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Prayer Guidelines

copied with permission by the Interfaith Alliance

When faith leaders or others are asked to deliver invocations, benedictions or other kinds of prayers at events that include publics of diverse religious convictions, they may have difficulty finding language that is truthful and meaningful for them yet respectful of all in their audience. Tulsa Interfaith Alliance prepared these guidelines to help choose the words that can bring people together in a moment of shared spiritual statement.

Use this moment as an opportunity to:
* Ask Divine Guidance in a manner that binds rather than divides those present to a common concern.
* Lift the vision of those attending to more authentic purposes, such as promoting leadership and service in the common good.
* Demonstrate to a religiously diverse audience that they have much in common that they can affirm together.
* Expand the audience’s appreciation and respect for other religious faiths.

Choose words that:
* Enable all faiths to give assent: “peace,” “compatibility,” “understanding,” “awareness,” “sensitivities,” “cooperation.”
* Appeal to our better nature and avoid individual and divisive appeals: “respect,” “friendship,” “accord,” “harmony,” “amity,” “empathy,” “neighbors,” “community,” “fellow citizens.”
* Avoid sectarian references to religious leaders such as Mohammad, Jesus, Vishnu, Moses, Buddha, etc.
* Avoid language and code words which may foster confusion and misunderstanding: “Blessed be the name of…,” “when the rapture comes,” “pagan,” “idolater,” “blaspheme,” “non-believers.”

When selecting speakers:
* Decide whether it would be more effective to utilize one interfaith prayer or several shorter prayers from different faith traditions.
* Make sure those asked to pray understand the nature and diversity of the audience. Stress the importance of warm understanding and that this is not a time to enter upon theological debates nor an opportunity for proselytizing.
* If the available leaders feel inadequate to the task, suggest the power and eloquence of an appropriate period of silence. This may be particularly appropriate with non-clergy unaccustomed to such public assignments.
* Always provide a way in which the person selected has a graceful way of declining if they feel the above principles may compromise their conscience or religious convictions. To facilitate this, consider identifying at least one backup candidate.

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