Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Prayer of the Holy Name in Eastern and Western Spiritual Traditions: A Theoretical, Cross-Cultural, and Intercultural Prayer Dialogue *

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Prayer of the Holy Name in Eastern and Western Spiritual Traditions: A Theoretical, Cross-Cultural, and Intercultural Prayer Dialogue *

Article excerpt

The internet version of the seven stages of "deep dialogue" as outlined by Leonard Swidler (1) focuses on an individual's relationship with the "Other," where the other is understood as anyone in the human family who is perceived to be different from oneself, especially one who differs in culture and/or religion. If the power and promise of deep dialogue with others results in intercultural-interreligious transformation on an individual, social, and global scale, then how are we to understand the "deepest dialogue" with the Ultimate Mystery of life, that which is closer to us than our breath, that which is at the heart of every human person, and that which I believe to be the foundation of all dialogues? I understand this deepest dialogue as prayer, the spiritual communication/communion that creates and sustains a relationship with the living God. (2) Relationship with God functions as a type of template for all other human relationships. Andrew Greeley has provided data from fourteen countries to support suc h a contention, summarizing his position thusly: "As we relate to the Other [God], so we tend to relate to the other [human beings], whether it be the intimate other or the distant other. Prayer is a story of relationship to God and hence will influence the other stories with which humans make sense of their lives." (3)

Just as there is power and promise in deep dialogue with others, so, too, there is power and promise in prayer as the deepest dialogue with the Ultimate Other. Consider these words of St. Chrysostom:

The potency of prayer has ... hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, ... rescued cities from destruction ... Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings. (4)

While our intercessory prayers may not have such dramatic effects, people of all religious faiths can suckle from the "mother of a thousand blessings" and partake of the fruits of prayer as described by Paul in his letter to the Galatians (5:22-23): "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." (5) The fruits of prayer not only provide nourishment for the individual(s) praying, but they also have the capacity to transform all relationships. Prayer thus conceived is not a private, intrapersonal activity; rather, prayer is interpersonal, relational, communal. When prayer is centered on loving God, "We embrace and love everyone whom God loves. No one is left out. No one can remain our enemy." (6) "When you are united to God, you are united to all creation." (7) Prayer, like the great commandments of love in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, can strengthen and unify our love for God, self, and others. David Hassel embodied t he idea of prayer as unified relational love in the subtitle of his book, Radical Prayer: Creating a Welcome for God, Ourselves, Other People, and the World. (8) In sum, the power and promise of the deepest dialogue of prayer with the Ultimate Other lies in relational transformation, empowering the pray-er to listen, reverence, love, and serve--with humility and justice--God, self, and others.

Deep dialogue with others may not begin with an outward journey as suggested by Swidler's "Radical encounter of difference: Self faces other," nor with Joseph Campbell's hero crossing the threshold of home, (9) but, rather, deep dialogue with others could begin with an inward prayer journey to a place where the deepest dialogue can be birthed, nurtured, and matured. Theologically, it is not difficult to entertain the idea that prayer may be a deep--perhaps the deepest-dialogue and that prayer may be associated with certain transformative energies that can be realized in beneficial relational outcomes, but it remains a challenge to address the issues generated by considering the connection between praxis and prayer. …

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