditions. Specifically, I am interested in new forms of prayer and practice that are aware of the post-Christian, religiously pluralistic country in which we live. Does prayer change in this context? Does prayer change over time? Over the life of the universe or the life of person? And equally important, how does continued scientific advancement change our perception of prayers of petition, which often dominate prayer practice?
As religious leaders in formation, this is a really important topic because it is possible that the people we serve could continue to have diversified ways that they choose to understand and engage in prayer. Also, prayer in multifaith settings will likely continue to grow and to consider how we interact in these settings is also an important venture to take.
I want to share a few of my thoughts and then really encourage you to comment with some of your own thoughts and questions, reflections and ideas. I hope that this can lead to a series of posts exploring our collective engagement and reflections together as fellow state of formation travelers.
If we move away from understanding prayer simply in the transactional, “Dear God” manner, we are able to unveil new life celebrating, life sustaining practices of prayer. We can live lives of thankfulness, mindfulness, and intention in all we do. It need not focus on to whom the prayer is offered, but about what its subject is. In that sense, our prayers can seek not immediate response like going through the drive-through at a fast food restaurant, but instead allowing these prayers to help us transform ourselves.
Chicago-area UU minister, Adam Robersmith approaches prayer by saying we should do it not to change the word, but to change ourselves. Truly, this is what happens when we devote some time every week to focus on our breath and bring to mind the important things in our lives, the joys and sorrows of our past week.
Prayer is a very human thing we can do together, just as coming together to sing, learn, share, and grow together is. Regardless of one’s theological identity, prayer can be something you do. It can have meaning, it can be reunderstood in a way that works for people of all different kinds of religious or non-religious backgrounds. I hope that this can spark a new prayer, your next or even your first prayer. I offer this one to you all: May our hearts be opened to the immense wonder and beauty of the universe, so that we may journey ever more gracefully towards peace.
Now it’s your turn; what are the different ways you pray or think about prayer? Post a comment or write a post in response and let’s have a conversation about this ubiquitous spiritual practice that spans most religious traditions and human lives in this country.