Activity time: 35 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Copies of Handout 1: A Unitarian Universalist Prayer Bead Practice (one per person)
- Optional: A second easel
- Optional: Microphone
Preparation for Activity
- Find a space in the room or an easel arrangement that will enable you to post two newsprint sheets side by side for the group's consideration.
Description of Activity
Explain that the group is now going to discuss two of the most common personal spiritual practices, prayer and meditation.
Ask the group to free-associate around the word "prayer." What words and phrases-positive and negative-come to mind when they think of "prayer"? Write the words and phrases on a sheet of newsprint labeled "Prayer." Spend a few minutes collecting these words and phrases until the group has generated enough to fill the sheet.
Now ask the group to go through the same process to free-associate around the word "meditation." Write these words and phrases on a second sheet of newsprint labeled "Meditation."
When the second newsprint sheet is full, ask the group to look at the two sheets side by side, comparing the words and phrases written for "prayer" and for "meditation." Ask:
- What do you notice about the words and phrases listed under "Prayer"?
- What do you notice about the words and phrases listed under "Meditation"?
- What do these words and phrases tell us about this group's experiences with prayer and meditation?
- Prayer is sometimes thought of as a conversation with God. How might prayer be a meaningful practice for someone who doesn't believe in God? How might prayer be meaningful for someone who believes in God but sees God as impersonal and inaccessible?
- What kinds of prayer do you see as compatible with Unitarian Universalism?
- What might Unitarian Universalist prayer look like? (Note: Responses to this question can come from participants' actual experience of prayer in Unitarian Universalist settings or from participants' hopes about what kind of prayer Unitarian Universalists might engage in.)
- What kinds of meditation practices do you see as compatible with Unitarian Universalism?
- What might Unitarian Universalist meditation look like?
You may wish to bring up some of the points made in this workshop's Introduction. For example, you might point out that contemplatives and mystics have always argued that the real purpose of prayer is to quiet the chatter and remove the distractions that keep us unable to hear the "still small voice" that is within each of us.
Explain that both prayer and meditation are highly compatible with Unitarian Universalist values and beliefs and can be meaningful to the practitioner regardless of his/her beliefs about divinity.
Close by distributing Handout 1: A Unitarian Universalist Prayer Bead Practice. The handout describes a form of prayer designed for Unitarian Universalists by the Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom, author of these Spirit in Practice workshops. Explain that this practice is something that participants can explore on their own.
Including All Participants
Using a microphone for this activity helps more people hear one another.