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The Treasury of American Prayers Hardcover – November 25, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JAMES P. MOORE JR. teaches at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce and has sat on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia. His most recent book, One Nation Under God probes the history of prayer in America, and was made into a film for public television as well as a five-part program for the country’s schools. Moore is the creator of the American Prayer Project, an initiative committed to educating the public on the importance of prayer in the life of America.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Renewed Wonderment

Earth our mother, breathe forth life
All night sleeping
Now awaking
In the east
Now see the dawn.

Earth our mother, breathe and waken
Leaves are stirring
All things moving
New day coming
Life renewing

Eagle soaring, see the morning
See the new mysterious morning
Something marvelous and sacred
Though it happens every day
Dawn the child of God and Darkness

This prayer has been handed down for generations among members of the Pawnee tribe in modern-day Kansas. It is an invocation of renewal and wonderment at the beginning of each new day.

Prayer of Chief Seattle

Earth mother, star mother,
You who are called by
A thousand names,
May all remember
We are cells in your body
And dance together
You are the grain
And the loaf
That sustains each day,
And as you are patient
With our struggles to learn
So shall we be patient
With ourselves and each other.
We are radiant light
And sacred dark
--the balance--
You are the embrace that heartens
And the freedom beyond fear.
Within you we are born
We grow, live, and die--
You bring us around the circle
To rebirth, Within us you dance

Composed by Chief Seattle in the early nineteenth century, this tribute gives glory to creation and nature's continual regeneration. Chief Seattle was the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, located in today's Washington State. The city of Seattle was named in his honor.

Prayer at Dawn

Blessed be the light of day
And the Holy Cross, we say;
And the Lord of the Verity
And the Holy Trinity.
Blessed be th' immortal soul
And the Lord who keeps it whole,
Blessed be the light of day
And He who sends the night away.

Each morning as they crossed the Atlantic, Christopher Columbus and his men were awakened by this chant sung by one of the young mates on board. It was one in a series of prayers that was invoked at specific times during the day, creating discipline among the men while they praised God in hopes of safe passage.

Rise, O My Soul

Rise, O my soul, with thy desires to heaven,
And with divinest contemplation use
Thy time where time's eternity is given,
And let vain thoughts no more thy
Thoughts abuse;

To thee, O Jesu, I direct my eyes;
To thee my hands, to thee my humble knees;
To thee my heart shall offer sacrifice;
To thee my thoughts, who my thoughts only sees;
To thee my self--my self and all I give;
To thee I die; to thee I only live.

Having led one of the more colorful and accomplished lives among the courtiers of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote this prayer when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for unproven crimes. Although he would never set eyes on the New World, he was a critical force in the British settlement of Virginia. His deep faith would endear him to many of America's earliest colonists, and this invocation would become part of The Book of Common Prayer of America's Episcopal Church.

En Este Nuevo Dia

En este neuvo dia
gracias te tributamos,
oh, Dios omnipotente,
Senor de todo lo creado...

Por ti nacen las flores
y reverdece el campo,
los arboles dan fruta
y el sol nos da sus rayos...

Dirige Dios immenso
y guia nuestros pasos
para que eternamente
tu santa ley sigamos.

On This New Day
(English Translation)

On this new day
thanks we pay in tribute
oh, omnipotent God,
Lord of all creation...

For you the flowers grow
and the countryside turns green,
and trees give fruit
and the sun gives us your rays...

Immense God direct
and guide our steps
so that eternally
We follow your holy law.

When the Franciscan priests of Spain established their missions throughout the western United States, they composed hundreds of "alabados" for their indigenous congregations. These prayers were set to melodies that echoed the sounds of Jewish and Arabic chants mixed with Flamenco music. Not only did these hymns express praise to God, but they also taught the faithful the tenets of their religious faith.

Love and Adoration

O my Lord, my love, how wholly delectable thou art! Let him [Jesus] kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is sweeter than wine: how lovely is thy countenance! How pleasant are thy embraces! My heart leaps for joy when I hear the voice of thee my Lord, my love, when thou sayest to my soul, thou art her salvation. O my God, my king, what am I but dust! A worm, a rebel, and thine enemy was I, wallowing in the blood and filth of my sins, when thou didst cast the light of Countenance upon me, when thou spread over me the lap of thy love, and saidest that I should live...

John Winthrop, the single greatest influence in founding and governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony in its early years, wrote a series of prayers in the daily entries of his diary. In time his affection for Christ became all the more profoudn, as this prayer shows. He blieved that the more he prayed, the more he came to be "enaurored."

For Love of Others

Lord, make my Tongue, a Tree of Life!

Living Christianity's Golden Rule was central to the faith of Reverend Cotton Mather and to his leading a loving, redemptive life. Although he would become a catalyst in advancing the Salem witch trials, he nonetheless firmly believed in the message of his spiritual ejaculation.

