Prayer: Praying With Our Hands

a sermon given on 14 December 2008 by Reverend Gail Seavey of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee.


Many of our beloved holiday stories tell of simple people with few worldly goods wondering what to give those they love: stories of little brothers making trains and balls for their brothers and sisters, of little girls giving handfuls of red flowers, of drummer boys giving their song, of shepherds giving sheep, of Wise Men giving balms to ease the pains of birth and of death. They each give a different presents, but they are all gifts of the heart.

Each Christmas Eve for the last 37 years, my mother takes twelve stoneware flat bottomed bowls out of the cupboard that I made when I was in art school. She ladles oyster stew in them to serve for dinner. Those bowls were gifts of the heart. I was not a good potter. The first stage of throwing the bowls was the hardest for me to do – centering the mound of clay on the potters’ wheel. But the difficulties did not end there. Flat bottomed bowls are much more difficult than round bottomed bowls to make. If the bottom is not perfectly even, they crack while drying or when fired in the kiln. Twelve matching bowls took a great deal of persistence for me the complete. This gift to my mother, from a student who had nothing else to give, were received with such grace by being made part of the annual Christmas ritual, has been a great gift to me.

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by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Manchester, CT, USA

How do Unitarian Universalists pray? How do Unitarian Universalists engage in spiritual prac­tice? Some questions to consider for this month:

As a person of a liberal religious faith, how do you practice your faith in private? Do you have any personal religious rituals?

In the book Simply Pray, Erik Walker Wikstrom describes four elements of prayer: nam­ing, knowing, listening and loving. Does this reso­nate with your own conceptions about prayer? Prayer is deeply rooted in our personal beliefs. It’s often so personal that we have no idea what our closest friends and family believe about prayer or how they engage in prayer. Prayer can be both individual and communal.

Let’s open up that discussion. What does prayer mean to us as Unitarian Universalists? As a part of a liberal religious community? What does prayer mean during a service? Does prayer re­quire a deity to be involved? What are humanist forms of prayer? Where is  the balance between the two? How shall we pray? from Judith Quarles (reprinted with permission)

First, let us be open to the silence. Let us hear the sounds in this room, the noises outside. Let us be­gin to hear the soft beating of our hearts. And let us listen intently for messages from within.

Next, let us feel gratitude for our lives and for our beautiful earth. As hard as life gets, as sad or lonely as we sometimes feel, let us always be warmed by the gifts of this life.

Next, let us hold in our hearts all those, known or unknown who are in need. May we find in our­selves the energy and knowledge to bring care to the world.

Finally, let us be aware of the blessing that it is not ours alone to do the work of the world. Love and community work wonders that we by our­selves could never manage. In this time of silence let us form our own prayers out of the concerns of our hearts.

—Amen, Hallelujah and Blessed Be