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Praying as UUs

My comments relate to your recent article “Praying as Unitarian Universalists” (Spring 2008). How can you separate prayer and God? One can bend and twist the meaning of “prayer” in any way you want, but it will always snap back into its historical position alongside God. Many, maybe even most UUs, have cast aside the idea of an interventionist God. Why then, should we hold fast to a word that supports an idea in which many of us no longer believe? If some congregations feel the need to have a period of silent reflection, why not simply call it that?

Harvey and Jackie Erikson
Moline, Illinois

The above is a letter sent to the UU publication "UU World." Contrast the letter writers' attitude towards the "p" word with more of Rev. Applebee's presentation to the May Memorial church in 1914:

Prayer is not mere petition; not the mere asking for things, though it has been reduced to that low estate. We do not ask that rain shall be sent or withheld. We do not ask that the beautiful order of nature shall be set aside for our personal gratification. We are quite content to leave the universe in the care of God, assured that he knows best. It is well that man cannot by his prayers change the order of nature. If he could, hopeless chaos would result. All this is not prayer. Prayer is oneness of the soul of man with the spirit of God. It is one form of that very love to God which is the essence of the religious life. It is divine communion, which merges naturally, and of spiritual necessity, into gratitude. It gives strength and courage, patience and peace. This has been the witness of all men of supreme religious genius.


Nearly one hundred years ago, Unitarians were clear (this is not the only written example) that prayer is not asking for God to grant our wishes, but something else, something deeper. We have a tradition to dip into, to guide us, not bind us-but to provide us with guidance. If (almost) a century ago our faith rejected the idea of a cosmic genie intervening in the natural processes to meet our individual desires, then why don't we talk about this in UU congregations? With all the discussion over the past few years about faith language and the center of the UU faith, I find it sad that so many in the pulpits & pews are ignorant of the ideas put forth by those whose foundation we build on today.


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