January 6

“Is not prayer a study of truth? A venture of the soul into the unfound infinite? No one ever prayed heartily without learning something.”

Emerson

An Atheist’s Prayer

I have brought you something. In the Brigham and Women’s Hospital chapel, patients and medical staff write prayers down on sticky notes and leave them to be prayed by hospital chaplains. I have brought some of these prayers with me today. In speaking to you, I have tried to convey how healing I find it to pray aloud the prayers of others. But I wanted to also give you the chance to experience directly what it feels like to pray, with your whole heart, as a vehicle for the words and beliefs of another…sometimes, being in community is more important than being in agreement. Some of the prayers I brought here are written in language you wouldn’t use or contain theologies you wouldn’t agree with. But let’s not be afraid of some change.

As the basket passes, please take one sticky note, and look at the prayer it contains.

The person who wrote this prayer, wrote it down and left it, because they are reaching out for support, for community. And today, this congregation has been entrusted with the hopes and the gratitude and the deep spiritual need in each of these prayers. We are going to read them, aloud, together. And in our overlapping voices, let us listen for the truth and the connection that makes itself heard.

First, silently read the prayer you have. Is there a name? A diagnosis? A plea for help, for strength? In a hospital, people pray with a vulnerable sincerity deserving of our unreserved reverence, our love. Know the person who wrote this, and hold them close to your heart as you take a breath. Then all as one we will speak our prayers aloud.

[Prayers]

Amen.

Sally Fritsche, An Atheist’s Prayer

Featured photo by Pezibear, Pixabay