Why Do We Pray? ~ A CIC Conversation


“Now I lay me down to sleep…” I think they are the words of prayer my mother first taught me as a young child. Poetic, rich in theology, & yet so simple that even today I can still recite them from memory. Since the dawn of sentient life on earth, humanity has reached out in the desire of communion with the divine. Prayer is the contemplative awakening to our being in relationship to that which is beyond us; a wonder that not only can reveal purpose & meaning but bring the comfort of knowing we are known & significant to the one we pray with.

Yesterday I gathered with a small few at the University of Calgary to hear a First Nations Elder, a Christian professor from Ambrose University, & a practicing Muslim. We came to hear the conversation between the three of them around the question, “Why do we pray?” The amazing dialogue that formed revealed a fantastic stream of thought that inspires me to explore further questions around the practices of prayer.

What are the different forms of prayer that are both shared & perhaps, distinct between religious traditions? Are there practices that we might learn from one another that could bring a greater sensitivity to our relationship with the divine? Is there a significance to who we pray to? And in turn, who we pray with?

A few years ago, my wife & I retreated to the hospital chapel, during a long stay. It became a sanctuary of sorts where my wife could commune with God & find comfort away from the stresses of her hospital ward. Anyways, on one particular occasion two Muslims joined us in the chapel for early evening prayer. As Christians, we reached out in a Trinitarian voice while the poetic prayer song of the Muslim’s beside us harmonized with the spiritual presence we found ourselves in. In a sense, we found ourselves in the comfort of knowing we were not alone in the desire for God’s love & acknowledgment.

This is not the first experience I’ve had praying with someone of another faith. It has me wondering if the language of religious reconciliation is immersed not in theological debate, but within the practice of prayer. Or, playing with the words from a sermon I recently listened to… Our religious orientation is far less important than our spiritual orientation. When we are open to the presence of the divine speaking into our soul’s through the traditions of both our own convictions & that of mutual humility with the other, truth is revealed through the bond of a relational redemption & shared communal identity.

Well, I suppose I should just let you listen to the gathering. Perhaps we can pick this conversation up again later. :)

For prayer exists, no question about that. It is the peculiarly human response to the fact of this endless mystery of bliss & brutality, impersonal might & lyrical intimacy that composes our experience of life.
— Patricia Hampl


Calgary Interfaith Council ~ https://www.calgaryinterfaithcouncil.org

Ambrose University ~ https://ambrose.edu