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Interfaith Programs

UPF-USA’s 11th Weekly Prayer Webcast Includes Representatives from the Three Abrahamic Faiths

USA-2020-06-18-UPF-USA’s 11th Weekly Prayer Webcast Includes Representatives from the Three Abrahamic Faiths

United States—UPF-USA’s eleventh weekly Interfaith Prayer for the Nation and the World was convened on the Zoom and Facebook platforms on Thursday, June 18, at 1 PM (EDT) through a call out to Ambassadors for Peace, UPF members and friends of UPF.

UPF-USA recognizes that the challenges of the COVID 19 epidemic requires a unified response. With the collapse of economic life and the isolation and separation of people forced by the mitigation discipline, many communities, families, and individuals are threatened. The threats are spiritual as well as physical.

The brief mid-week program features representatives from different faith traditions who offer prayers, comments, and scriptural readings to those linked remotely by internet views and audio connection.

Tomiko Duggan, of UPF-USA, opened the call with these comments before introducing the moderator of the program:

America is truly in trouble. The situation is urgent. This situation truly reminds me of the passage in Exodus: “The cry of the people of Israel has come to me and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.”

The Lord guided the Israelites with a pillar of cloud and pillar of fire to the promised land. The God who guided the Israelites thousands of years ago is very much alive with us.

As people of faith, let us rekindle our faith in God and re-unite ourselves in love, as one human race, one family under God. Together, let us build a nation where God has been guiding us.

Archbishop George Augustus Stallings of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation and National Director of UPF’s Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (UPF-IAPD), moderated the UPF prayer program and introduced the faith leader prayer representatives.

Rabbi Moshe Michael Abraham was born in Bolivia and lived in Argentina and Brazil before coming to serve at Beit Den in Queens, New York, where he trains returning Jews and converts. He is also a scholar specializing in the study of the Kabbalah, with commentary on the Zohar.

Lately we have been in darkness. We are used to being together without a problem, and now God put us in a position of retrospect where we have to be in the home, get closer to the Scripture, be always available for him.

I have a small prayer that we do. It is the Aleinu prayer—the last blessing that we do when we complete prayers that we do three times a day.

It is our duty to pray to the Master of all, to ascribe greatness to the molder of the principle of creation, for he has not made us like the nations of the land and he has not placed us like the families of the earth. He has not assigned our portion like this, nor like all the multitudes, but we bend our knees, bow and acknowledge our thanks before the king who reigns over kings, the holy one. Blessed is he [who extends the heavens and establishes the earth, whose throne of glory is in the heavens above]; his powerful presence is in the loftiest heights.

He is our God, and there is no other. Truly he is our God. There is nothing besides him. As it is written in your holy Torah:

You are to know this day and take to your heart, that Hashem is the only God in heaven above and on the earth below, and there is no other.

Therefore, we put our hope in you, Hashem, our God, that we may soon see your mighty splendor to remove detestable idolatry from the earth and false gods will be utterly cut off, to perfect the universe through the almighty sovereignty.

Then all humanity will come upon your name, will turn all the earth’s wicked toward you, and the world’s inhabitants will recognize and know you. Every knee shall bend, every tongue will swear before Hashem, our God. They will bend every knee and cast themselves down, and to the glory of your name they will render homage, and they will all accept upon themselves the yoke of your kingship, that you will reign over them soon eternally. For the kingdom is yours and you will reign for all eternity and glory after this is written in your holy Torah—Hashem shall reign for all eternity. And it is said Hashem will be king over all the world. On that day Hashem will be the one and his name will be one. “

What does this mean? Idolatry is talking about how we were before about money, how we were before about television, how we were before about our work with no reason. Removing idolatry is having the desire to have nothing. So, what God is giving us is an opportunity to introspect, to say, how are we going to go back to normality right now? When we go back to normality, are we going to appreciate God’s work? Are we going to get closer to the Scripture? Are we going to get closer to knowing how to love your neighbor and thyself? Are you going to get closer so you can spread wisdom? Are you going to get closer so you can spread love to your neighbor? Are you going to be a part of helping your government, your people, your leaders to get closer to God?

Because God is telling us right now, I am just giving you an example right now, I’m giving you the first plague, which is this coronavirus, and I’m going to test you right now. What are you going to do with it? When you are walking in peace, you thought everything was okay, that you were the master, you had sovereignty over everything. God is saying, “No. You have to know me right now.”

Some people are saying, okay, maybe not. Now what’s happening, he gave us a second plague. The second plague is all these riots that are taking place, the destruction going on.

