Musri 5-1-2013

My Word: Prayers from diverse faiths for our nation

Imam Musri(Orlando Sentinel, May 1, 2013)

By Muhammad Musri

Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. It’s not a public holiday. We won’t get a paid day off from work. The mail will still be delivered. And banks will be open as usual. So what exactly is this special day?

The National Day of Prayer is merely an invitation from the U.S. president to pray for our nation, its leaders and all our fellow humans who make this remarkable country what it is. Granted society’s diversity, the prayers offered will reflect a rich array of faith traditions.

The prayers I will lead as a Muslim imam won’t employ the same words, postures and rituals as those prayers offered by my brothers and sisters of the Jewish, Christian and other faith traditions.

But the same gratitude for the privilege of being part of such a great nation, and our desire to see it become an even more perfect union, as our Constitution calls for, will be a sentiment contained in every petition, whatever the religion or ethnicity of those praying.

Such positive sentiments, I hasten to add, don’t belong exclusively to people of faith. Thus, I would encourage those who don’t pray to nevertheless join in contemplation and reflection, pondering how we might more effectively live out the dream of our nation’s founders, acknowledge the dignity and worth of every human and ensure equality and justice for all.

The process of prayer involves at least three layers of reaching. First, we reach upward to that which is beyond and above what we ourselves are. We seek a level of wisdom and insight that transcends our normal perceptions. We seek clarity, vision and a higher ideal.

Next, we reach inward, testing our beliefs and prejudices against that higher ideal. Where are we falling short, both individually and collectively? What viewpoints and attitudes need to change? What specific actions have we failed to take?

Finally, we reach outward, seeking to put into practice the ideals we’ve come to see as essential to personal fulfillment, community-building and human survival.

Each layer of the prayer process is important. But the most important is putting our prayers into practice.

Imam Muhammad Musri is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida and a member of the advisory board of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.