A Global Reading of King's Books

By Lewis V. Baldwin, Jr.

Spirituality as an Integral Aspect of World Religions: A Global Reading of the Prayers of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The prayers in "Thou, Dear God": Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits reveal that Martin Luther King, Jr. never associated "the spiritual" with a particular religion or religious tradition. He associated a sense of "the spiritual" not only with Christianity, but with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other great world religions. It is at this point that his prayers are so spiritually enlightening. They are the passionate pleas, longings, and hopes of a man who were deeply wedded to his own faith tradition while, at the same time, recognizing the truths and the vitality of other traditions. In short, the prayers in "Thou, Dear God" are the prayers of all peoples of faith. They emerged out of King's unwavering belief that the Kingdom of God ultimately intersects with people of different faith claims. Thus, there is something for everyone in "Thou, Dear God." Indeed, there are lessons and challenges here even for persons who make no profession of faith.

O God, our gracious Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call Thee Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; and some call you the Unmoved Mover; some call you the Archetectonic [sic] Good. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God, and we know you are one.

And grant, O God, that we will follow Thee and become so committed to Thy way and Thy kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a broth- erhood. We will be able to establish here a kingdom of un- derstanding, where men will live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen. (Martin Luther King, Jr. From "Thou, Dear God": Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits)


Lewis V. Baldwin is professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University and an ordained Baptist minister. An expert on black-church traditions, he is author of The Voice of Conscience: The Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr.; There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the editor of "Thou, Dear God": Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits, the first and only collection of prayers by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Read "Prayers for Social Justice" from "Thou, Dear God" on Scribd.

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