The prayer of power

Daily Reading for October 20

We have never run or knowingly patronized sweat shops, or underpaid workers; the struggle between organized labor and company unions is wholly out of our picture. Indeed, we have really no direct contact with these great abuses and injustices which wise men are denouncing. We live within the capitalistic order, to be sure; and we are being taught not to approve of it; yet we can not run away. We could not escape the profit system for that matter, even if we wove cloth for our own garments on Gandhi’s spinning wheels. There are always a few interesting idealists who are trying to run away but they are very partially successful. We can not escape; we do not feel responsible for the system; we agree with our spiritual guides that it is a very bad system. Then they tell us that “we” must change it, and we inevitably ask them, “how?” No answer comes. . . .

The responsibility for social intercession is not satisfied by vague aspiration, “Thy Kingdom Come.” That petition, to be sure, covers all our desires; but if we pray specifically for the recovery to health of a beloved friend, for example, we should be equally specific in our prayers for the health of the body politic. Now we can not be specific unless we have some conviction and some intelligence. There is a type of purely formal prayer; not wholly, useless, we hope. But most Christian people have some little experience at least of another kind of prayer, the prayer of power. That kind of a prayer must be enlightened; it must be lit at the torch of knowledge. The chief reason why all Christian people should be making themselves intelligent about the great issues of the day, is that they may learn to pray with fervor and to use the prayer of power.

To cultivate social imagination; to study; to pray; here even if no practical activity is possible to us, are outlets for that need of action native to men, here is sure release from bewildered and unworthy private-mindedness. . . . But let us not suppose that what lies before us will be easy. To evolve that “new economic order” which the Churches desire, will mean heavy cost to every single man. Let us rejoice; for tests of heroism and of readiness for sacrifice await us. The fate of our whole Western civilization hangs today in the balance; and on the Church, that is, on the body of her children, this fate may well depend.

From “Social Problems Facing the Church” by Vida Dutton Scudder, quoted in A Year With American Saints by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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