Sadly the Courts don't seem to think the 1st Amendment means what it says
the "Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the government over the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. The group lost in 2011 when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the foundation was not harmed by the observance."
Sadly the courts don't seem to get it and don't understand
that "Freedom of Religion" also means "Freedom from Religion"
for atheists and non-believers.
Americans of all faiths celebrate day of prayer
Connie Cone Sexton, The Republic | azcentral.com 10:37 p.m. MST April 26, 2014
The Apache dancer turned in slow circles on the platform to the muted rumble of a drum, his arms stretched wide, draped in black-and-white feathers.
Sky Duncan, a performer with Yellow Bird Productions, leaned right and then left, gently flapping his arms. Dozens of Girl Scouts who had come to the Phoenix park as part of a celebration of cultures sat cross-legged on the grass, transfixed by his movements.
Most were probably unaware that what Duncan was doing was more than just a dance.
It was prayer.
The flesh-eating disease that invaded Michael Brown's body cost him both his lower left leg and his joyful spirit.
The Seattle resident had fallen ill while in the Valley for a visit, landing in Maricopa Medical Center on Feb. 21. An old wound on his leg had refused to heal. As the infection grew, the bacteria attacked his skin and soft tissue. Then gangrene set in.
Worried for his life, he allowed doctors to amputate. Worried for his shattered soul, he reached for something to bring relief.
It was prayer.
Prayer can be reverent or demonstrative, habitual or casual, traditional or meditative. It can comfort. It can inspire. It has become so important to us as a nation that, with a 43-word resolution, Congress enacted a national day of prayer in 1952. This year, we celebrate it on Thursday, with tens of thousands of organized events across the nation on that day and during the month of May.
Brittany Erstad talks about praying to God for help and finding salvation in Prisoners for Christ at Perryville state prison in Goodyear.
Yet in this diverse nation, which recognizes more than 300 religions and denominations, a day devoted to spiritual reflection draws criticism and controversy, attracting lawsuits and pitting otherwise like-minded people against each other.
A major court challenge came in 2008, when the non-profit Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the government over the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer. The group lost in 2011 when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the foundation was not harmed by the observance.
Critics say the ecumenical, non-denominational spirit behind the day of prayer has changed since Congress declared the official observance more than 60 years ago. Now, critics say, the largest promoter of the event is the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which has a conservative Christian base whose narrow agenda can discourage participation by people of other faiths.
Dion Elmore, the task force's director of public relations, said the group's events will not have an interfaith approach, although anyone can attend.
"When you mix religious traditions, we're not all reaching out to the same God," he said. "We can't be all things to all people."
Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, said his group will hold a prayer celebration aimed at all faiths.
"For me, America is made up not just of conservative Christians," he said. "I admire their call to prayer, but America is made up of all faith groups, and Arizona certainly is. Christians need Muslims. Muslims need Buddhists, etc. I'm a Christian, so I pray out to my Lord Jesus Christ, but if there is going to be a day of prayer, we need to include people of all faiths."
To people of faith, whether they are Jews, Christians, Rastafarians or Muslims, whether they pray in an airport chapel, a prison break room, a mosque, a hospital room or at a sunrise service, the arguments seem silly. No one needs permission to talk to God. Nor do expressions of devotion need to be public.
Rabbi Mari Chernow explains why the Jewish cover their eyes for the Shema, a prayer that focuses on listening.
Bertica Garcia Dubus, a graphics designer, said she did not know the National Day of Prayer existed.
"But I can't imagine I won't be praying sometime that day," she said with a laugh. "I pray every day. I really do."
Prayer in daily life
For many people, prayer occupies an essential place in daily life, said David Hodge, an associate professor in the Arizona State University School of Social Work.
Hodge, who has studied religious and spiritual practice, said a connection to prayer remains despite a growing population of people who don't affiliate with any specific religious institution.
