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A. POWELL DAVIES (1902-1957). Prayers by this Unitarian minister in the nation’s Capitol published as The Language of the Heart are illumined by the biographical anthology by William O. Douglas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States: The Mind and Faith of A. Powell Davies. To read the complete biography of A. Powell Davies, click here.
Eternal Spirit, life of our minds and breath of our being: strangely do we walk though the days of our years, unseeing, unhearing, inattentive, though the glory of life is all about us. We wrap ourselves up in the petty and trivial, shutting out life’s promise. We are afraid of life—and its mighty claim upon us—and we wall ourselves in, thinking to be safe.
Break down our walls, O God! Blow upon the barriers we have built to keep us paltry. Let them all be swept away!
Eternal Spirit, who gives wisdom, show us how much of what we pray for in the world about us is waiting to be found within ourselves.
Give us to know, O God, how vain are all our hopes, how empty all our prayers, until we ourselves are ready to fulfill them.
BREATHE YET AGAIN
How can we come to You, O God, with hearts that we have closed to one another?
O Holy One, remind us! We are Your children, all, lighted by the same precarious flame. How foolish are our walls of prejudice, our empty pride!
O patient God, take pity on us! You who breathed into us the one breath of our common life, breathe yet again, and bring us to our souls’ awakening.
HOW LONG, O GOD?
How long must it be, O God—for our years grow shorter—before we are ready for our duty? All about us are the miseries of human injustice and oppression. When shall we be one with the destitute, the dispossessed, opening our hearts to the downcast and the weary? These are flesh of our flesh, bearing Your image and breathing Your breath within them. They are pilgrims with us, one in hope and yearning. O God, when we pray for a better world, joyous and peaceful, with all its banners bright, help us to see that we ourselves must bring this world to pass, and take us to where our work is waiting for us.
GRATITUDE AND FORTITUDE
In our ever changing world so full of what is wonderful, help us, O God, to accept with gratitude all that gladdens us, and to accept with fortitude all that brings us grief.
May we take time to watch the morning and the evening skies, to look often and long at the marvelous earth and all that lives upon it, to be with heart and soul a friend and neighbor and a part of humankind.
We rejoice in the heritage bequeathed to us from yesterday as we celebrate festivals of faith and hope.
May we be learning always, from all that we see and do, and from all that happens to us; and if shadows overtake us, may we not dim within ourselves the light that helps others to live.
Lead us, O God, to see a way where there is no path; give us to hear music when our own songs cease; and when the warm touch of life forsakes us and our courage melts away, may we stumble through the darkness unto You.
The love I can no longer give to my beloved, help me, O God, to give to those who need it. Save me from frozenness of heart! Make my compassion deeper, my sympathy wider. Melt away my bitterness, and let my sorrow teach me to be gentle. If so much that is precious can so soon be lost, let me cherish what remains; and let me be the nurturer of things precious in the lives of others.
May I remember, O God, that from those to whom much has been given, much is expected.
NOT IN THE CLOVEN SKIES
O God, the quest of ages, found and lost and sought anew in every generation: may we understand more plainly what it means to seek Your presence. We heard that You would come in splendor, cleaving the skies, but this we know us but a dream. O God, may we amend our seeking, for we ourselves know better. We have heard You speak wherever truth is spoken; we have seen You in life’s loveliness; we have felt Your presence in all brave and generous deeds. We would find You where You are, O God, in our daily common life.
O God, when the shame of what we are is upon us, touch us with the hope of our becoming.
O God, when we thank You for what is given to us and not to others, let us remember to pray softly, for there will be many who overhear.
POWERS AND POSSIBILITIES
O God, who has given us power we seldom use, and possibilities we all too readily relinquish, give us to see how much better we might be than we are.