Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Punctuating our days with prayer...'

"I can be
in a crowd,
or by myself,
or almost anywhere..

I get on my knees.
There I am before
the Love that
changes me.

See, I don't know how,
but there's power
when I'm on my knees "
- N. Mullen

I've used Jaci Velasquez's, I Get on My Knees as the keynote for an earlier post, but it seems perfect for today's message. I promised, in last week's post on celebrating the Sabbath, that I would share more from Krista Tippett's interfaith conversation with the Dalai Lama (and friends) on, "Pursuing Happiness," hosted by Emory University. And I try to always keep my promises.

In the last decade, I've enjoyed finding threads of common practice within the rich tapestry of our vast global faith community. Last week, it was Rabbi Sacks' exploration of the Judaic practice of Shabbat, that enriched (and has continued to deepen) my own celebration of the Sabbath.

This week it has been Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasir's insights about Salah, the practice of praying five times daily to Allah, and the follow-up contributions of Rabbi Sacks, and Episcopal Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, that I found sisterhood in. Each was responding to Krista's question:

"What are the corollaries in your traditions for generating calmness of mind?"

Dr. Nasir:

"Islamic tradition we have the five daily prayers. You pull yourself out of the flow of time, into a space that is sacred-ized. And for a few minutes, even if your mind is running like mad, you have to force yourself, to pull yourself, out of that context.

"This exercise, of praying five times a day, has an enormous effect on our life, and every day the social dialog goes faster and faster. These prayers are very centering, and act to give punctuation throughout our day."

Rabbi Sacks:

"In Judaism it is the simple act of prayer. Three times a day, three things happen when I pray.

"The first thing is thanks. The first prayer we pray is, "Thank you God for giving me my life."

"The second thing is confession. You feel the ability to acknowledge your mistakes, and then you learn by those.

"And the third thing is simply the basic expereince of prayer altogether. Standing in the presence of a deeper form of being.

"Knowing that this universe is not indifferent to my existence, deaf to my prayers, blind to my hopes. And when I feel in that presence of the Being at the heart of my being, then I actually experience the greatest line of all in the life of faith, from Psalm 23, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." We can face the future without fear, if we know, that we do not face it alone."

Bishop Schori:

"We share many of the same forms of prayer...prayer as awareness and attending. Christians sometimes pray with images, and sometimes we pray without images...a kind of emptying prayer.

"I think the part that is perhaps most attractive to "new learners" is about understanding all of existence as prayer.

"The Celts were very effective at blessing each moment of the day. Blessing the milking of the cow, blessing the covering of the fire at night. Brother Lawrence blessed the washing of the dishes. Runners begin to understand the blessing that come in putting your body to work, and emptying the mind.

"There are practices that each of us participates in that are about simple awareness of God's presence in every breath, in every moment, in every encounter, in every challenge. It's that awareness, and attending to it, that I think is so significant."

Dr. Nassir added:

"In Islam, as in Judaism, the sense of priesthood is divided between all human beings, and each person stands directly before God."

I loved hearing how each faith tradition brings a unique perspective on the practice of prayer. But it was having my understanding of Salahexpanded, and discovering the corollaries between this sacred Islamic act of devotion, and my own daily practice of prayer, that was so meaningful for me this week. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science writes in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses
to refresh his heart with brighter,
with spiritual views."


"Jesus' prayers were deep and conscientious
protests of Truth, — of man's likeness to God
and of man's unity with Truth and Love."

Isn't it lovely to see that the substance of our devotion is shared, however different our rituals and symbols. This week...even though I try to live in a constant attitude of prayer, and pause, often, throughout the day to "refresh my heart with brighter, with spiritual views,"...I made an effort to join, in Spirit, with my Muslim neighbors in the practice of Salah.

I sought to perform a cleansing "ritual" that was consistent with my own faith. I consciously prayed for "submergence in Spirit" (from Eddy's definition of "baptism"), then I turned in the direction of my own spiritual "mecca"...the kingdom of heaven within, and bowed before God, "in holy submission to the divine..." What a blessing.

It's been truly lovely...and love-inspired. By seeking to understand the practice of Salah, I have felt such a sweet sense of uniting, in prayer, with all of my faith neighbors. It has left me with a profound sense of "peace on earth, and goodwill towards men"...all men, women, children, creatures, trees, rocks....all creation. Impartially, universally, unconditionally united in prayer.

One of my favorite spiritual songs says:

"The outward symbols disappear
from him whose inward sight is clear.
And small must be the choice of days
to him who fills them all with praise.

Keep while ye need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas [outward] sign.
But judge not him who every morn
feels in his heart the Lord Christ [spiritual man] born.”
- John G. Whittier

At this point, there are still some wonderful "outward" signs and symbols that I love dearly...singing hymns, kneeling on Sacrament Sunday, praying "The Daily Prayer," reading the Weekly Bible Lesson, etc. Each one a loved practice of devotion.

Krista's interview with Rabbi Sacks, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Nasir, and Bishop Schori, has helped me see that I share my love for the practice of prayer with billions of spiritual thinkers worldwide. I am so grateful to know that we can live together in respect for one another's ever-clearing inward sight, and join together in grateful praise.

with Love,


[photo credit: silhouette of Sandy Wilder on the shore of the Tiberias Sea by Duncan Wilder 2012]

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:17 PM

    I read your blog this morning and I really loved what Bishop Schori said about blessing and the example of the Celts "blessing each moment of the day." I also loved the last bit that he said,
    "There are practices that each of us participates in that are about simple awareness of God's presence in every breath, in every moment, in every encounter, in every challenge. It's that awareness, and attending to it, that I think is so significant."
    His thoughts are a helpful reminder for me on how important it is for us to always have God at the center of all that we do. The awareness of God's presence in our lives and attending to it... I think it is something I will keep practicing throughout my days. Thank you for sharing.♥