Among My Souvenirs: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 17 June 2009 0 Comments
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I recently attended your three lectures in Austin, Texas. You are an important person in my growth. I was raised as a fundamentalist, and you allowed me to begin and continue my journey. You mentioned prayer, and defined the prayers of most as "adult letters to Santa Claus." I must admit that it is an excellent definition. My question is this: What does prayer look like you to today?  Thank you for continuing to educate.


Dear Jody,

I don't like to use the word prayer, because it is culturally translated as one person approaching the theistic God above the sky with a request. The word itself has become bankrupt and not capable of redemption.

Instead, I think of prayer as communing with the holy, that which is transcendental, the power of life, the consciousness of the divine, the Ground of Being or perhaps the source of love. I do not commune with God in order to seek divine favor or to engage in religious flattery that people call praise. I commune to discover God within me and to be more open to that presence. I do not separate prayer from life. I do not think prayer is something I do, so much as it is something I am.

Public worship has elements of liturgical prayer in it and I engage in public worship every Sunday. I believe the purpose of liturgy is to open us to the presence of the holy in the gathered community. I resent having medieval patterns of liturgy imposed on me, as if somehow plainsong music and priestly chanting creates holiness. To me it only creates irrelevant liturgy. I have written on prayer many times. I experience more in prayer than I can describe in words. That is as far as I can go.

I hope this helps.

~John Shelby Spong




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