PRAYING TO NOBODY OR NO THING
By Uriah J. Fields
When you pray say... . Who or what
do you pray to? If God calls you
by your name, can you respectfully
refuse to call Him by his name?
Howard Thurman reminds us that it is
"a strange freedom to go nameless.
Recently, I read a non-denominational prayer on "geroge.loper.org" that had been submitted by Carolyn Silver that prompted or challenged me to submit to that media outlet my own prayer "Our Prayer to God." Before offering my prayer it is incumbent upon me to make a comment that is critical of this non-denominational prayer that Silver said had been delivered at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church by layman Kip Newman who recited this prayer composed by UU minister, Harry Meserve.
I was grevioiusly moved by this prayer just as I had been by a prayer composed by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner seveal years ago that caused me to send my retort critique to the "Washington Post Parade" where I had read this prayer. I feel that what I said regarding Kushner's prayer is appropriate with regard to this non-denominational prayer. Below is a portion of what I had to say:
"Prayer is a form of communication between God and man. It may be private or public. WE PRAY TO GOD. Therefore, our prayers should be addessed to God. Recently, I read a prayer in the "Washington Post Parade" written by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People," that supposedly was for the peoples of the world, particularly for those of religious faiths, including Judiasm, Christianity and Islam. In his prayer he did not use the name of God, Jesus, Allah, the Great Spirit, or any other name, perhaps, with the intention of not offending anyone in particular or in general. Upon reading his prayer I was immediately reminded of James Baldwin's book, "Nobody Knows My Name."
Failing to acknowledge God in prayer was not the approach taken by St. Francis of Assisi who began his twelfth century prayer with "Lord make me an instrument of your peace," Martin Luther who began his fifteenth century prayer (that later became a song) with "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," Saint Benedict who began his fifth century prayer with "O gracious and holy God," Barack Obama"s recent prayer that was left in the cracks of Jerusalem's Western Wall that began with "Lord protect my family and me," and the Psalmist's who began his prayer (the last Psalm) with "Praise you the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary."
In his prayer Kushner says "Let the rain...sun... earth... and mountains perform extraordinary feats" without acknowledging the Creator of the rain, sun, earth and mountains. How can anyone acknowledge the created without acknowledging the Creator of the created? Wiseman Solomon writes: "In all your ways acknowledge him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:6).
In Meserve's prayer he did not address God in the beginning of his prayer although in the last sentence of his one-hundred-plus word prayer he said "God of our mixed up... lives help us." It just may be that God will not wait to the end of a person's prayer to be informed that He is the One. Jesus begins the model prayer that is commonly referred to as "The Lord's Prayer" with "Our Father."
Howard Thurman, a mystic and premier Theologian of the twentieth century, sheds some light on the import of "namelessness" when he talks about "a strange freedom it is to go nameless." He writes, "The name marks the claim a man stakes in the world... . The name is a man's watermark above which the tides can never rise. It is a strange freedom to be adrift in the world of men...to go nameless."
Of course, it is unthinkable by any stretch of the imagination that the only One who has a name above all other names, who is God above gods to go nameless. The person who does not acknowledge God in his prayer will not find a comade among the saints or people who know and love God. The first verse in the Bible begins with "In the beginning God..." (Genesis1:1). Let us likewise make God first in our prayers.
There seems to be a growing tendency or practice, on the part of many people, including some professing Christians, to refuse to use the name Jesus Christ or God because they do not want to offend some peope who are not Christians. In defense of their cowardice they claim that they want to be religiously and politically correct. But they could never be more religiously and politically incorrect than when they refuse to acknoweldge or address their prayer to God.
So whether it be a "prayer for the world" or a "non-denominational prayer" failure to acknowledge God is missing the mark. When a person talks to me I want him to call me by my name. How much more important it is to acknowledge and call God by his name. Foremost, let God be God in name. I will now offer the prayer I composed, "Our Prayer to God."
O gracious and holy God...
Thank You for your presence,
power and the gift of life.
Thank You for your love and
beauty that are revealed in
humans and in all Creation
throughout the Cosmos.
Thank You for the opportunity to
be your children and to have all the
rights, privileges and responsibilities
granted to members of your family.
We pray for the full indwelling of the
Holy Spirit, for guidance, and
We pray for healing and peace, and
for the motivation individually and
collectively to be healing and peace.
We pray that we may practice silence
that sometimes speaks more profoundly
and meningfully than words.
We praise You not just with our mouths
but with our lives, with all that we are.
We praise You in the Eternal Now.
It is praising time. Amen
Copyright 2008 by Uriah J. Fields