The prayer life and practice of ‘nones’

On this Maundy Thursday, and all through Holy Week, I find myself thinking about the importance of religious practice to spiritual well-being. This concept is relatively easy for regular church-goers to grasp, I think, but we who are part of faith communities fall short when it comes to opening our hearts and doors to those who might be surprised at how enriching sacred worship within community can be. We don’t do enough to make our churches feel safe for those unsure what they believe, but seeking deeper spiritual experience. When I think of how the “nones” might tend to embrace a spiritual practice such as zen meditation, I wonder why the beauty of ritual within Christian liturgy doesn’t draw more of our “spiritual but not religious” friends and neighbors.

Elizabeth Drescher has conducted a survey to find out about the spiritually meaningful practices among “nones.” She found that “prayer stood out as the lone traditional religious activity among a range of practices that many of the religiously unaffiliated engage in at least a monthly basis.” They pray. Is it important that they pray within the structure of a religious community? Would their prayer life be enriched by the practices such as those we embrace this week? Drescher writes at Religion Dispatches:

Prayer, it seems, can function as a marker of religious and spiritual uncertainty and possibility even for those who see themselves as largely unconnected to the institutional traditions that have shaped its theological meanings and lived practice since ancient times. It has both a personal and a cultural capaciousness that allows it a contemporary significance that has been mostly drained from other typical measures of “religiosity”—attending worship, studying scripture, even believing in God.

For people put off by the religious and political rancor they see in organized religions, or who are repelled by financial and sexual scandals across religious groups, prayer is an experiential reminder that there might be “something else out there,” something “more than just me.”

Prayer may also be a lingering reminder to churches and other religious institutions of the many other ways religion has been and can be organized for meaningful common and personal practice—an Easter lesson, perhaps.

Read Drescher’s post “Quitting Religion, But Not The Practice of Prayer,” featuring comments from some of the “nones” she surveyed, here.

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