This week’s program “Approaching Prayer” is on my list of SOF classics. It’s a busy program: three interviews, readings and poetry, chants and music, biblical stories and Rilke quotes.

I love Anoushka Shankar’s description of Hinduism’s connection to nature and how prayer is about sound as much as words. I appreciate Stephen Mitchell’s story of how encountering the Book of Job was a “spiritual riddle” for him — a form of prayer. And I’m drawn to Roberta Bondi’s generous philosophy of prayer: “However we are, however we think we ought to be in prayer, the fact is we just need to show up and do the best we can do. It’s like being in a family.”

Colleen's Pocket Prayers

This program always makes me reflect on what I consider prayer to be in my life. I’m reminded this time of the pocket prayers I keep in my wallet — the Irish Blessing (my heritage) and the Serenity Prayer (authored by Niebuhr, popularized in addiction recovery programs, cherished by me for its simple, versatile message to consider what is and isn’t in my control on a daily basis):

My guess is many of you have pocket “prayers” that you keep with you — hanging on a wall, stapled in a hall; tattooed on your chest, knitted within a crest; stuck to the bumper of a car, in restroom of a bar; on a church, or a yurt; whatever shape to which it may convert.

We’d love to see them and know how they reflect creative and generous approaches to prayer. You can submit your images a couple of ways:

Share Your Reflection



Luck is the residue of desire. --Branch Rickey

I begin writing with the help of all of Allaah's (God's) names; He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

Peace be upon those who follow Guidance.

The first thing that came to mind when I read this was that 'prayer' for a Muslim is a little different than most. We have essentially two kinds of prayer; a formal and highly ritualized prayer which is performed AT LEAST five times a day, and an informal prayer which can be performed at nearly any time. Informal prayers (which is what I will discuss) can be from the Words of Allaah (i.e. the Qur'aan) or the statements of His Last Messenger and Prophet (Muhammad bin 'Abdullaah, peace and blessings be upon him). It can also be from one's self and in one's own tongue (i.e. NOT Arabic). A few things come to mind when I think of my 'pocket prayers'. First, a verse of the Qur'aan which reads, "Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allaah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allaah hearts are assured." [Ar-Ra'd (The Thunder) 13: 28]. This is so true! Then I have two VERY regular prayers I say (I actually say many more, but that would make this too long). The first is from the Qur'aan; "My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims." [Al-Ahqaaf (The Curving Sand Tracts) 46:15]. The second is from the teachings of the Messenger of Allaah; "O Allaah, verily I ask You for Guidance, Constant Awareness of You, Chastity, and Contentment within myself." I hope this helps with bringing about even greater perspective on prayer. I pray that Allaah guides us and you, and helps us rectify our affairs. Amen.


Toward the One
the Perfection of
Love, Harmony and Beauty,
the Only Being,
United with all the illuminated Souls,
who form the Embodiment of the Master,
the Spirit of Guidance.



O Thou,
Who art the Perfection of
Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
The Lord of heaven and earth,
Open our hearts,
That we may hear Thy Voice,
Which constantly cometh from within.
Disclose to us Thy Divine Light,
which is hidden in our souls,
that we may know and understand life better.
Most Merciful and Compassionate God,
Give us Thy great Goodness;
Teach us Thy loving Forgiveness;
Raise us above the distinctions and
differences which divide us;
Send us the Peace of Thy Divine Spirit,
And unite us all in Thy Perfect Being.


The word "Khatum" can be translated as "Closing Recital" and "Placing a Seal."

Both of these are prayers from Hazrat Inayat Khan, a teacher of is often called Universal Sufism, who came from India to the United States in 1910 and later to Europe. These aren't prayers that I have images of. Instead they are prayers I know and say "by heart" every day, along with several other similar prayers that are longer.

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals.
Not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly --
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

In 1994, I wrote a prayer for a spiritual group that met twice a month. We used it as sort of a focus for the evening's work. I still carry a laminated copy of it.

A Circle's Prayer
-- © Brian Weis, 12/21/1994 --

We pray for Spirits' aid to remember our purpose in gathering here
that we might exercise discipline and courtesy,
speak responsibly and listen consciously

We pray that Spirit will keep us mindful that
there are no leaders or followers on this path;
no gurus or disciples;
that we all, each of us, are teachers and students in our own right;
and we both learn and instruct through the sharing of our experiences

And we pray for the gracious awareness
that the souls here are no better than souls elsewhere
but that all souls are striving toward perfection in love

Each of my grandmothers carried the Prayer of St Francis with them.
One grandmother, rather religious had the prayer typed on a 3x5 card and kept in a little box of things. The other grandmother was not so religious in tradition but lived the spirit of any religion. I found her card by her bedside when home for her funeral last summer. I now carry the prayer in my wallet.
Oh Lord make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
and Where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.

I found this beautiful evening prayer in the "Mishkan T'Filah, A Reform Siddur." Although I am a Christian I've found this lovely book a comfort and it has deepened my faith. I say this prayer every evening, before bed:

Give us a place to rest, O God.
Shelter us in the long, soft, evening shadows of Your truth.
You are true protection and safety,
in Your Presence we find love and acceptance.
Watch over us as we go forth.
Prepare for us as we return.
Spread over us Your shelter of peace,
over all we love -- over our Jerusalem and Yours.

The Siddur advises:

"Recited only at night, this final a prayer for divine protection as we sleep."

There is an adaptation to a Psalm - that is there for me... 'Lord I love the beauty of thy House, the place where Your glory dwells - destroy not my life with men of blood... in assemblies I will bless the name of the Lord'

As a poet, I have, at times written a prayer journal... and now I feel encouraged to continue in that practice.

My 'pocket' prayer is from a Psalm - 'Lord I love the beauty of your House, the place where Your glory dwells, destroy not my soul with men of blood; in assemblies I will bless you oh, Lord'.

From Buddhist practices comes the prayer...

May all beings be well.
May all beings be happy.
Peace, Peace, Peace.

And this certainly is not intended to be limited to human beings, but to include all sentient beings, with sentient beings being an all inclusive category that is much broader than you might think.

The Space between the Words

In the space between the words
the things left unsaid, not spoke aloud
in the musings of our hearts
deep within our souls
These are the urgent,
the fervent prayers
the callings to our king
The petitions too painful to give voice
the struggles of our souls

January 15, 2010
Title 1/2/2010
“Speaking of Faith: Approaching Prayer”
December 31, 2009 program,
Speaking of Faith

The Spaces between Words

So often, in my prayers,
in the poetry I am given
in the words I am sharing

The space between words
this is where my prayer dwells
the living communication with God

Reaching with my mind, my voice
to walk with my God, my king
to sing a song of praise to him
This is my hopeful offering

Not in words, not on the printed page
not even words mused from my lips
breathed thoughts, sighs, too deep

Calling out to God
singing from my soul’s desires
petitions to my king
these I bring in spaces between words

January 15, 2010
Title 1/2/2010
“Speaking of Faith: Approaching Prayer”
December 31, 2009 program,
Speaking of Faith