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Prayers and graces

"Our ideal church -- what is it then? Primarily it is this: ... the natural emotions of love, awe, and gratitude common to all people, emotions that rise with the contemplation of the great mysteries of nature and being."

-- Rev. Celia Parker Wooley, Unitarian minister

On this Web page you'll find a small collection of...

to help stimulate "the natural emotions of love, awe, and gratitude." While I've collected them for Unitarian Universalist families with children, I hope other Unitarian Universalist adults will also find useful things here.

The Web site of the Unitarian Universalist Association has an online bookstore with lots more books and resources for all ages. I especially recommend the book Hide and Seek with God for younger children, and The Gift of Faith for parents. Teenagers may enjoy choosing one of the meditation manuals, which are collections of short poems or prose meditations written by various ministers.

Please note that all the material on this page is in the public domain (except the Unitarian Universalist principles, which the copyright holder grants permission to copy for non-commercial purposes), so you may copy this freely. I hope this small collection helps you to bring your Unitarian Universalism into your home.

— Rev. Dan Harper

Words for lighting a chalice at home

The flaming chalice has become the shared symbol of Unitarians and Universalists around the world, and in this section you’ll find words for lighting a chalice from Unitarians and Universalists all over the world.

Some families set aside time to be together each week, perhaps on Friday evening at or near sunset, or perhaps on Sunday evening before dinner. These are good times to pause and catch your breath as a family, while you light a candle or a flaming chalice. This would be a good time to use the chalice lighting words.


The light of the ages has brought wisdom and truth to all peoples, in all times of human history. We light this flame to remind us to seek wisdom in our own time.

— Dan Harper


We light this chalice to remember that life is born again every day.

Encendemos este cáliz como recuerdo de que la vida nace de nuevo cada día.

— La Sociedad Unitaria Universalista de España (Unitarian Universalist Society of Spain)


O hidden life that vibrates in each atom,
O hidden light that shines in each creature,
O hidden love that embraces everything in unity,
May all who feel one with you
Know that for this very reason we are one with all
the others.

O vida oculta que brilha em cada átomo
O luz oculta que brilha em cada criatura,
O amor oculto que tudo abrange na unidade,
Possa todo aquele que se sente um contigo
Saber que por isso mesmo é um com todos os

— adapted from Annie Besant by Paulo Ereno, courtesy Brazilian Unitarian Universalists


Just as the sun bathes us in its light, its warmth and its love,
So may the spirit of this chalice bless us with truth, life, and love.

— Derek McCullough, Australian and New Zealand Unitarian Association


We light this flame to represent our liberal religion:
A religion that stands for freedom and tolerance;
A religion that believes in the full use of reason;
A religion that offers hope that we can make the world better.

— Dan Harper

Saying grace

These are words you can say just before starting your meal.


Blessed are you, Holy One, Creator of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.

--based on an ancient Jewish prayer

II. Silly grace

Thanks for the grub,
Yay, God!

— from Liberal Religious Youth


Cherished family, friends, and guests,
Let this food to us be blessed.
Bless those people who made this food.
May it feed our work for good.

— adapted from German Lutheran grace by Craig Schwalenberg


God is great, God is good,
Let us thank (her) (him) for our food.

— from Emma Mitchell’s family (children get to choose whether to say "her" or "him")

V. Sharing grace

Hold hands around the table.
Ask everyone at the table to say one thing he or she is thankful for that day.

VI. Silent grace

Hold hands around the table.
Say: "Let us have a moment of silence to give thanks for the food we eat."
15 - 20 seconds of silence is about right.

Affirmations of faith

The principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association are included here for the reference of adults and teenagers (in my experience, younger children have not found these to be particularly meaningful or comprehensible). I've also included some other affirmations of faith used by Unitarian Universalists.

We Are... (an affirmation for younger people)

We are Unitarian Universalists:
(make two U’s with hands)
With minds that think,
(touch head with both hands)
Hearts that love,
(put both hands on heart)
And hands that are ready to serve!
(hold out hands, palms up)

Link to pictures showing hand motions.

Affirmation of First Unitarian in New Bedford

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope in the community of earth
And love of the sacred in ourselves and others
Be ours this day and in all the days to come.

Sung affirmation

From all that dwell below the skies
Let songs of hope and faith arise;
Let peace, good will, on earth be sung
Through every land by every tongue.

— adapted from words by Isaac Watts
sung to the tune “Old Hundredth”


I will strive toward high ethical and moral standards in my personal life and in my life in the wider community.
I will work for the understanding and promotion of a religion of love, assuming a spirit of cooperation and tolerance towards other religious groups.
I will commit myself to keep formulating my own religious beliefs according to my individual needs, the needs of the world around me, my conscience, and my degree of maturity.

— adapted from First Unitarian Church in New Bedford

Principles from the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.


Prayers for individuals and families, for all ages.

General prayers


I am only one.
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything.
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do.

