Prayer binds a community together. Sharing in common what Latinos call "our solid moments before God" provides the glue needed to keep community going.
There is a special kind of prayer for communities. It is not the private moments that every individual of faith spends connecting with God. Those are intimate times when only the person present knows what transpires--and sometimes does not.
Nor is community prayer public liturgy. We reserve that kind of ritual for much larger settings, when ideally the "community of communities"--the parish or congregation as a whole--offers worship to God.
Community prayer falls somewhere in between the private and liturgical. It is a little of both and something of neither. Perhaps the best way to describe this unique type of prayer is to tell of an intentional household community that, from its first day together nearly seven years ago, has prayed each morning.
The group gathers at a determined time before breakfast. Attendance is not monitored, as the community is a group of adults. Nevertheless, a high proportion of the members participate each morning. The one who has signed up to cook that night's meal leads an opening prayer, followed by the scripture readings of the day. Unless an issue of great importance is occupying the attention of community members, as was the case during the Gulf war, a period of silence follows the readings.
Occasionally silence prevails during most of the prayer time, until near the very end when practical petitions are offered--a sick parent, the neighbor who has requested remembrance, a particularly difficult task facing a community member. More often, however, the post-scriptural silence gives way naturally to spontaneous reflections on the texts.