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"The Misuse of Prayer"

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Date: 
January 1, 1948 to December 31, 1954
Genre: 
Sermon
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

Details

There can be no gainsaying of the fact that prayer is as natural to the human organism as the rising of the sun is to the cosmic order. Samuel Jolnson was once asked what the strongest argument for prayer was, and he replied, “Sir, there is no argument for prayer.”1 Now Jolnson did not mean by this that prayer is irrational, far from it; he meant, rather, to stress the fact the prayer is first of all a native tendency. Prayer is indigenous to the human spirit. It represents a throbbing desire of the human heart. As [Thomas] Carlyle stated in a letter to a friend: “Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of the soul of man.”2 We often try to call prayer “absurd and presumptuous.”3 But a yearning so agelong and deep-rooted cannot be slain by a couple of adjectives. Men have often tried to dismiss it by affirming that pressing rigidity of natural law makes it impossible. But such a declaration is unconvincing; for there is something deep down within us that makes us know that God works in a paradox of unpredictable newness and trustworthy faithfulness. And so even the most devout atheist will at times cry out for the God that his theory denies. Men always have prayed and men always will pray.

Although prayer is native to man, there is the danger that he will misuse it. Although it is a natural outpouring of his spirit, there is the danger that he will use it in an unnatural way.

  1. Never make prayer a substitute for work and intelligence.

      1. There are three way to cooperate with God prayer must be a suppliment and not a substitute

      2. The would be musician

      3. The Farmer

      4. Passing an exam

      5. Calling a doctor when sick

      6. Prayer for civil rights

    1. Prayer is no substitute for intelligence

      1. knowledge of classics of culture didn't come through prayer

      2. creative insights of medical science didn' come through prayer

      3. knowledge of astronomy

    2. We make God a cosmic bell hop a universal errand boy.

      In that dramatic scene when the Israelites are confronted with the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian armies behind, Moses goes away to pray. God says, “Go Forward.”4

  2. Never make pray for anything which if done would injure somebody else.

    1. Dont pray for God to help you get even with your enemy.

    2. The white man often prays to God to help him oppress the Negro.

    3. Dont pray that your country will win the war.

  3. Never pray for God to change the fixed laws of the universe

1. Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer, p. 1: “Samuel Johnson once was asked what the strongest argument for prayer was, and he replied, ‘Sir, there is no argument for prayer.’ ” Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a British poet, critic, and essayist.

2. Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer, p. 1: “As Carlyle stated it in a letter to a friend: ‘Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of the soul of man.’ ”

3. Immanuel Kant's reflection on the act of prayer contained these words (“Prayer,” in Lectures on Ethics, Louis Infield, trans. [New York and London: Century, 1930], pp. 98-103).

4. Cf. Exodus 14:10-15.

Source: 

CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 166, "The Misuse of Prayer".