A Day of Prayer for the rest of us.
May 6 is National Day of Prayer in the US and I have mixed feelings and a few suggestions.
“The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. The president is required by law (36 U.S.C. § 119) to sign a proclamation each year, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.” (Wikipedia) Its roots go back to colonial days, when John Hancock, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson encouraged the public to fast and pray — even for self-governance.
In 1952, President Truman signed a bill proclaiming that a National Day of Prayer must be declared by each subsequent president on the date of their choice. Lots of Presidents, including Reagan and Bush, held events at the White House to mark the day during their terms. In 1988, the law was amended to establish the first Thursday of May as a day of prayer. It’s intended to be a day when the faithful could unite in prayer, and that it “may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.” (Wiki again.)
But wait: does that kind of imply that somebody’s godless? That peoples of the world don’t respect capital G-o-d as they “should?”
As an animist with Buddhist leanings, I have a hard time with that assumption. Both of these paths are old, and neither focuses much on prayer in the way we tend to think of it in mainstream culture. Animism has been around basically as long as humans. It’s the original worldview, one that sees the world as inhabited by many kinds of beings, including the other-than-human ones. The trees and fish, fire and snow, the ancestors and the ones to come: these are all part of the community in which we live. We are never separate or alone, and hopefully we make decisions and participate in good acts that benefit the greatest number of beings. Prayer as modern folks think of it and as I was raised to think of it in our lapsed Catholic household is communication to a Big Creator Deity, but animists connect with the sacred in many forms and in many different ways. A lot of people would call me “new age” because of the healing work and teaching I do, which admittedly often happens in crystal shops and yoga…