So, we want to be able to pray to God and say, “God, please allow us to get closer to you. Give us wisdom. We do not want any third or fourth plagues anymore. We want to go back to normality with a new heart, with a new consciousness to be with you, to love you, so we can use all the infrastructure you built so we can open up the houses of worship, so we are able to transmit the word of God and say, ‘God, please give us an opportunity, a new life.’” Let us get out of this third world war that has taken place, with a new heart and open mind.”

In Hebrew for repentance we say, “Teshuvah. God, please forgive me for all the sins that I’ve made. I want to be a better man. Please show me how I can manifest your will. Please, God, give me another chance to make this world better for my children, for the generations that are coming, so when we are heard in the history books of the future, it will show that we did listen to you.”

Amen.

Rev. Dr. Sharon Styles-Anderson, serves as an associate pastor and ordained minister at the Temple of Praise Church in Washington, D.C. As a former lawyer, a graduate of Georgetown Law, she hosts her own television program, “From Behind the Podium: Conversations about Law and Faith.”

God is a God of confirmation, and I say that because, Rabbi Moshe, it is very similar to what God has been giving me in dealing with what’s going on. Before I pray, I would like to offer a couple of Scriptures. God gave me a word that I have been preaching across the world in the past couple of months. I know it was from God because I have been having opportunities to speak on it.

The word is “the beauty of the quarantine.” He gave me the word, the beauty of the quarantine, and he led me to II Corinthians 5:16:

From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone. The new is here.

And he also led me to Isaiah 43:18—from the Passion translation because it offers wisdom as we are transforming in its glory. The Bible reads,

Stop dwelling on the past. Don’t even remember these former things. I am doing something brand new, something unheard of. Even now it sprouts and grows and matures. Don’t you perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and open up flowing streams in the desert.

And the last Scripture is I Corinthians 16:9:

A great and effectual door has opened.

What God has been speaking to me about very similarly is, we are in a season where as a result of the pandemic we have had to quarantine, which means being in seclusion so you will be in a safe place. And he told me we are in a situation like a cocoon, like a transformation. During the quarantine, during the pandemic time, he put us in a situation where we could not go out, we couldn’t do what we normally would do.

As the rabbi said, what we did and should have been doing and should be doing in this quarantine time is getting closer to God, to begin to read and pray and learn: “What is it, God, that you would have me to do when I emerge?”

And just like a butterfly, God is requiring change. He is requiring transformation. Transformation is taking place in the body of Christ. Transformation is taking place in the world, and there is so much change happening everywhere It is actually happening faster than we can keep up with it.

So, the pandemic and health issues have caused us to look at things very differently—how we relate with our families, how we do business. And now he’s requiring us as a result of what we’ve seen with the police shootings, the police killings, and the race relations to transform how we relate to each other. So, the opportunity is happening, and God just recently took me back to that Scripture and said in I Corinthians 16:9, there’s “a great and effectual door opened.”

The Lord told me, every time I had opportunity, to ask two questions. The first was, what is your new? Because there is no normal. We are not going back to normal, and we do not want to go back to normal. We want to go to new—new opportunities. New mantles are falling. We have had pastors in the Christian church passing away, whether as a result of the pandemic or otherwise. Generals in the faith have been passing. My mother, who was a great woman of God, passed right before the quarantine.

And, so God said, this is a time of reset when we are being required to transform. Just like the caterpillar is required to transform, we are being required to transform because God said, “All things work together for the good of those who love him and who are called”.

The question is, are you going to transform for the good, and transform and emerge like a butterfly and fly, or are you going to transform or be damaged in this cocoon situation and not be able to fly—just like a caterpillar who is damaged while in the cocoon might emerge with a broken wing or antenna—and then you will not be able to do what God has called you to do.

So, what are you going to do? What is your new norm? And what “effectual door” are you going to walk through?

And God is calling leaders of faith to take their place. The Bible says that we are one body, “one body with many members”. We have a call and charge to do what God has called us to do, and that is to unite this nation – no matter your color, no matter your religion, no matter what you look like – to become everything that we have been called by God to be, so we can do what God has called us to do.

What did he call us to do? He said we are to take care of the orphans, we are to take care of the widows, we are to take care the homeless, we are to take care the needy, we are to take care those that are hurting.

As a body of believers, we, for some reason, just as the rabbi said, prior to this season, have been less introspective than we need to be. We have looking at things and been focusing on the lust of the flesh and what we need as individuals and not do what God has called us to do. Because I am Christian, I will talk about what Jesus has called us to do, which is to help other people.

