David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Prayer

Prayer

• A deeply religious woman was shocked when her 14-year-old son revealed that he was gay, and so she did what deeply religious people should do — she prayed for guidance. Very quickly, she received an answer to her prayers. God said to her, “You know what a gay person is like; you lived with one for 14 years.” After hearing that, she decided that the problem was not homosexuality, but some people’s negative reaction to homosexuality. She says, “From that moment on, I never shed another tear that my son was gay. I may have shed a lot of tears for how he was treated, but not because he was gay.” (The woman’s husband quickly accepted his son’s homosexuality, saying simply, “He’s a nice boy, and I love him.”)

• In 1962, in Engel v. Vitale, the United States Supreme Court ruled against allowing a nondenominational prayer to be recited in New York Public Schools. It was a controversial decision, but many people supported it. President John F. Kennedy expressed the opinion that children could learn about prayer much more meaningfully at home and in church. Many religious leaders expressed the opinion that nondenominational prayers, such as the one that had been recited in the New York City schools, were bland, vague, and almost meaningless — hardly the stuff of real prayer.

• For much of his political career, Alabama politician George Wallace was a strict segregationist, but eventually he changed and admitted that he had been wrong about segregation. In 1987, Reverend Jesse Jackson went to Mr. Wallace’s home, and Mr. Wallace asked, “Would you pray for me?” They joined hands, and Reverend Jackson prayed for him. According to Mr. Wallace’s son, both Mr. Wallace and Reverend Jackson had tears in their eyes. At the end of the prayer, Mr. Wallace told Reverend Jackson, “Jesse, I love you.” Reverend Jackson replied, “Governor, I love you, too.”

• In 1982, Lebanon and Israel were in conflict. Mother Teresa traveled to Lebanon, where she asked to be allowed to take care of disabled children still present in hospitals that had been bombed. The authorities did not see what she would be able to accomplish during a time of fighting, so they asked her to wait for a ceasefire to start doing her good works. Mother Teresa prayed, and the very next day a ceasefire was declared. She then took the disabled children to East Beirut, where the Missionaries of Charity had a home and could take care of them.

• In the first half of the 20th century, Ed Diddle coached the football team of Western Kentucky State Teachers College — the Praying Colonels. Mr. Diddle once coached his team captain in how to say a prayer properly — one should ask for one’s team to give a good performance on the playing field, but one should not ask for victory. Before the game, the team captain started to pray, but in the middle of the prayer, Mr. Diddle interrupted: “Damn it! I told you not to ask for victory!”

• Rabbi Bunam prayed quietly, but in his youth Rabbi Hanokh of Alexandria prayed loudly with many gestures. Rabbi Hanokh was praying loudly when Rabbi Bunam entered the synagogue. Immediately, Rabbi Hanokh grew quiet, then he told himself that he should be concerned about God, not about Rabbi Bunam, so he began to pray loudly again. After Rabbi Hanokh’s loud prayer, Rabbi Bunam told him that the prayer especially pleased him.

• Comedian George Burns was not an observant Jew as an adult because of something that happened when he was a child. His grandmother died, and his family needed to have a minyan — a group of 10 Jews to pray and hold services. Unfortunately, his family was able to get only seven Jews — so they had to pay three other Jews to pray in the minyan. Mr. Burns says, “That stuck with me all my life. I couldn’t imagine anyone getting paid for praying.”

• In 1933, an earthquake struck Los Angeles. Two members of the New York Giants organization — manager Bill Terry and club secretary Jim Tierney — were rooming together. When the quake struck, Mr. Tierney, a devout Catholic, knelt and prayed. Mr. Terry, who was not a devout Catholic, also knelt, saying, “I don’t know what you’re saying, Tierney, but it goes for me, too.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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