I get asked, "Will you pray for me?" by cab drivers. It happens when I'm travelling to or from a UU function: invariably, the driver asks why I'm in town. "I'm here for a religious conference (or workshop or camp). A UU -- Unitarian Universalist -- Conference (or workshop or camp)!"
That is my stock answer. Notice that the question from folks is not "What is Unitarian Universalism?" Not at all! "Pray for me?" is the question, half in jest, but half earnest, too. What's my answer? "Yes! What is your name?" Because if I send gratitude and hope out from my mind to John, that is a type of prayer. When I do metta meditation for someone or just close my eyes and whisper, "May Jake have a good day," I am praying. To me, sending intentional positive energy out into the world is a way of praying.
The first time I heard "Pray for me," I felt compelled to explain that the word "prayer" is controversial for UUs and blah, blah, blah, on and on. That was eight years ago, at the Nashville General Assembly. I've learned a lot since then!
What about this new Ad campaign from the UUA: When in doubt: Pray. When in prayer: doubt? I don't know why this was chosen, but this prayer/doubt dichotomy has everyone buzzing. From what I know of liberal theology, doubt and faith have a long history together. The writings of Martin Buber and William James include this.
Over the last ten years or so, there has been an explosion of books about belief, prayer and doubt and how one complements the other. Many, many people have trouble with prayer because they don't have a clear idea about prayer -- do you have to believe in God to pray? I think the national marketing campaign taps into this question that many folks have.
Another thing that the general population seems to believe is that laughter is not allowed in church. Many people think of "churches" as somber, serious places. The national marketing campaign lets people know the importance UUs in general place on joy and humor.
We UUs tend to do everything amidst a storm of controversy, I've noticed. That can be good or very bad, depending on how you look at it.
Pray for me, okay?