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The importance of praying with and for our friends and neighbors.

In tough times, we could all be a little more spiritual

by Ted Slavin

published in St. Catharines Standard
St Catharines, ON: 2009-06-20
I'm not a spiritual person. At least, I don't think of myself as very spiritual, which is why I was surprised that my first response to Sherwin's news that he was laid off from his job was to share a prayer with him.

In more than 20 years of friendship, I'm uncertain of whether we had ever prayed together. Sure, we've prayed with our own faith communities -- Sherwin is a Christian and I'm a Bahá'í. And there were a few occasions as a teenager when I went with Sherwin's family to church. Those episodes usually manifested themselves after a night of chips, grape Crush and pounding on video-game controllers in a quest for Lord Stanley's cup.

Bleary-eyed the next day, we propped ourselves between the pews and I did my best to stumble through the unfamiliar hymns. Each service included prayers, of course. Were Sherwin and I praying together then?

Some years later, we were in a church again for Sherwin's wedding, unrecognizable as groom and best man in our designer tuxedos. The vows were exchanged and we bowed our heads when the minister prayed for the newlyweds and their future.

In the midst of the blessing, Sherwin gave me a look over his shoulder and showed off the shiny gold wedding band. Watch the wedding video and you can see me nodding my approval.

Soon it was my turn. A warm summer's day in July; wedding guests gathered in the shade, listening to Bahá'í prayers as Lindsay and I prepared to say our vows. Sherwin was my best man ... and best man he was: the night before the wedding did not go as expected. Last-minute bonbons and programs trumped our night overindulging in the one thing we enjoy together more than video games: food. Sherwin made the best of it and got takeout. The cold wings and soggy shawarma were long forgotten by the wedding's final prayer.

So, though the occasional prayer has emerged in episodes of my friendship with Sherwin, it's evident that prayer has never been the focal point, which explains why I felt so strange about taking a prayer book over to his home after he lost his job, along with a consolatory pepperoni pizza.

The relationship I have with many of my friends, especially those founded in my adolescence, never included the practice of praying together. Many of us believe in God and the power of prayer, but we tend to pray with others within the "flock" and in houses of worship where we congregate, and others choose to keep prayers to themselves. It's where we're comfortable with our particular set of perspectives on religion, and there's nothing wrong with that.

However, if diverging religious beliefs make us uneasy with the idea of praying together, that is a problem, especially when we realize that the differences between faiths are far fewer than what they share. All faiths recognize the power and influence of prayer and meditation in spiritual life. Among other things, we pray for assistance, courage, gratitude, mercy, contentment, peace and patience. We all need assistance. No one escapes the trials of life.

Support for others defines the core of a community. And though many of us are hard pressed in these turbulent economic times to provide material support in a community when we need it ourselves, an abundance of spiritual support, regardless of differing faiths, is available to be drawn upon from an Almighty Source.

When Sherwin told me that he had lost his job, prayer was the only way that I felt I could be of some significant support to him and his family. It was almost instinctual -- even natural. Given the need in our communities, maybe it's time that prayers with my neighbours and friends seemed more natural to me.

Maybe I'm more spiritual than I thought.
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