Friday, April 06, 2012

Praying for the religious "other" on Good Friday

Bidding Prayer
Silence for prayer follows each bid. At the conclusion of each silence, the presider says, “Through Christ our Lord,” and the assembly responds: Amen.

For the church throughout the world
For leaders in the church
For those preparing for baptism
For Christians in other churches
For the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God
For those who do not share our faith in Christ
For those who do not believe in God
For God’s creation
For those who serve in public office
For those in need

The Our Father


Above is the simplified form of the bidding prayers I made use of for our Good Friday Noon Day Prayer Service today.

As I was praying this set of prayers, I realized how distinct the pattern is from the Prayers of the Church we typically pray on Sunday mornings. Specifically, what is different is how much time is devoted to praying for the "religious other." The distinctions between these "others" are much more nuanced than in any other prescribed prayers of which I am aware. We pray for: Christians in other churches (by which I assume is meant other congregations in our own tradition, as well as Christian traditions and denominations different from our own; the Jewish people (who, as Christians, we see as brothers and sisters in faith, living in and out of their covenant with God on an important parallel trajectory to our own); then for those who do not share our faith in Christ; and finally for those who do not believe in God.

We took time in between each one of these bids to name our specific prayers, and to pray in silence. As I prayed, I had to think about the nuances of the faith that carries the people I know. I prayed for them individually in their walk of faith, struggles with doubt, and so on. I found this particularly moving today, I think precisely because we stripped the prayers down to bare essentials.

It occurred to me that these are not prayers we should primarily or exclusively pray on Good Friday. These are good nuances for us to consider in our daily prayers. By praying in this way, I had to think through how I, as a Christian, live in faith in relationship to atheists, and how that was different from (or not) the way I live in relationship those of different faiths, different Christian traditions, and specifically, how I relate to our closest "religious others," the Jewish people.

It also occurred to me that Good Friday is a very good day to pray this set of prayers, because Christ's death on the cross on this day was, because it was "in the air," a public expression of Christ's faith in us in spite of our lack of faith in him, and so his death and this day are, more than many other days, public witness to Christ's profound and faithful openness to the religious "other," and a reminder that the first "other" that Christ embraces, I must remember, is me.


  1. Steve Gauger7:12 PM

    Thanks, Clint. I couldn't agree more. This prayer has always impressed me, both for its content and its simple, profound language. But more than anything else, its deep concern for all the "others" in God's world, and the simple fact that Jesus' death is for all the world. If only the church could pray so profoundly every Sunday.

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