Praying together is a rich and complex business. Community interfaith worship services, seeking to offend no one, are often unsatisfying and bland. Community memorial services in the United States often omit prayer in the service of separating church and state and/or respecting freedom to believe or not to believe as one chooses.
In my childhood in my local public elementary school, we began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the Christian Lord’s Prayer in spite of the fact that our school population included a substantial Jewish minority. The Lord’s Prayer was later replaced by the Moment of Silent Prayer, and still later the notion of prayer was dropped from the daily routine. One of my Nigerian classmates at seminary told me that in his childhood elementary school in Nigeria, where the population is largely Muslim and Christian, the children began each day by praying on alternate days the Christian Lord’s Prayer in English and the Muslim Al-Fatiha in Arabic. This practice too has been abandoned, but I think it has much to recommend it in the context of community interfaith and civic settings, with the addition of the Jewish Kaddish. The similar place of these prayers in the hearts of the faithful, and their similar intent in connecting with God, and addressing themes of creation, salvation, praise, love, guidance, forgiveness and adoration of God would become apparent to all present.
I suggest that an excellent invitation to prayer in an interfaith worship service or opening to a civic memorial service would be to have clergy or laypeople from each of the Abrahamic faiths offer the three prayers: The Lord’s Prayer in English (and/or Spanish, Chinese or another language as appropriate), Al-Fatiha in Arabic, Kaddish in Hebrew. Translations and transliterations would be printed in the program, and all would be invited to join the prayer in unison as they wish. A moment of silent reflective prayer would follow. I invite State of Formation bloggers to suggest similar prayers that might be embraced in community settings that include populations and houses of worship of faiths other than Christian, Muslim and Jewish.
In the name of God, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. All praise and thanks is for to God, [The] Creator, Owner, Sustainer of the Worlds. The Entirely Merciful, The Especially Merciful. Owner of the Day of Recompense. You alone do we worship and You alone we seek for help. Guide us to the Straight Path. The path of those whom Your blessings are upon, not of those who You have cursed nor of those who have gone astray.
Exalted and hallowed be his great name (Amen),
In the world that he created as he willed.
May he give reign to his kingdom in your lifetimes
And in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire
Family of Israel, swiftly and soon (Amen).
May his great name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty,
Upraised, and lauded by the name of the Holy One,
Blessed be he, beyond any blessing or song, praise and
Consolation that are uttered in the world (Amen).
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life
Upon us and upon all Israel (Amen).
May he who makes peace in the heights make peace
Upon us and upon all Israel (Amen).
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Susan Butterworth has BA degrees in French and Political Science from Tufts University and a MA in English from Salem State University. She is a visiting lecturer in English composition and literature at Salem State University and a professional nonfiction writer. She has just completed her first year in the MDiv program at Episcopal Divinity School. Susan is fascinated by the intersection of literature and theology studies and is working on a special competency in Anglican, Global, Ecumenical and Interfaith Studies at Episcopal Divinity School.