What is it like for you to pray?

From the USC Student Interfaith Council meeting, 1/20/09

Taylor (LDS-Mormon)– We open our prayer by addressing God as our father, then we ask for petitions. Prayer is comforting and it’s always in our hearts. Prayer is the way to converse with our Father.

Natasha (Muslim)– There are five obligatory prayers during the day. They start at dawn and end at night. Other prayers you can say at any time. When you prostrate and focus, I feel closer to God. Praying five times a day keeps a religious perspective. I say extra prayers when I feel the need. There is one extra prayer at pre-dawn that is very focusing because you wake up specifically to pray.

Sarrah (Muslim)– [Adding to Natasha’s description] We can pray at any time; this is called the supplication to God, which is a more personal prayer. I perform the five daily prayers. Sometimes I feel rushed, but praying really keeps you focused and grounded. The obligatory prayers and the supplication both serve different purposes.

Sara (Jewish)– Praying to me is reflecting and communicating with God. It is very powerful to look at yourself from the outside and reflect. In Judaism we pray from a book in Hebrew, which is sometimes hard to relate to. At the same time, I feel like part of a tradition in that everyone in my family has also taken part in.

Nozanin (Sufi)– Sufi is a very interfaith oriented school. It comes from the time of the Holy Prophet. We do everything that Muslims do. I used to do prayers without thinking, but I came to America and questioned why I pray. I found that I feel more focused and connected and I have a sense of faith in a higher power. We start every session with the first chapter of the Koran to open ourselves to life. Prayer has a sense of obligation to disconnect from everyday life. You will see that you can always focus on prayer no matter what stress you are going through.

MacKenzie (Pagan)– Prayer is summed up in three categories- meditation, ritual, and conversation. During meditation, I am quiet and peaceful. I don’t ask or say much, and I walk away relaxed and at peace. Ritual prayer is usually scripted in poetry. I make sure I am aware of what I’m saying. Conversational prayer means there is no starting and stopping because I am praying all day long. The Goddess is very personal and I can carry on a conversation all the time. I don’t have to introduce what I am praying for because the Goddess understands what I am feeling already.

Maki (Christian/Buddhist)– Prayer is meditation. During meditation, I focus on truth. I accept that death is inevitable and that we don’t know when it isn’t coming. I focus on things that are concrete, things that I am grateful for, and I get a different perspective on life. My goal is to meditate regularly and still perform Christian prayer. When I meditate I understand the world is changing, and when I pray I feel more geared towards God.

Jaclyn (Pagan)– My prayers tend to be all to the Goddess. I constantly observe change in everything. The feeling is like jumping into a cold pool, it happens every time I talk to someone, every time I see the sun set. I am no longer attached to the body and am attuned to female energies. I believe in the triple Goddess (three moon phases) and that everything changes. Nothing is constant (even death).

Mychael (Catholic)– I try to learn from other religious teachings. I feel like I am on a journey. Catholic to me is universal. In the end all faiths point to a being that can’t be described. Praying is an intimate relationship, it is comforting, it is warmth where there is darkness, company when I am alone, it is reflection. The most powerful prayer is that deep within you.

Max (Jewish)– Musically, temple prayer is very beautiful and I get a lot out of the tradition part. When I meditate, I become aware of what I should really care about. Channeling the divine energy helps me realign.

Jim (Progressive Protestant)– Wednesday meditation is my time for prayer. I get quiet and comfortable with body, I pay attention to my thoughts feelings. I work on being compassionate with myself and all I’m experiencing. I observe myself thinking and feeling different things, then I get to a point where a shift happens from my ego to the role of the observer. Then there is bliss at the center of my thoughts, and this is God.