Why I say interfaith prayers

Rev. Bill Freeman

Special to Valley News

A Catholic priest, a Baptist preacher and a rabbi are talking about their ministries over their weekly lunch. They say anybody can get people to partake of their religious traditions, but it’d be a real challenge to do that with a bear. They each agree to try. The next week at lunch, the Catholic priest’s head is bandaged.

“I know I look bad, but I managed to share communion with a bear,” he said. The others are amazed.

The Baptist preacher, whose arm is in a sling, said, “I know I look bad, but I managed to coax a bear into a river and baptize him.” The others are amazed.

The rabbi, who’s standing in a full-body cast, said, “I know I look bad, but I managed to circumcise a bear.” The others are speechless.

In addition to being the pastor of my church, I’m a member of Menifee’s Interfaith Council. Catholics, Lutherans, Mormons and people of other faiths get together once a month to talk about our shared ministries. Converting others to our faith is not what our group is about. Rather, it’s about interfaith cooperation, acting compassionately together and working in concert for justice for our fellow human beings.

It’s also about interfaith understanding.

As the late South African leader Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I respect people of all religions and of none. So, while I pray a Christian prayer in my church, when I pray in public, like being invited to give the invocation at a Menifee City Council meeting as I was recently, I pray an interfaith prayer. I also do it because I believe in the separation of church and state, so I try not to make my prayer too churchy.

I usually say something like, “Let us lift our spirits. Spirit of Love, known by many names: God and Goddess, Yahweh and God, Dios and Divine, Nature and Life. Let us follow the teachings of Jesus, who said, ‘Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.’ Let us follow the teachings of the Prophet Micah, who said, ’Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly.’ Let us follow the teachings of Muhammad, who said, ‘Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first.’ Let us follow the teachings of Gandhi, who said, ‘An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.’ And let us follow the teachings of Buddha, who said, ‘Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love.’ Now and forevermore. Let it be. Blessed be. So be it. And Amen.”

I hope a prayer like that leads to better relations with others. But I would never recite it in the woods to a bear.

Rev. Bill Freeman is the senior minister at Menifee United Church of Christ, which meets Sundays at 11 a.m. at 26701 McCall Blvd., in Menifee.

2 Responses to "Why I say interfaith prayers"

  1. Christopher   July 13, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Pastor Bill you always right on.

    I am a little discouraged this week as I have been trying the past month to help a family of five, a homeless veteran with no car and three children under five. My contact with that Project something did not bare any fruit because the family is together and too large for them to handle. I told them I would fund everything as they could stretch a dollar further than I can. This approach messes with their 501c3 status so I was denied. That Corner Pebble church has food drives where everyone high-fives at the success of their collection. They offered a few cans of spinach and some other stuff; they must be too busy to do much. The ten food pantries I found do not accept email messages and use recorded messages, they must be really overloaded.

    I wonder if all Christians are having this same experience when they put Jesus first and look out for the least of their brothers.

    Jesus, who said, ‘Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.’

    Reply
    • Christopher   July 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      The above story is real; struggling families find me through CafeTemecula.com – not a big church, just a single Christian. Through the “Grace of God” I have been allowed to do something special for over twenty years. I always enjoy hearing the wisdom from others about the Golden Rule. Mostly what I do is anonymous and it was the grandma that made contact with me.

      I think many Christians have become very distracted by that thing on their hand or at their forehead that they use to buy and sell things without using cash, plugged into with ear-buds, isolating themselves from one another, traveling a personal journey into a new world order.

      Often I ask, “Lord, will they be coming back… if not I can do more for you.”

      Reply

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