So, we have to as the church, as the Christian church, the leaders of faith in this world emerge, from this beautiful quarantine, which is the time that we’ve had to reflect and love on God and spend time with God and get wisdom and direction, we have to emerge and hit head-on this issue that has caused the United States of America and albeit the world to be fragmented. It is not what God wants. God was not pleased. So he gave us time, the beauty of the quarantine, to be able to emerge with wisdom and with plans and knowledge, not from us but from him, so that we can unite and be the leaders uniting the people of God to do God’s work here on this earth. Amen?

I believe it is going to happen. I believe that this re-set is going to be divine. I believe that we as believers are going to emerge from this divine cocoon and usher in a new time and era that we have never seen before. And God is going to be pleased with our walk, God is going to be pleased with our talk, and God is going to be pleased with what we emerged from and how we emerge. But that is only if we take advantage of these moments during this divine cocoon, this beautiful quarantine season. and get the direction that we have from him.

Convening these calls and convening these conferences and daily prayers has just enabled us to stay in touch with what God wants us to do as a body, and as individual men and women of God so we can take charge and unite because that is what we are called to do.

Remember, when we’re talking to people, it’s about unification, and it’s about taking advantage of this beautiful quarantine time so we can emerge just like the butterfly and fly beautifully over everything that has been sent by the enemy to destroy us, and we will do that with God’s help.

Father God, it’s in the precious name of your son Jesus that a few of your humble servants come first to thank you. We thank you, Master, for your mercy, and we thank you, God, for your grace. We thank you, Master, for your lovingkindness. We thank you, God, for your peace. We thank you for your joy. We thank you for your healing power.

Now, Master, we come, Lord God, because you said in your Word that whatsoever we ask in your name, it shall be given unto us, and you shall do it. As we touch and agree on anything, God, that it shall be done, and that where two or three are gathered together, there you would be in our midst.

So, we come, Lord God, praying for our nation, praying for our world, praying, God, that you begin to move from heart to heart and breast to breast, Lord God. That you, Lord God, begin to give all the leaders in this world the wisdom that they need to unify in the name of Jesus, because you told us that we are one body with many members, and that the eye needs the hand and the hand needs the foot and the ear needs the nose.

Regardless of the differences, Lord God, regardless of the different colors, different denominations, different faiths, different cultures that we, just like your body, just as you said in your Word, can come together and be effective, to do what you have called us to do on this earth.

Lord God, we want to be effective. We want to change, Lord God. We want to be everything that you have called us to be. We want you to be pleased. We do not want our praise and our walk and our work to be a stench in your nose. We want our aroma to be a sweet-smelling savor, Lord God. So in the name of Jesus, and as we go throughout this day, we pray, Master, that you would give those on this line the continued wisdom, the continued purity of heart, the continued knowledge to do what you have called us to do, so that we might be change agents on the earth, Lord God, change agents for peace, for love, for life, in the name of Jesus.

Plant us, Lord God, where we need to be planted to do your work, to do your will. Let the anointing of the Holy Ghost rest on our vocal cords, so that when we speak that people will hear and be taken by the favor of the Lord to bring people together in the name of Jesus, Dear God.

We rebuke right now division. We rebuke right now cultural differences, Lord God. We rebuke violence in the name of Jesus. We rebuke anything that is not of you, Lord God, because we know that you are love. We know that you are peace. We know that you are joy.

So, in the name of Jesus, whatever you have to do to bring this world together, we put it in your hands because we know that you are able to do anything but fail. We know that with you all things are possible, God. So, we are trusting and leaning and depending upon you. We are trusting and leaning and depending upon your word.

Before we close, Lord God, we just want to say Hallelujah! We want to give you the highest praise. We want to thank you for everything that you have already done. We know that you have already fixed it. We know that you have already made a way of escape, Lord God. So, in the name of Jesus, just help us to know where to go and what to do, what to say and how to say it. And help us, Dear God, to be better in you.

And we ask that you forgive us of any sins, anything that we have done or heard or did not do that you called us to do. We know that repentance opens more room for your spirit to come in and guide us even more. For anybody else that does not know you, Lord God, we pray for them right now. We pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones. We pray for the police officers that have been affected. We pray for the families of the police officers that have been affected. We pray for everyone that has been affected by COVID 19 and has lost family members and that may be suffering.

We pray for healing, hallelujah, for this world today, and we know that you are able to do it. It is in Jesus’ name that we pray, and our soul says Amen, and Amen.”

