Religion separates, often alienates, humans from one another. One church’s orthodoxy is another’s heresy. Praying for peace merges with combating evil in the minds of many believers.
It doesn’t necessarily work that way, however. Religious beliefs can also inspire people to reach beyond themselves and their own communities of faith. The poetry of prayer can transcend—at least partially—differences that make enemies of Muslims and Christians.
Perhaps one example will bring to mind, even motivate us to look for, other instances of how a sense of the sacred can help to bridge the religious divide.
My example emerged in the context of a recent shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Three young Muslims were shot dead by a man with a gun and a grudge. The minister of the church to which I belong sent a message to his congregation, warning that it is too easy to point fingers, to talk of the sins of others, or to label someone as extreme. He invited us to pray for peace for all of God’s children. He offered a prayer for just that purpose, one drawn from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship (1993).
you are the one God to be worshiped by all,
the one called Allah by your Muslim children,
descendants of Abraham as we are.
Give us grace to hear your truth
in the teachings of Mohammed, the prophet,
and to show your love as disciples of Jesus Christ,
that Christians and Muslims together
may serve you in faith and friendship. Amen.
This is one of the church’s “Prayers for the World.” It imagines Christians hearing God’s truth in Mohammed’s teaching. Another prayer from the same section of the Book of Common Worship thanks God for the diversity of faiths among the people of the earth.
For World Religions:
We thank you, God of the universe,
that you call all people to worship you
and to serve your purpose in this world.
We praise you for the gift of faith
we have received in Jesus Christ.
We praise you also for diverse faith
among the peoples of the earth.
For you have bestowed your grace
that Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Buddhists, and others
may celebrate your goodness,
act upon your truth,
and demonstrate your righteousness.
In wonder and awe
we praise you great God. Amen.
Religion can challenge its followers to celebrate diversity and to learn from others, contrary to the dictates of war culture.