Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Prayer

Obama's prayer inserted into Jerusalem's Western Wall -- photographed by a Yeshiva student who was at the Wall at the time and published by the Israeli newspaper Maariv (an act condemned by the rabbi of the Western Wall):


Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair.

Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just.

And make me an instrument of your will.


Matt said...

Seeing that published makes me very sad. Such a private, lonely prayer, now tabloid fodder.

Incidentally, the Prayer of St. Francis has long been my favorite prayer. Some Christian doctrines contend that prayer is not to be used for influencing God's will, but for meditating on the desires of God and striving to make those desires manifest in our own lives. I've always been sympathetic to this interpretation, tilting as it does the purpose of prayer away from wish-fulfillment and towards revelation.

St. Francis' prayer expresses this view of prayer more eloquently than any other, I think. It begins as a string of ostensible requests stated as simple oppositions - "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy."

It then transitions into a series of sentences where the passive is converted into the active - "O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand. To be loved as to love." The undercurrent of this passage, of course, is that the speaker is rejecting the typical supplicant's role as a passive beggar for God's mercies and is realizing an active role for himself, a realization made complete in the prayer's wonderful conclusion, part sermon, part self-exhortation. The first-person suddenly moves from singular to plural, and the passive and active voices are united as both granters and recipients of these acts - "For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen."

Amen, indeed.

Tim said...

St. Francis's Prayer is certainly beautiful, but I've always been a fan of prayer-as-magic myself. It's my Catholic background; we're always praying for intercession in some matter, from finding lost house keys to getting our loved ones out of the purgatorial Clink.

Tim said...

Also, if Obama silently prayed for amazingly strong guns, it's working.