By Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918). He has been called the ‘Father of the Social Gospel Movement.” From 1886 to 1897 he served as pastor of the Second German Baptist Church in the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ area of New York city. Ministering in that neighborhood of extreme poverty, he realized that the church must address not only people’s spiritual needs, but also their physical needs. He worked to do this not only by helping suffering individuals, but also by working for social change that would give people the opportunity to escape their poverty. He has been called one of the most influential American religious leaders of the 20th century. His passion to see God’s will done “on earth as it is in heaven” has inspired and influenced countless pastors and social reformers, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Desmond Tutu. The prayers are from his 1909 book, For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening.
Quotes from Walter Rauschenbusch:
The ideal of the Kingdom of God is not identified with any special social theory. It means justice, freedom, fraternity, labor, and joy. Let each social system and movement show what it can contribute.
The influences that really make and mar human happiness are beyond the reach of the law. The law can keep neighbors from trespassing, but it cannot put neighborly courtesy and goodwill into their relations.
In a few years all our restless and angry hearts will be quiet in death, but those who come after us will live in the world which our sins have blighted, or, which our love of right has redeemed. Let us do our thinking on these great questions, not with our eyes fixed on our bank account, but with a wise outlook on the fields of the future, knowing that God is seeking to distill from our lives some essence of righteousness before they pass away.
Leviticus 19:35 — Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or quantity.
Proverbs 11:17 — A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.
Matthew 6:24 — (Jesus said), “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Colossians 3:23-24 — Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
A PRAYER FOR EMPLOYERS:
We invoke thy grace and wisdom, O Lord, upon all men of good will who employ and control the labor of men. Amid the numberless irritations and anxieties of their position, help them to keep a quiet and patient temper, and to rule firmly and wisely, without harshness or anger. Since they hold power over the bread, the safety, and the hopes of the workers, may they wield their powers justly and with love, as older brothers and leaders in the great fellowship of labor. Do not allow the light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts. When they are tempted to follow the ruthless ways of others, and to sacrifice human health and life for profit, do thou strengthen their will in the hour of need, and bring to naught the counsels of the heartless. Save them from repressing their workers into sullen submission and helpless fear. May they not sin against the Christ by using the bodies and souls of men as mere tools to make things, forgetting the human hearts and longings of these their brothers.
Raise up among us employers who shall be makers of men as well as of goods… Give us men of faith who will see beyond the strife of the present and catch a vision of a noble organization of our work, when all will still follow the leadership of the ablest, not in fear, but by the glad will of all, and when none shall be master and none shall be man, but all shall stand side by side in a strong and righteous brotherhood of work. Amen.
PRAYER FOR KINGS AND MAGNATES:
O God, we worship you as the Lord of humanity, and render free obedience to you because your laws are just and your will is love. We pray for the kings and princes of the nations, to whom power has descended from the past; and for the lords of industry and trade, in whose hands the wealth and power of our modern world have gathered. We pray that you save them from the terrible temptations of their position, lest they follow in the sad lineage of those who have lorded it in the past and have used the people’s powers for their oppression. Suffer them not to waste the labor of the many for their own luxury, or to use the precious life-blood of men for the corruption of all… Mature in their souls the unshakeable conviction that all they have is but held in trust for a time, till God shall claim his own… Reveal to them that all the higher joys come only by imparting the strength of our life to those who need it, and that a man’s life consists not in the things which he possesses, but in the love that flows out from him and flows back to him. Amen.
PRAYER FOR THOSE IN THE BUSINESS WORLD:
We plead with thee, O God, for our brothers and sisters who are pressed by the cares and beset by the temptations of business life. We acknowledge before thee our common guilt for the hardness and deceitfulness of industry and trade which lead us all into temptation and cause even the righteous to slip and fall. As long as man is set against man in a struggle for wealth, help the men in business to make their contest, as far as may be, a test of excellence, by which even the defeated man may be spurred to better work. If any man is pitted against those who have forgotten fairness and honesty, help him to put his trust resolutely in the profitableness of sincerity and uprightness, and, if need be, to accept loss rather than follow on crooked paths.
May thy spirit, O God, which is ceaselessly pleading within us, prevail at last to bring our business life under Christ’s law of service… which blesses those who are the free servants of God and the people, and who consciously devote their strength to the common good. Amen.