by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Recently, I came across a new collection of prayers by Martin Luther King Jr., Thou, Dear God: Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits (edited by Lewis V. Baldwin, Beacon Press, 2012). For his birthday today, I thought I’d offer here a sample of those prayers to encourage us on our journey so we might be, like Dr. King, people of prayer, peace, justice and nonviolence.
His prayers, of course, raise questions about our own prayers. To whom do we pray? How do we pray? What do we ask for? Thomas Merton taught us the apophatic prayer of sitting in the void, in darkness, while St. Ignatius Loyola taught us to use our imaginations and fantasize about the Gospel (pick a story, imagine you are in it, feel what it’s like, notice what Jesus looks like, listen to what he says to you, and so forth). Medieval monks taught lectio divina, reading the scriptures prayerfully, while others emphasize the prayer of communal liturgy and Gospel hymns. Personally, I recommend 30 minutes of silent time every day to dwell in intimate love with the God of peace, with the nonviolent Jesus.
Every Christian tradition advocates intercessory prayer — begging God for what we need. “Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7). “Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). “All that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. And when you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance so that your heavenly God may in turn forgive you” (Mark 11:24-25)…