The importance of Prayer in Abrahamic Traditions
Atlantic Institute in partnership with Istanbul Center, held it's first "Table of Abraham" program on October 1st 2013. The event topic centered around the Importance of Prayer through the three Abrahamic Traditions. As a representative from each tradition, we presented Rabbi Michael Bernstein - leader of Congregation Gesher L’Torah in Alpharetta; Dr. Graham WalkerJr. -professor of Theology and Philosophy at Mercer University and President for the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary; and Imam Abdullah Antepli - the Muslim Chaplain of Duke University and founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association.
Each speaker gave a brief examination about the significance of prayer within their own tradition.
The Director of Interfaith Affairs, Kemal Korucu, gave the opening remarks and welcomed our guests. He said the program acknowledges the demand and importance for interfaith dialogue and welcomes all religions to the table.
Rabbi Bernstein remarked that this event was not just a conversation across faiths, but through ethnicities and ideologies, as well. He discussed how prayer is often used as the last resort in a time of immediacy and that any human has the ability to find prayer, regardless of belief. He maintained that prayer is inspiring and comes from the heart. After succinctly telling the story of Abraham challenging God to not destroy the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, Rabbi Bernstein highlights the significance of the Jewish morning prayer and how it is used to attune oneself with God. He explained that a Keva or fixed prayer may be the same every day, but that the person praying changes from within.
Dr. Walker explored the Lord’s Prayer in detail and touched on the difficulty of representing all traditions within Christianity; however, he expressed that this prayer is an inclusion of all Christians and encourages unity with God between the individual and as a global community. It levels out patriarchy revealing a desire for God on Earth and within the community. He said that the prayer gives a daily sustenance and interconnectedness to all Christians. He also stressed that the deliverance of evil does not mean that we will escape the presence of it, but must work together to overcome it.
Imam Antepli cautioned against over using the term Abrahamic. He felt that the Table of Abraham should not be gender specific or exclusive. His discussion highlighted the five daily prayers which he stated are not just about repetition, but involve specific motions, facing in particular direction, and cleansing the body so that the entire day is centered around God making Him the priority in life. He illustrated that prayer is not just something one says, but becomes a state of being and presence. It is a process of bringing one closer to God. It is a preparation of psychological, emotional, and physical clarity.
All three leaders emphasized the power of prayer across these traditions and the value of interfaith dialogue. They all acknowledged that in addition to sharing similarities, it is equally crucial to embrace and discuss each tradition’s diversity and background. This, in their opinions, brings a variety to the table and creates a new possibility to work together.