At our weekly gathering last Tuesday, the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center shared with each other on the topic of prayer. Last week’s meeting was in the category of “Multifaith Sharing,” an opportunity to give voice to what your faith traditions teaches and, perhaps more significantly, what you do with that teaching. As always, we noted that there were as many intricate differences in defining prayer between two distinct faith traditions as there are in its defining by two individuals within one faith tradition.
I was engrossed in this conversation. I was so incredibly curious how each person would respond and, frankly, I was curious about how I would respond. I shared this: I spend about one hour a week preparing a prayer – the Prayers of the People – to lead corporately during Sunday worship. That hour of preparation may be the deepest form of prayer I experience. There are, every week, many painful realities within and beyond the congregation that ask to be voiced in the prayers. It is only by being in prayer as I write that I feel I can find the language bold and tender enough to speak the prayers.
That’s one answer about how I experience prayer within the Christian tradition….but as soon as it was out of my mouth and down on this page, I knew it as incomplete. There are a million other ways I would define it…by the feeling of its absence (there are months that go by when I sense I have not prayed at all), by the feeling of its omnipresence (there are days when I feel like God opened up a prayer and allowed me to walk within it).
Going around the circle in our gathering, hearing Jewish, Muslim, and Christian responses to the question of prayer did not help me to define prayer. The many voices opened up new questions about what this mysterious connection might be. What do you think it is? Prayer?
Sarah Henkel is a Teaching Elder. She is a resident at Stony Point Center and member of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith community dedicated to the practice and study of hospitality, nonviolence and justice.