They reach for strings of beads. They spin colourful wheels. They light candles. They raise their arms. They hold one another's hands. They wave smoke toward their faces and over their bodies. They bow their heads. They hang flags on string and leave them to fade into the wind. They stand before a community and open their hearts. They dance. They set lights afloat on murky waters.
People of faith the world over assume such positions, enter into such actions, begin such rituals, and without a word of explanation, any who see them know that they are moving into what is for them a sacred moment.
For many people, prayer is an essential part of their daily lives, connecting them with God, a force, or the universe, bringing them, among other things, assistance and protection. Prayer makes their lives more meaningful, and in that meaning their worlds make sense. They cannot imagine living without such an important facet of their lives, and as a result of their introspection, they live fuller, deeper lives and offer wider service to others. Increasingly, however, prayer has become a tradition that has some meaning, but as ritual, not as a vehicle that delivers true significance for those who worship. Despite what it may have meant to previous generations, prayer now holds only a symbolic place in our busy lives and the deeper kinship with community is lost in the vestments of antiquated traditions. In Amen, Gretta Vosper, United Church minister and author of the controversial bestseller With or Without God, offers us her deeply felt examination of worship beyond conventional prayer, a new tradition built on love and respect rather than on the rituals of ancient beliefs.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
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