Dr. Daoud Nassimi is an associate professor of Islam and World Religions at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia. He has a unique educational background, with advanced degrees in electrical engineering and Islamic Studies. He worked for many years in the telecommunications field and has served as a volunteer Iman at the ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) center and other mosques in the Washington, D.C., area.

Peace be upon you. It is a pleasure and honor to be in this noble forum and to offer a few words and a prayer.

 

The Qur’an continuously informs us that this life is full of trials and tribulations. And, that this life is temporary and the result of all these tests will be given to us in the next life, where absolute justice will be established for everyone, and all victims will be compensated for any losses and issues in this life.

Regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, we need to remind ourselves that while this disease has been a disaster for the world, it is also an opportunity for all of us to learn many lessons from it and reflect on the meaning of our temporary lives on this planet. 

While humanity is badly waiting for a vaccine or treatment for this disease, the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, the final messenger of God, told us over 1,400 years ago that for every disease there is a medicine, meaning that when God creates any disease, he also creates a medicine for it. But God allows for the disease to stay for a while so that people are tested. Then Allah enables human beings to discover the medicine, so there will be a vaccine and medicine sooner or later.

But the important point that we need to focus on is our reaction and our behavior to our creator God and toward the circumstances in this testing time. This is what we are tested for. We need to reflect continuously on the powers of God and on our own weaknesses and vulnerability, and we need to pay better attention to our creator and his teachings.

While Islam requires all of us to take every measure and medical advice to avoid such diseases at the human level, we need to pay attention to the key salvation formula of this crisis which is the following: This crisis will eventually have two categories of people from God’s point of view – the winners of this test and the losers of this test.

The winners of this test are those who turn to God more sincerely and more seriously in this time and would remain steadfast after the crisis is over. The losers, on the other hand, are those who ignore or reject the message of this crisis from God’s point of view and they only worry about the apparent causes of the suffering. 

The winners are not those people who do not get the virus or who do not die, because death and life is in the hands of God, not in our hands. And the losers are not those who get the virus or who die or face other problems. We need to focus on how we can be the winners of this testing time. 

With this humble message and reminder about this crisis, let us make a prayer.”

“In the name of God, the merciful, the gracious. Oh God, Ya Allah, we thank you and praise you, as you are worthy of all praises and thanks.

Creator of the entire universe. Indeed, you are our God. You are our true lord and caretaker. You are fully aware of our inner convictions and our various issues. You are the only one we can fully depend on. You are the only one worthy of worship. And you are the only one worthy of unconditional obedience. 

Our nurturing Master. We as humanity acknowledge that we have forgotten you, we have neglected you, we have been ungrateful to you. We have become too busy with out worldly affairs and the materialistic gains. We have distracted ourselves by consuming too much of entertainment. We have been searching for peace through the worldly attractions that have never given us the peace that we seek. We acknowledge that we have not paid attention to the real purpose of our lives, we have neglected the consequences of our actions to our coming eternal life, and we have ignored our accountability in front of you in the coming day of Judgment.Our source of refuge: we take refuge with you, we turn to you, we have realized our weaknesses and we have learned our lessons, we are humbling ourselves to you, we beseech your help, we seek your forgiveness, we beg your pardon, we want to change ourselves and our conditions, we want to better follow your path and the path of all of your prophets and messengers who invited their followers and insisted on them to worship you alone. 

Our Just God: Help us to stand for justice and stand against any form of injustices, including racial injustices and systematic racism. Help us to relieve the sufferings of the victims of injustices. Help us to stand against any economic injustices which have caused most of the poverty and help us to fulfill the rights of the poor and needy.  

Our source of Peace: Help us to stand for peace and work for peace. Help us to bring peace to our own hearts and to the hearts of other people. We implore peace from you as you are the only source of peace. Help us realize that the full peace comes only as a result of full submission to you and remembering you.

Our Guide: We seek your pure guidance as you are the only true guide, we seek your straight path - the path of those whom you have blessed, and not the path of those who continue to ignore you and the misguided! May we honor one another, glorify you together, and inspire the world to be better! Amen!

 

Dr. Michael Jenkins, chairman of UPF-North America, expressed his appreciation of the character and work of the presenters, and spoke to the importance of their coming together at this time. He closed by leading everyone in a moment of silent prayer.

On Thursday, June 25, at 1:00pm EDT, UPF-USA will continue this weekly outreach in bringing people of different faiths together in a larger communion to pray for the nation and the world.

The live recordings of this and previous “Prayer for the Nation and the World” activity can be found on UFP-USA’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/UPFAmerica

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