A Crumb of Dust

Lord, can a crumb of dust the earth outweigh,
Outmatch all mountains, nay the crystal sky?
Imbosom in't designs that shall display
And trace into the boundless deity?
Yea, hand a pen whose moisture doth glid o'er
Eternal glory with a glorious glore.

If it is pen had of an angel's quill,
And sharpened on a precious stone ground tight,
And dipped in liquid gold, and moved by skill
In crystal leaves should golden letters write,
It would but blot and blur, yea, jag and jar,
Unless Thou mak'st the pen and scribener.

I am this crumb of dust which is designed
To make my pen unto Thy praise alone,
And my dull fancy I would gladly grind
Unto an edge on Zion's precious stone;
And write in liquid gold upon Thy name
My letters till Thy glory forth doth flame.
Let not th' attempts break down my dust I pray,
Nor laugh Thou them to scorn, but pardon give.
Inspire this crumb of dust till it display
Thy glory though't: and then Thy dust shall live.
Its failings then Thou'lt overlook, I trust,
They being slips slipped from Thy crumb of dust.

Thy crumb of dust breathes two words from its breast,
That Thou wilt guide its pen to write aright
To prove Thou art and that Thou art the best
And shew Thy prosperities to shine most bright.
And then Thy works will shine as flowers on stems
Or as in jewelary shops do gems.

One of the most eloquent spiritual voices during the American colonial period was that of Reverend Edward Taylor, a physician and Congregational minister. Like most of the metaphysical prayers he wrote, this one was composed for his Sunday Eucharist services in Westfield, Massachusetts. When his collection of Eucharistic prayers was discovered in the archives at Yale University just before World War II, historians gained far greater insight into the sophisticated world of Puritan America.

Great God of Wonders

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are worthy of thyself--divine;
But the bright glories of Thy grace
Among thine other wonders shine;
Who is pard'ning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

As the fourth president of Princeton (then known as the College of New Jersey) Samuel Davies worked arduously to deliver inspiring sermons to the student body. He always made sure that he accompanied his sermons with a prayer of some kind. While some conservative clergymen criticized him for composing invocations rather than turning exclusively to the Psalms he was undeterred and would write over a hundred such prayers. This particular prayer was later set to music and became his most famous.

Thoughts on the Work of Providence
(an excerpt)

Arise, my soul, on wings enraptur'd, rise
To praise the monarch of the earth and skies,
Whose goodness and beneficence appear
As round its centre moves the rolling year...

Almighty, in these wond'rous works of thine,
What Pow'r, what Wisdom, and what Goodness shine!
And are thy wonders, Lord, by men explor'd,
And yet creating glory unador'd...

Shall day to day, and night to night conspire
To show the goodness of the Almighty Sire?
This mental voice shall man regardless hear,
And never, never raise the filial pray'r?
To-day, O hearken, nor your folly mourn
For time mispent, that never will return...

Infinite Love where'er we turn our eyes
Appears: this ev'ry creature's wants supplies;
This most is heard in Nature's constant voice,
This makes the morn, and this the eve rejoice;
This bids the fost'ring rains and dews descend
To nourish all, to serve one gen'ral end,
The good of man: yet man ungrateful pays
But little homage, and but little praise.
To him, whose works arry'd with mercy shine,
What songs should rise, how constant, how divine!

Phillis Wheatley, born in Senegal around 1753 and sold to a Boston family at the age of seven, was as precocious as any young girl of her age. The family, recognizing her talents, soon began teaching her how to read and write English, Latin, and Greek. In turn, she took delight in writing her own poetry and personally poignant essays. Deeply religious, she composed several touching spiritual pieces, among them the prayer that is excerpted here.

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our...

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524629
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,844,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Americans pray.

They pray at rates higher than in many other countries around the world and research has shown, over and over again, that the grassroots significance of faith is one of the defining characteristics of American culture and values.

But what we may not realize is the enormous diversity of that prayer. Thanks to years of research and cooperative work by James P. Moore Jr. (whose original profession was in government service and business), we now know more about this rich relationship between men and women -- and the higher power who they feel is so close at hand. Sparked by a search for examples of prayer at the death of his own father in the mid 1990s, Moore began his own research and soon connected with an impressive array of other professionals. Eventually, his work led to the book "Prayer in America: A Spiritual History of Our Nation" and to a PBS series on prayer, funded by the Templeton Foundation.

Those are great resources, but I recommend this as a first choice, if you're interested in this theme, because the "Treasury" is an anthology with short biographical notes on the person behind each prayer -- and prayers that many of us will be moved to make our own, I suspect.

You'll find landmarks like the prayer the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. voiced in his famous night in his kitchen that transformed his faith. You'll find heart-felt lines so plain that they'll make you catch your breath -- like a prayer musician David Crosby voiced as he headed into surgery to replace his liver after years of self-destructive living.
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This book is an excellent review of prayer habits in America. I appreciate it very much. Great gift for someone I love.
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