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Asking the clergy: Are communal prayers effective?

Group prayers. We've all gotten those emails, heard the pleas on television or sat in a baseball stadium and participated in a moment of silence. Do these communal prayers have added power? Does God listen any better when there are many voices instead of one?

In response to the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, members took to Twitter and asked people to pray for the victims. Comedian Ricky Gervais and others took offense, suggesting sending money is way better than sending prayers. The clergy this week discuss the concept of communal prayer and meditation.

The Rev. Eddie J. Jusino Jr., First Presbyterian Church, Freeport:

Prayer works whether you're next to the person, at a distance, by yourself or in a group environment.

If you're not directly impacted by an event, such as the tornadoes in Moore, Okla., praying still helps push positive energy toward those people in need. I quote my late Pilates teacher: "Energy flows where your intention goes."

We do need to give a little bit of an explanation about what is prayer. It is important to set a framework. Unfortunately, people traditionally think of prayer in times of need. However, that is not truly the power of prayer. If you pray only in times of need, you're going to God only in times of desperation, despair and confusion. Yes, God is there for us at those times, but he is there for us when none of these things are happening.

Prayer is not a transaction where we treat God like a hired servant to give us what we want, when we want it. Prayer is about having a deep, intimate relationship with God. Prayer also is about listening. So, yes, pray for those in need, but also take this opportunity to begin a dialogue with God, to begin to develop that intimate relationship.

Rabbi Berel Sasonkin, Chabad of Patchogue:

A communal prayer definitely helps and is one of the most appropriate things to do, especially in time of tragedy. Prayer recognizes the creator who is in control of this world and asks him to provide a complete recovery to all those who were hurt and to bring only goodness and kindness from now on.

The wording of the prayer is not the most important factor, as long as it comes from the heart. And, a prayer should come alongside other forms of help as instructed by God. Through prayer, God will share with you what to do next.

There is a difference between a communal prayer and a solo prayer. The communal prayer is better because the communal effort involves the unity of people. God likes that people are united and acting on the behalf of others. When someone asks for something during a prayer, God listens. He will not necessarily answer it in the way it is asked. But, when a community prays, God also hears this prayer. He will be more willing to grant it because of the selfless nature of the prayer and because of the credit this whole group has. Think of it as an individual credit score versus a communal credit score. The communal credit score will be higher because of the unity involved.

Erik Larson, meditation instructor, Brahma Kumaris' Global Harmony House, Great Neck:

Communal prayers and meditation are good things. We often donate our time and reflection to the victims and survivors of such events as the tornadoes in Oklahoma and the Boston Marathon bombing. We find that doing so is very beneficial. It acknowledges the emotions and feelings one is having, and allows people to see clearly their next step.

We also have a monthly world meditation hour to be peaceful and connect with the supreme source. As we become peaceful, the vibration of that positive energy spreads throughout the world. It is a healing vibration that is sent out into the world. So, yes, group prayer and meditation are helpful because they center the individual and center the energy being sent. Have you ever been overwhelmed and tell yourself that you need to stop and take a deep breath? You do it and it helps to clarify and align your thinking. This communal prayer is like everyone taking a deep breath at the same time. It can be very powerful to all who do it at the same time and magnify the positive effect.

But if I miss out on the time that everyone else did it, it is still a good thing to do. It is still beneficial if one person does it at a time.

Our good wishes will be felt by the minds out there where you are directing it. Moral and spiritual support can go a long way, as does any financial support that may be offered as well.

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