by David Clote
Prayer can be a delicate matter in any professional setting. Enduring an uncle’s poorly thought-out blessing during Thanksgiving dinner or forgiving Grandpa’s forgetfulness when reciting the “Our Father” is one thing, but in more professional environments, a poorly executed invocation, a chaotic free-form prayer, or any haphazard, religiously oriented remark can disrupt the carefully cultivated atmosphere you have worked diligently to establish. Conversely, a thoughtful religious word of encouragement can get your next event started out on just the right foot. While approaches to prayer abound, three approaches seem the most practiced and effective.
This form of prayer is what most people typically envision. Normally performed by a religious leader, emcee, or the individual leading the meeting, these prayers may be scripted or free form. To create the best atmosphere, it is virtually necessary to practice your prayer before the event and have at least an outline of the prayer when you present. This will enable you to communicate more clearly and avoid the “um’s,” “so’s,” and awkward stalls we all fear.
These prayers are perfect for religiously affiliated or oriented organizations because most attendees expect a prayer like this to take place. These are more difficult to pull off in a secular corporate, medical, or educational space. In some instances, there may even be policies prohibiting such prayer for reasons of religious sensitivity, so be sure to consult the organization’s policies and procedures before utilizing this form of prayer.
Moments of Silence
Moments of silence possess a more open-ended quality than do the other two formats. While the meeting leader may point out something specific to be in silence/prayer for, the baton is passed to individual attendees to do with such direction as they please. This invites individuals to make the moment of silence their own, whether directing it toward specifically religious use in prayer, simply meditating on the purpose of the meeting, or being mindful of the room and grounding themselves in the moment.
Gustavo Razzeti, CEO of Fearless Culture, a consulting firm based in Illinois, believes that “Silence creates a pause that adds more meaning to what’s being discussed in a meeting” (Razzeti, 2021). Razzeti’s insight embodies an amazing advantage of this form of prayer: moments of silence force your attendees to pause and reflect (religiously or otherwise) on the reason they have decided to attend. It will empower them to be more intentional with their focus, more engaged during the presentations, and more changed after leaving.
Moments of silence are perfect for secular organizations wanting to create space for prayer/silence because those wishing not to pray can easily mold the time to fit their religious persuasion. One potential drawback of this form of prayer is that it does not have individuals engaging with one another during the time of silence. While this can be a positive time of self-reflection, it offers less of the uniting effect that is present in the other two options.
The last form of prayer to consider can be called “prayer prompts.” Utilizing this format, you might place tent cards or notes on each table at your event, informing your attendees that they are welcome (or if you so choose, encouraged) to pray or take a moment of silence as a table. The card could contain a note, a bulleted list, or even a scripted prayer depending on the kind of event you’re hosting and your aims in including the prayer prompt.
Much like the other two formats, prayer prompts give you an avenue to focus your attendees on the goal(s) of your time together. The strongest attribute of this format lies in the increased group engagement during the time of prayer/silence, providing the potential for collaboration and promoting a sense of unity among your attendees.
The main drawback to this format is that it requires buy in from your attendees. If you are confident your attendees will be engaged in the activities and sessions you have planned, this could be an amazing way to amplify that energy. However, if the majority of people at your conference is less likely to have come excited for the dynamic event you have planned, it may be best to avoid this format. Similar to emcee-led prayer, be sure to check if any policies within your company pertaining to religious sensitivity prove relevant to how much (if any) direction you can give on your prompt cards.
While some companies prefer religiously sanitized meetings, many make allowance for organized prayer (in varying measures) at corporate functions. In the latter instance, the choice to include prayer or silence in your next meeting or event is up to you. So, should you?
As frequently mentioned above, prayer and silence have the potential to focus your attendees not only on the purpose of your meeting, but on the very reason they chose to attend. It is a powerful tool of self-reflection. Beyond this, prayer functions to remind us of the larger world to which we belong. You are not meeting simply to have a meeting. Rather, you have a goal in mind: a goal to change something outside of your meeting for the better. Whether this is increasing efficiency in your company or discussing the latest breakthroughs in your field, prayer reminds you and your attendees that the wide world is waiting for us when we open your eyes, unfold our hands, and lock arms with those around us to make the world a better place.
David Clote is a contributing writer from St. Louis.
Razzeti, Gustavo. (2021, March 17). How to Run More Effective Meetings (Use Silence). Fearlessculture.design. https://www.fearlessculture.design/blog-posts/how-to-run-more-effective-meetings-use-silence#:~:text=Silence%20creates%20a%20pause%20that,creative%20ideas%20than%20vocal%20sessions.