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Prayers from worship services

A selection of public prayers from Sunday morning worship services, and community events.

Opening prayer for New Bedford City Council, Tuesday, November 25, 2008:

Let join together our hearts and minds in the spirit of prayer and meditation.

We are here tonight in the presence of that which is called by many names -- God, Allah, spirit of life, the highest and best in humanity -- and we take this brief moment to reflect on our highest ideals.

May all of us here tonight remember the highest ideals of democracy:
   May we remember the ideal that a democracy exists to serve all person, including the poor, the dispossessed, and those without a strong political voice; and
   May we remember the ideal carried in the name of our state, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that democratic government exists to promote the common good.

Two days before we celebrate Thanksgiving, may we all remember to give thanks for the gifts of life which we enjoy:
   We give thanks for our own families and loved ones;
   We give thanks for the gift of diversity, where our city is home to people of many different skin colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religious faiths, and political affiliations, for we know that in our diversity lies strength;
   We give thanks for the gift that is our beautiful, historic city by the sea.

Finally, let us remember that all the great religious traditions of the world teach us to love our neighbors as we ourselves would be like to be loved. May all that is done here tonight be guided by this spirit of love. Amen.

Pastoral prayer, First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Sunday, November 23, 2008 (Thanksgiving Sunday):

This is an intergenerational worship service, which means the children are invited to stay here for the entire worship service. Therefore, this seems like a good time to review how we Unitarian Universalists do public prayer and meditation. First of all, there’s only one firm rule for us Unitarian Universalists: you don’t have to pray or meditate if you don’t want to, but you do have to be calm and quiet so you don’t disturb other people.

Now in most religious traditions, when you pray or meditate you are supposed do something with your body. Many Christians kneel to pray in church, most Muslims have a routine for bowing and kneeling for their daily prayer, some Buddhists sit cross-legged to pray. Well, what we Unitarian Universalists do is we sit quietly and comfortably when it’s time to pray or meditate. So let’s try that. Sit so you’re comfortable and relaxed, just like Emma is doing, maybe with your hands in your lap. If you’re sitting next to someone you love, it’s fine to lean up against that person. Some Unitarian Universalists might bow their heads and close their eyes so they can concentrate better; but in my Unitarian Universalist family, we were taught to keep our heads up and our eyes open; either way is fine.

We Unitarian Universalists like to talk and we like to listen to talk; so when it’s time to pray and meditate, we usually listen to some words spoken by a minister or a member of the congregation. This morning, as we enter into the spirit of prayer and meditation, we’ll hear some spoken words, have some music, hear more spoken words, have a time of silence, and end with music.

Let us join together in the spirit of meditation and prayer, first with spoken words, then with a time of silence, ending with a musical response. And on this Sunday before Thanksgiving, we give thanks.

We give thanks for friends and loved ones, for those people who stick with us through thick and thin. Even if they annoy us periodically, even if we have to get into arguments with them, they show their love by simply being present.

We give thanks for the necessities of life: thanks the food we eat, for the broad rich fields that grow our food, for the workers who plant and cultivate and harvest what we eat, for the people who cook our food; thanks for the air we breathe, for the plants that take in the carbon dioxide we exhale and turn it into oxygen that we need; thanks for the water we need, for clean fresh water for us to drink, and for the salt water with its bounty of fish and seafood.

We give thanks for our capacity to realize the wonder and the beauty of this world. If we did not have a sense of wonder this would be a drab life; but with a sense of wonder, we can be amazed at the beauty that surrounds us; and with a sense of wonder, we can understand how little we understand, and we can stand in awe of the universe.

We give thanks for that which connects us all; whether it is the interdependent web of life, or God or the Goddess, or the spirit of life and love, there is that by which we are all interconnected, and through which we are never alone.

Opening prayer for the annual scholarship banquet of the Central Labor Council of Southeastern Masschusetts, June, 2008:

We gather this evening for the annual awards banquet of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center of UMass Dartmouth. We gather in the presence of that which is called by many names -- God, spirit of life, the highest and best in humanity -- to honor leaders in our region who have contributed to the rights of workers and organized labor.

In this time of financial turmoil, we need to celebrate those leaders who support workers and organized labor. We know that business owners will be tempted to use the financial turmoil as an excuse to cut worker's wages and benefits, and we pray that they resist that temptation. We think of workers who are currently struggling to hold on to what they already have, and so our thoughts are with the workers of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers who are in the middle of a seven week strike against Boeing.

In this election season, we take just a moment to pray that all who are running for elected office remember that it is workers who have made the United States the great country it is today. This awards banquet has honored many elected officials over the years, and we look forward to a future where more and more elected officials keep the needs of workers at the forefront.

Finally, as we sit down to eat together, let us give thanks for all the workers who made this meal possible: the farm workers out in the fields and for those who raised and processed the meat; the truckers and transportation workers; the cooks, the dishwashers, and those who serve us the food tonight. We are blessed with abundance tonight: and we give thanks for all we have.

Pastoral prayer, First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Sunday, November 14, 2005:

On this Sunday closest to Veterans Day, we hold in our hearts all those who have served our country in the armed services. We remember all those who have died while serving in the armed forces. And we think of those who have been injured during military service, especially those for whom a full recovery was impossible. And we think of those whose military service left them troubled in mind or spirit. May our love uphold all veterans, and all those currently serving in the armed forces.

On this Sunday closest to Veterans Day, we hold in our hearts all those who have been touched by war: all the soldiers, all the non-combatants who have lived in war zones, all the families of soldiers who have died, and all those who have been touched in one way or another by war.

On this Sunday, we also remember that Veterans Day commemorates the Armistice between the Allies and Germany which put an end to World War I. In a time of war, we commemorate the end of war, and we hope for a good and lasting peace.

May peace come sooner rather than later; may we soon be blessed with a time of true peace and true justice where all peoples might live in harmony.