Earlier this week, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber shared how writing Why People Pray changed his life. He is guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.
According to a recent poll, 90 percent of Americans believe in the healing power of prayer. For most Americans, prayer is not a substitute for medicine, but rather a way of reinforcing the healing process which depends primarily on medical treatment. In Judaism, faith and medicine have always complemented each other, as attested by the life and work of Moses Maimonides, the great twelfth-century physician and rabbinical authority.
A much broader question, however, is whether prayer can heal the world. As the current century continues to unfold, it becomes increasingly clear that both the human race and the planet it inhabits are in urgent need of healing. It boggles the mind that now, nearly three-quarters of a century after the horrors of the Holocaust and of World War II, genocides are being committed in places like the Middle East and Africa, rivers are being poisoned everywhere, the rain forest is being decimated, and clouds of pollution hang over big cities, all because of human action. I have traveled to many of those places, and I have seen those things with my own eyes.
While all of the major religions pray for the healing of the world, their prayers seem to be, to use the expression of Langston Hughes, a “dream deferred.” (“Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”)
It is safe to say that prayer has done little to heal the world. For over fifty years I have been joining my fellow Jews in reciting the Sabbath service which contains the closing words, l’taken olam b’malchut Shaddai, “to repair the world in the image of the kingdom of God.” These are words all Jews believe in, but they are yet to repair the world. And so I have to ask myself, is there any point in continuing to utter such words? Political, economic, and ideological forces around the world do not seem to be interested in ending international conflicts and enabling the human race to pursue peaceful progress. The world remains deeply divided, and the threat of new large-scale wars, even nuclear ones, is hanging in the air across the globe. Is there any solution?
One thing I have learned in my extensive travels around the world for the past twelve years is that while political ideologies across the entire spectrum from communism to capitalism have become dysfunctional, religion — which many people in the West believe is on the decline — remains the most powerful ideology from Tokyo to Timbuktu to Teheran to Tasmania. Prayer remains the ultimate expression of humanity’s innermost hopes and wishes. I would propose convening a world conference of spiritual leaders to discuss the incorporation of prayers for healing the world to be shared by all belief systems around the world. An appropriate day would be designated during which all places of prayer everywhere will see the world praying in one voice for the healing of humanity and the planet. This would create an awareness that all people everywhere, with the exception of fanatics and self-serving cynics, are sharing the same wish, namely, to see the world at long last do away with hatred and war-mongering, and begin the healing process so sorely needed by a troubled planet that is on the verge of courting its own doom.
Rabbi, author, educator, writer, translator, publisher, Biblical scholar, and founder of Schreiber Translations, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber has sailed the Seven Seas as a spiritual leader aboard cruise ships, with over fifty books published under his penname, Morry Sofer. He is touring through the Jewish Book Council for the 2016 – 2017 season as a JBC Network author.
Rabbi, author, educator, writer, translator, publisher, Biblical scholar, and founder of Schreiber Translations, Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber has sailed the seven seas as a spiritual leader aboard cruise ships. With over 50 books published under the penname Morry Sofer and his own, his latest two books are Explaining the Holocaust and The Man Who Knew God: Decoding Jeremiah.
Mordecai Schreiber is available to be booked for speaking engagements through Read On. Click here for more information.