Today is the National Day of Prayer, a day that has been set aside in the U.S. by presidential proclamation for 57 years. A visit to the official National Prayer Day website reveals that it is overwhelmingly Christian-based, with a half-hearted nod to Jews. Surprise!
But National Prayer Day doesn’t have to be only for Christians. In fact, I say, let’s make sure the dominant religions know we’re here, and we pray, too. Many of us who have been wounded by the dominant religions may shy away from the word prayer. We may prefer to call it mindfulness, or ritual, or meditation, or trance.
In fact, what is prayer, and does it matter?
One of my favorite Wiccan writers, Dianne Sylvan, writes in her essential work, The Circle Within, “Books abound on Christian and Jewish daily prayer; there are plenty of devotionals, calendars, and classes on living a prayerful life. In this way, Pagans are at a decided disadvantage. Perhaps we haven’t given it enough thought. We learn from the outset that we are not separate from Deity, that the whole world is God and Goddess, but what do we do with that belief? How does that belief translate into direct experience in day-to-day life?”
As the years of struggle to have our Pentacle recognized indicate, we have a long way to go before we are recognized and respected as a real religion, and not just a comedy show or fad. How do we practice our beliefs? And how do other spiritual people perceive us, based on our actual practices?
Donald Engstrom, who is one of the best Craft teachers I’ve ever known, came up with my favorite definition of prayer: “Prayer is active dialogue with other Beings (deities, Mysterious Ones, etc.). Spellwork is the technology that prepares and enables this dialogue.”
Today, I encourage you to come out and pray with the Christians and everyone else. As repugnant as much of the evangelical doctrine can be, as human beings, we really do have a lot in common. We all want loving relationships, a home, satisfying work, safety and happiness for our children, good health, access to education, and a nation of goodness, prosperity and peace.
Obviously, from that list, we have some work to do, as well as prayers to send out. I encourage you to do both.
If you want to find the location where the National Day of Prayer will be observed in your community, go here.