What to do at 'prayer time'


Many of us will be spending time with religious friends and relatives over holidays and other social events.  This often involves prayers before meals, which keep the believers ritually reminded of their beliefs.  I've found a method to graciously interrupt this habit.  When it's apparent that 'prayer time' is imminent, seize the moment, look around, and start thanking people for whatever seems appropriate — your mutual love, friendship, travel to get together, preparation of the wonderful meal you are about to eat, etc.

After this detour they can have their prayers, and you've made a very human point about what really counts — to us and likely also to them.

Several times I’ve found that people didn’t even pray, and I can only guess about what they were thinking.  When there is a prayer, I keep my head up and eyes open, and watch.  It would be great if somebody were to offer a prayer to some pagan god of the harvest, but it’s never happened.  Even tho the prayers are wasted breath, there’s still our humanity to be shared.


"We experience happiness and suffering ourselves; we encounter others in the world and recognize that they experience happiness and suffering as well; we soon discover that 'love' is largely a matter of wishing that others experience happiness rather than suffering; and most of us come to feel that love is more conducive to happiness, both our own and that of others, than hate.  There is a circle here that links us to one another: we each want to be happy; the social feeling of love is one of our greatest sources of happiness; and love entails that we be concerned for the happiness of others.  We discover that we can be selfish together."
— Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp.186-187

Here are translations of this article:

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