As a Buddhist, I don’t know that I ‘pray,’ in the Christian definition of prayer. I don’t believe in a personal deity who pays attention to my individual pleas, although I certainly make them . (The old pagan in me, however, does believe that there are spirits who can be…propitiated )
What I do believe is what the Quakers say: I will hold you in the light. It’s a lovely thought: that when you need my prayers, my strength, I have two strategies I can offer: tonglen – where I use my own pain to help assuage yours, and healing light. No definition of divinity, or the who/what/where of that light — just its warmth and healing. Very Quaker — like silence that wraps us and helps us hear that inner voice…
A friend does a prison ministry in Oklahoma. She’s an amazing person, about as big as a minute, unless you look at her heart, which may well be bigger than Texas… So when Charissa sent out a request for people to pray for prisoners during Lent, because I love Charissa, I asked if non-Christians could do this. If there were non-Christians who might even be glad to have a non-Christian ally. She sent me a dozen names — all women. And acted glad I’d offered.
Oklahoma has the highest per capita incarceration of women in the world. Yup — the WORLD. The US, w/ 743 PEOPLE per 100,000, (male & female, ranked tops (bottom?) internationally in 2009. Oklahoma’s female incarceration rate went up 832% between 1997 & 2007, compared to half that rate of ‘growth’ for male prisoners. There’s obviously something very wrong in Oklahoma.
I mention these stats to point out that holding that many women in the light is no small thing. And Charissa’s project is badly needed. I don’t know if prayer — or the Buddhist & Quaker equivalent — works. But for this next month, I’m giving up disbelief. I’m going to do all I can to hold these 12 women in love & light. I’m going to try to hold their children and families in the light. I am going to s-t-r-e-t-c-h my belief and my heart and fill it w/ 12 names and light.
And I’m going to pray like hell one person can make a difference.