Prayer comes in myriad forms: the simple bowing of the head, a meditative stance, song, and dance. People give thanks, pray for strength, guidance or help, and confess their sins.
With the Apache eagle dance, Duncan mimicked the grace and beauty of the bird, which is revered by his tribe.
Sky Duncan, Yellowbird Dancer, explains how the Eagle Dance is a form of Native American prayer.
"Because he flies so high up in the sky, we believe he is a messenger to our creator," Duncan explained. "And later, the creator blesses us."
With the help of hospital chaplain Joshua Galindo, Brown, a Christian Rastafarian, prayed for strength. The chaplain closed with a plea to God: "Touch his body with your loving, healing hands."
Michael Brown, a Rastafarian, says he confesses his sins to a higher power and believes he will be forgiven. Brown is recovering from an amputated leg at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.
Now out of the hospital and staying with friends, Brown struggles to comprehend what has happened and feels his life is in limbo.
"I'm just praying for the strength to persevere," he said. "I have to play the cards he dealt me."
Mindful, "intense" meditation can have health benefits, according to a study conducted in part by Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After eight hours of meditation, participants showed altered levels of genes that could promote quicker recovery from stress.
Ahmad Ewais, Islamic Community Center of Tempe property manager, says daily prayer is needed to feed the soul.
Through the joys and darkness of life, having a daily connection to God through prayer can bring a sense of peace, said Ahmad Ewais, a Muslim who leads programs at the Islamic Community Center in Tempe.
On a recent Wednesday, Ewais climbed steep stairs to the second floor of the center to begin the scheduled noon-day prayer. Men and women filed into the large blue-and-white tiled room and stood shoulder to shoulder, men in the front, women several feet behind them.
Ewais began to sing the call to prayer, his tranquil tenor wafting across the room. As he sang, a few stragglers, many of them ASU students coming to pray between classes, joined in.
Ewais prays at least five times a day, seeking spiritual nourishment.
"Our bodies are made of two parts: the soil — the dirt — and then the soul, which comes from God," he said. "We feed our body the food and the drink and whatever desires we have. But this is a temporal happiness."
Real happiness, he said, comes from honoring the command of God to feed the soul.
Dubus, the graphics designer, spends about an hour in steadfast prayer every Tuesday in the chapel of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa. She has been at it faithfully for three years.
Bertica Garcia Dubus, of Mesa, Catholic school art teacher, says “Prayer is important to me because it is like breathing; it’s something that I can not live without.”
She said her time of devotion leaves her refreshed.
"It's very peaceful, and I even feel stronger. It's almost like stepping outside of yourself and seeing your life from another angle. I feel I am taken care of."
Giving into the moment
During a recent visit, the Chandler resident slid into a pew at St. Timothy and pulled out the prayer bench. Kneeling with her arms braced on the pew before her, she folded her left hand into her right and stared at the altar.
Her body became motionless, her face expressionless. In this time of silent prayer, Dubus said, she fights to tune out the worry of everyday life and tries to home in on being receptive, reverent.
"I am kneeling before the blessed sacrament, trying not to think of everything going on in the world. I am there to be open to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to say to me."
As her body gives over to the moment, Dubus said, it feels almost like breathing under water.
"I go to another place. It's like the clock stops for me, and nothing else matters."
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Chaplain Al Young says that most people that are nervous about flying go to the nearest lounge not the airport chapel.
Prayer day events
Across Arizona, at least 57 programs supported by the National Day of Prayer Task Force — a Christian-based non-profit — are set for May 1, with perhaps the most prominent set for 11 a.m. at the state Capitol near 18th Avenue and Washington Street in Phoenix. Other gatherings are planned at the fountain in Fountain Hills, Courthouse Square in Prescott and on a ranch in Cordes Junction. Details:
The Arizona Interfaith Movement will hold a celebration designed for people of all faiths at noon May 1 at Wesley Bolin Plaza, about a block east of the State Capitol. Details: