What does it mean to offer a prayer?

GETTY IMAGES People hold hands as they pray during the invocation during day two of the Democratic National Convention on … Continued


People hold hands as they pray during the invocation during day two of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 5, 2012.

What does it mean to offer a prayer? When I was asked to offer a benediction at the Democratic National Convention, I accepted in the spirit that a rabbi should pray at a national gathering in the spirit of offerings Judaism’s message and God’s blessings.

I have in my life tried to associate myself with both sides of the political spectrum. I have been at dinner at former President George W Bush’s table in the White House, invited conservative and liberal politicians and thinkers to the synagogue, consistently avoided declaring a political position.

View Photo Gallery: Faith is on display at the gathering of delegates in Charlotte.

For some, to pray at a convention stepped over that line. I rather considered it in the spirit of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who prayed at the DNC despite clear and even litigious differences with the administration. I thought of evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who said a prayer at President Obama’s inauguration despite clear differences between the evangelical community and the president’s policies.

Yet such ecumenism has seemingly disappeared from American life.

If prayer means endorsement then God is made small. The clergy who give their allegiance entirely to one side of the political spectrum or the other do not, I believe, appreciate the richness of traditions nor the reality that different sides of the national argument have powerful truths embedded in their outlooks.

I wrote this prayer to express the values that I think all Americans hold dear, left and right. I regret those who see only politics and partisanship. I rejoice In the understanding that no human idea is big enough to contain the grandeur of God.

Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, David Wolpe is the author of seven books including “Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times” and his latest, “Why Faith Matters.” Follow him on Facebook

David Wolpe
Written by

  • tony55398

    Pray that the administration of whichever party wins will serve the needs of ALL the people, especially those who have little or no voice in the political process, the poor and powerless.

  • jdpetric

    Certainly a noble thought.

    But such a prayer for a “blessing” on human governess would not meet with God’s approval and the request be granted.

    Jesus indicated that the ruler of the “world” of human governess is Satan the Devil. John 5:31, 14:30. That has not changed over time.

    So why would God bless the world of human governess when His will is to eliminate all of them? 1Corinthian 15:24, Daniel 2:44

    This destruction of human governess is what the Bible refers to as “Armageddon”.

    As to what government to pray for, Jesus was specific, GOD’s kingdom government of the heavens to come. Matthew 6:10

  • Catken1

    Human governess? Do you have something against Mary Poppins?

  • PhilyJimi

    Pray means nothing it is just wishful thinking. I was told god answers prayers in one of 3 ways. Yes, No and Not yet. As if there is any other possibility? So I guess prayer has to work always since it has every possible outcome covered.

  • Kingofkings1

    No objections. The rabbi steered clear of pettiness

  • universalcitizen

    The meaning of an individual or groups or communities praying in conditions such as in private, seclusion, semi-public, casual public, official public, casual government and official government events can be perceived or interpreted differently not just among people but also across groups and communities. It is easier to define or understand meanings based on one own perception than defining meanings from another individual perspective or collectively and inclusively perception since after all, meanings arise (and interpret or translate through expressions and languages which are still transforming and evolving) from perception which all individual processes and which also collectively define groups or communities meanings. Perception can be broad such as infinite for the cosmos and life. Civics, ethics, regulations and laws were not only created for necessary reasons such as fostering, implementing, enforcing and maintaining social essentials and values such as civility and orderly conduct; resolve disputes and conflicts; peace and harmony; social fairness, equity and justice; and advance well being and civilization but also to help narrowing (eliminating or reducing ambiguity) perception or to either better define or clarify meanings.

    Therefore, what are critical and necessary are government officials and religious and institutions leaders honor, respect and abide by moral (oath and commitment) as well as established state and federal civics, ethics and law such as the Constitution and laws regarding government and religious institutions and affiliations conduct for inclusiveness, diversity, pluralism and the common and greater good. Potential or official elected government officials or legislators (in particularly at the leadership, executive and judicial branches) have the commitment of oath of office to the Constitution, nation and people (not to parties or selected communities or groups) and representative obligation for and of all people. While religious and

  • ThomasBaum

    I don’t know if this is true but I was told that Jimmy Carter also said that God answers prayer one of three ways but his were: Yes, No and you got to be kidding.

  • Secular1

    Prayer has been certifiably shown to totally worthless. For Mr. Wolpe to ever agree to offer up a prayer at DNC or RNC is utter snake oil salesmanship. He is the one who agrees that Exodus never happened. Yet he continues to peddle the myth that there is a dog up in the sky.

    Even granting that there is indeed a sky daddy, still prayer does not make sense, given teh attributes of the so called sky daddy. How dare you mere mortals that you are to tell that omniscient one whom he should grant special dispensation to you over others? How dare you mere nothings muster the temerity to the just one that he should pardon and spare the just punishment you deserve? How dare you inconsequential nobodies dare tell the omnipresent and omnipotent to changes its mind and do your bidding? The whole prayer is crap, even if you are a theist. It is nothing but an unadulterated cow dung.

  • Catken1

    Carter’s form of religion I respect, though. He prays not with words, but by taking action to make other people’s lives better, and to improve the health and well-being of the world. I can honor that.