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Articles

Learner reflects on the importance of praying together

Dec 29, 2022

Course: Praying Together: The Devotional Gathering (2022)
Faculty Mentor: Wendi Momen

This course has prepared me to have conversations with others about the nature and importance of prayer and of praying together.

There is a distinct difference and advantage of collective devotions (praying together) from individual devotions (private prayer). In praying together there is the benefit of collective spiritual power, as well as a huge benefit to the community in the form of greater unity provided by collective effort and focus, which becomes the means for unifying the group, facilitating the capacity to overlook differences and concentrate on our higher aspirations. Individual and private prayer is very important and necessary for the individual’s spiritual growth and protection, and private prayer has its own special power to influence the world.

I am now a little more open minded about collective prayer. I realize there are aspects of praying together that greatly enhance community life and that a focus on increasing both the number and quality of devotional activities in our region will help our community grow and develop. I believe that diversity in response to the call for more devotions is beneficial as no two individuals will have the same feelings or understandings at any given point; not everyone needs to do the same thing; no single formula must be followed. The examples shown throughout the course in various videos portrayed many different approaches to devotional gatherings.

In another way, it has appeared that teaching and community building activities are evolving over time, as understanding deepens with more experience. Hooper Dunbar’s talk was very enlightening, especially when he gave examples of early responses to the Faith, and a sort of progression in “teaching ideas” as people are learning more about the fundamental verities of the Faith.

Before and during the course we’ve been having consultations within my community about how and when, and why, to host devotional gatherings. I suspect these conversations will continue. I have learned much from the materials in this course, and I feel that I can contribute some useful thoughts and some encouragement to make devotional gatherings a more significant feature of community life.

Contributors

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Virginia (Gina) Hoefler

I taught art in non-traditional formats in two types of situations: art activities for adults & families through community centers, and art for high school students in a progressive—project based learning—high school. In the community center, an environment was provided where anyone could enjoy making art and find satisfaction from doing some simple activity in a limited time, with easy-to-find materials. When I started at the high school, I attempted to follow a sort of curriculum including skill building, cultural awareness and art history. Soon, it was clear that students weren’t excited about these plans! Gradually, I adjusted things to meet their specific needs, and then, (‘eureka!’) I found The Open Art Room—Purtee, Sands), and a method for facilitating individual progress in the arts. More research led me to “the artistic behaviors” (Studio Thinking—Hogan, Hetland, Jaquith, Winner), which highlights attitudes to art, and life, that fit nicely with the ‘habits of mind’ promoted at our school. I continue to make art, enjoy crafts, and share art with family, friends and neighbors. I also promote the arts for myself and others to enhance their experiences with the Ruhi Institute courses and other Bahá’í activities.

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