Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) 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. These prayers are from his 1909 book, For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening (with some editing).
THANKFULNESS FOR CREATION:
O God, we thank you for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the abundance of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part. We praise thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the stars on high. We praise thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, and for the grass under our feet. We thank you for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime. Grant us, we pray, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty. Save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thorn bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.
Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our little brothers and sisters, to whom you have given this earth as their home in common with us. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life just as we do, and serve thee in their place. When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance; but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it. And then, may our bodies return in peace to mother earth who for so long nourished them. Amen.
O Lord, help me this day to keep my life pure in thy sight. Suffer me not by any lawless act of mine to befoul any innocent life or add to the shame and hopelessness of any erring one that struggles faintly against sin. Grant me a steadfast scorn for any pleasure bought by human degradation. May no reckless word or wanton look from me kindle the slow fires of wayward passion that will char and consume the divine beauties of any soul. Give me grace to watch over the imaginations of my heart, lest in the unknown hour of my weakness my secret thoughts leap into action and my honor be turned into shame. If my friends trust me with their loved ones, save me from betraying their trust and from slaying the peace of a home. If any dear heart has staked its life and hopes on my love and loyalty, I beseech thee that its joy and strength may never wither through my forgetfulness or guilt. O God, make me pure and a helper of the weak. Grant that even the sins of my past may yield me added wisdom and tenderness to help those who are tempted. O Jesus, thou master of all who are both strong and pure, take our weak and passionate hearts under thy control, that when the dusk settles upon our life, we may go to our long rest with no pang of shame, and may enter into the blessedness of seeing God, which thou hast promised only to the pure in heart. Amen.
O Thou Eternal One, we who are doomed to die lift up our souls to thee for strength. The death of others has touched us, and we know that at some turn of our pathway he stands waiting to take us by the hand and lead us– we know not whither. We praise thee that to us death is no longer an enemy, but thy great angel and our friend, who alone can open for us the prison-house of pain and misery and set our feet in the roomy spaces of a larger life. Yet we are but children, afraid of the dark and the unknown, and we dread the parting from the life that is so sweet and from the loved ones who are so dear.
Grant us a valiant heart, that we may tread the road with head uplifted and a smiling face. May we do our work to the last with a wholesome joy, and love our loved ones with an added tenderness because the days of love are short. On thee we cast the heaviest burden that numbs our soul– the gnawing fear for those we love, whom we would leave unsheltered in a selfish world. But we will trust in thee, for through all our years thou hast been our stay. O thou Father of the fatherless, put your arm about our little ones. We bless thee for every hour of life, for all our share in the joys and strivings of our brothers and sisters, for the wisdom gained which will be part of us forever. If soon we must go, still we know that through thee we have lived, and pray that by thy grace we have helped to shape the future and bring in the better day. If our spirit droops in loneliness, uphold us by thy companionship. When all the voices of love grow faint and drift away, thy everlasting arms will still be there. Thou art the Father of our spirits; from thee we have come; to thee we go. We rejoice that in the hours of our purer vision, we know that for those who abide in thee, death is but the gateway to life eternal. Into thy hands we commend our spirit. Amen.
James 1:17a — Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…
Philippians 3:14 — I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Luke 23:46 — Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.