Saving the Colors; Prayer and the Post-modern West

Everyone prays at some time or another, at least most everyone.  It seems almost innate to the human person to appeal for a help greater than our fellow man can provide.  Shrines are found in the heart of the jungle, prayer flags on high mountain peaks, cave grottos in narrow mountain valleys, temples, cathedrals and mosques in the great cities of the world: the whole world prays, a riotous wheeling mix of desires and longings and needs, lifted up on high in myriads of different ways. 

Even in the secular west there has been a resurgence of prayer.  In the west, however, there is one peculiar difference, the sharp edges of the varied faiths and religions of the world have been muted and practices from a variety of faith traditions woven together into one, a salad of pluralistic practice.  It is unique in the world.  In every other context people continue to pursue the practice of their forbearers, preserving that practice from outside influence; we have gone the other direction opening ourselves to a multitude of outside influences.

Many applaud this change.  I will be completely candid with you; I am worried over it.  I worry that the great spiritual riches of an ancient tradition are being cashed in and lost without any understanding of what is being lost.  It is like mixing colors of paint.  Anyone who has done it knows that when you start out with a particular color anything added changes that color and the original color is gone. 

It is for this reason that I write.  I think the original color is worth saving.  If you as a reader choose to move in new spiritual directions then so be it.  But I feel that you should at least be aware of what is being left behind, making a choice that is a real choice rather than simply drifting with the current.

So, whether you identity as Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, New Age, or even Jewish, Catholic, or Christian, pull up a chair for a bit and join the conversation.  I will be engaging ancient narratives—that’s right—stories, in which prayer plays a central part.  My goal is that by means of these stories we might see afresh the patterns of prayer that belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  If you are not convinced to embrace what you see, at least you will be informed—free to truly choose or not.

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