To pray without ceasing is not necessarily a very â€œUnitarian Universalistâ€? idea. At least, itâ€™s not an idea that most people would associate with us. It is, how ever, an idea rooted in the Christian scriptures and therefore, rooted in our own history. Iâ€™ve pondered it for sermons, for personal devotions, and in numerous discussion groups, but yesterday was the first time I experienced it.
As the stories and pictures of Hurricane Katrina began to roll in, I recognized in myself a helplessness that I had felt before. In the face of the Oklahoma bombing, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the tsunami, and now the devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I felt a first blast of pain and then nothingâ€”just numbnessâ€”and a sense of helplessness.
Many of you know that one of the new joys in my life is the growing community in Real Live Preacherâ€™s chat rooms. There are about ten or so of us now who are â€œregularsâ€? there. When I thought about what I could do in the face of this newest disaster, I thought, â€œI want to pray with my friends.â€?
So I suggested the idea of an online â€œprayer circle.â€? Iâ€™d heard that yesterday a number of bloggers were going to dedicate their blogs to raising money for disaster relief and I had, what I thought at the time was a good little idea. Real Live Preacher could use his new home and its new technology to host a chat room where anyone could come and pray. It would be a space where no matter your theology or lack of it, you could come be with others who longed to do something to make things better.
The other chatters immediately liked the idea. Real Live Preacher announced it on his front page and committed to join us later in the day. And so we gathered and prayed and chatted and laughed and cried and got angry and learned from one another. We met new friends and held each other in the arms of a new kind of community. And it was all prayer. I prayed all day. Even when I was away from the chat, in meetings and making plans for the church year, a part of me was praying.
I prayed with people who wrote prayers in theological language that I disagree with. I prayed with people who prayed for things I was not yet ready to pray. I prayed with people for the hurricane victims, the refugees, the children, the dead. I prayed with people for the looters, for the enraged, for the hopeless, and for the wounded. I prayed with people for the emergency workers, the police, the National Guard forces, the mayors, governors, and yes, for the President.
I prayed for those who feel helpless, angry, defeated, numb, confusedâ€¦ I prayed with children, teenagers, young adults, adults, and elders. I prayed with Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Reformed, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, and people who I have no idea what label they wearâ€¦ I feel as though I prayed with and for all humanity.
I am not always sure to whom I was praying. Sometimes the prayers were addressed to â€œSpirit of Life,â€? to God, to the Lord, to Jesusâ€¦to no one at all. Sometimes they were simply groans and moans and cries of â€œLord have mercy!â€? Sometimes the prayers were silent. Sometimes we just sat there, not knowing what or how to pray.
And yet, despite my not knowing, something deep within me is confidentâ€”absolutely sure, actuallyâ€”that our prayers made a difference. I know they made a difference for and in me. My “good little idea” was far more powerful than I knew. Thank you to everyone who came and prayed. Thank you for those who sent messages that you were praying with us. Thank you, Real Live Preacher, for making a space where this could happen. Thank you to the few who stayed for hours and hours, keeping the room open from 7:30 a.m. EDT until midnight! Thank you to the many who dared come into a prayer room, though it was uncomfortable, even scary. Thank you. You have restored me to hope and embodied Love for me. Thank you and may the praying continue.