— Rev. Edward E. Hale


If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

— Emily Dickinson


Cloak yourself in a thousand ways, and still I shall know you, my Beloved.
Veil yourself with every enchantment, and yet I shall feel your Presence, most dear, close and intimate.
I shall salute you in the springing of cypresses, and in the sheen of lakes the laughter of fountains.
I shall surely see you in tumbling clouds, in brightly embroidered meadows.
O beloved Presence, more beautiful than all the stars together,
I find your face in ivy that climbs, in clusters of grapes, in morning sun on the mountains, in the clear arch of the sky.
You gladden the whole earth and make every heart great.
You are the breathing of the world.

— adapted from Mohammad Hafiz, "Shams Ud-Dun"


IV. A Hindu prayer

Lead us from death to life, from lies to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
Peace. Peace. Peace.

— adapted from the Upanishads


God of love,
your name is goodness and holiness.
May your love be present in all the nations of earth,
just as I feel your love in my heart.
Grant us the food we need today,
grant all people the food they need today.
Forgive me when I fail, and
help me forgive those who fail me.
May I not be tempted by evil or wrong-doing
may your love watch over me, and over us all.

— a traditional Jewish prayer, adapted by early Christian communities, and further adapted by Rev. Dan Harper


I will be truthful.
I will suffer no injustice.
I will be free from fear.
I will not use force.
I will be of good-will to all people.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Prayers for morning

I. Salutation of the Dawn

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the truth
And reality of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is already a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

— ancient Sanskrit source, in The Beacon Song and Service Book


Renew yourself completely each day.
Do it again, and again,
and forever again.

— Confucius, The Great Learning

Prayers for evening

I. A bedtime prayer

(for parents/guardians and children together)

Tonight I am thankful for…
(say some of the good things that happened to
you today)

And I am sorry for…
(talk about the things you feel sorry for doing
or saying)

Tomorrow I hope for…
(things you hope for and how you think you can
make them happen)

— idea from Rev. Christopher Raible


May the truth that sets us free,
And the hope that never dies,
And the love that casts out fear
Be with us now
Until the dayspring breaks,
And the shadows flee away.

— adapted from the Christian and Hebrew scriptures



The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world, and dances in rhythmic measure.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass, and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

— Rabindranath Tagore

II. The Black Finger

I have just seen a beautiful thing
Slim and still,
Against a gold, gold sky,
A straight cypress,
A black finger
Pointing upwards.
Why, beautiful, still finger are you black?
And why are you pointing upwards?

— Angelina W. Grimke

Silent meditation at home

It's a good idea for children to learn how to do silent meditation. While a regular practice of silent meditation is not for everyone, knowing how to meditate in silence is a skill every Unitarian Universalist child (and adult) should learn.

Meditation is a great way to deal with the stresses of life, to become more calm and centered, to become more who you are. It's not the only way to accomplish these things, but it's one of the simplest.

If you are an adult who wants to teach the young people in your life to do silent meditation, one of the best strategies is to take the time to have your own silent meditation practice. By doing it yourself, you set a good example, and you can better help others as they learn how to sit in stillness and quiet. Adults and youth who want to learn a simple meditation technique can read The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson.

Here's one of the techniques I've used to teach silent meditation to young people at church:

I might start out by talking a little about how Henry David Thoreau lived in his cabin at Walden Pond, and how sometimes on a pleasant morning he would sit on his doorstep for hours at a time, lost in the beauty of the natural world or, as he put it, "rapt in a revery." His idea of losing yourself in silent appreciation of the natural world makes an authentically Unitarian Universalist meditation practice. Then I introduce the time of meditation, saying something like this:

When weather permits, this kind of meditation works even better outdoors. When you're outdoors, young people can look around for their own natural object. Alternatively, you can have them listen to all the sounds of the outdoors, and at the end of your time of silence you can share all the sounds you heard (wind in the trees, birds, cars, perhaps animals, etc.). Or you can lie at the foot of a big tree and gaze up into its branches for a time of silence, as yet another form of outdoor meditation.

Finally, another simple way to introduce a time of silence to your family is to light a candle (or a flaming chalice), perhaps using some of the words for lighting a chalice that you’ll find in this booklet, and then just sit in silence for two or more minutes watching the candle flame. (If you light a small candle like a birthday candle, you can watch it until it burns all the way down). Often even people who resist the idea of silent meditation will like this practice.

Some songs to sing

The best source for Unitarian Universalist songs is our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition. You can buy a copy of the hymnal from the Bookstore of the Unitarian Universalist Association at 1-800-215-9076. The hymns listed below are ones we sing in our church on a regular basis, and which are also good for singing at home.

If someone in your family plays the guitar, Singing the Living Tradition rarely provides guitar chords. But you can find guitar chords for some of these songs in Rise Up Singing, a popular songbook edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson. The numbers in parentheses in the list below refer to the number of the page in Rise Up Singing which has guitar chords for that song. (Note that Rise Up Singing has more traditionally Christian words for some of these songs.)

Some Unitarian Universalist singer-songwriters have also written some good songs that express Unitarian Universalist values. Try listening to recordings by Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Utah Phillips, Fred Small, or the songs by Ysaye Maria Barnwell that are sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Finally, I have a collection of Christmas and Yuletide songs elsewhere on this Web site [link].