I never intended to be a praying atheist, but here I am. My love of religion, my commitment to religious community, and my personal atheism exist side-by-side, deep and unforced. I still don’t pray to any God as others might define it, but I no longer run from prayer. I am learning something.
—from “An Atheist’s Prayers” by Sally Fritsche

Prayer has been a very present topic of late. I’ve received more than the usual number of requests for prayer from friends and colleagues; I’ve been introduced to two new poems about prayer (you’ll hear those in worship on Sunday!); I was reminded of one of my own favorite poems about prayer (“Prayer Chain” by Tim Nolan); and there’s a new UUA Braver/Wiser blog post about “An Atheist’s Prayers”.

So, my thoughts are swirling about what is prayer for those, like me, who don’t have an identifiable deity to whom our prayers are directed. And I’m reminded again of what I’ve long known to be true—it makes a difference in me when I turn my loving attention toward love and healing and hope. And when my attitude, my attention, my perspective change … I am better equipped to influence the world I inhabit with the love and healing and hope that I hold dear.

Those of you who have been reading or listening to my writing for years will know that this wrestling is not new—I’m sure I’ve written about it in this space, and I still share a sermon I delivered in 2006 (“Prayer Changes…”) with newcomers who are exploring how familiar religious concepts fit into their newfound Unitarian Universalism … and also with friends and colleagues who are not UU, but are trying to understand my faith.

As other wise folks have taught us, “Prayer changes people, and people change things.”

So, people of my heart … all this is to say that you are—always—in my prayers. Prayers of love and healing and hope. And especially this holiday weekend, with my attention directed toward giving thanks for so many blessings, you are fully present in my prayers of gratitude.

I love you,


  1. Susan Hartnett

    The world is filled with the spiritual, those unseen connections to the spirit of life that can come unto believers and atheists and those in between. The fervent wishes bestowed upon a family member that they survive a severe medical problem. Loving others even though it drains our pocketbooks. Every day acts of kindness can be the best prayers.

    The spirit of life is ineffable, everywhere. Atheists and humanists should never stop praying for the good by our humane actions. In doing so we might make a severely troubled world a better place. There is certainly enough evidence that whoever is at the heavenly wheel is asleep.

  2. Ray Donaldson

    I have arrived at the place where I don’t call myself an atheist, but I am a “non-theist that no longer believes in a “theistic” God. I prefer the word “meditation” to “prayer.” New Zealand theologian Lloyd Geering, in his book “From the Big Bang to God” says that “God” arrived in the Cosmos after hominids evolved, developed language, and created the word “God” (or another similar name) in the mind (that resides in the brain). John Caputo says God “persists” in the mind of humans; but does not “EXIST” until we DO something. We are the hands of God.

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