MLK's Prayers: "Our Attitude of Self-Centeredness"

By Lewis V. Baldwin, Jr.

Discovering the Essence of the Self in Relation to Others: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Prayers as a Source of His Philosophy and Ethics

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian minister with a Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology, and philosophical and ethical concerns were always at the center of his consciousness when he thought of self in relation to other selves. The prayers afforded in "Thou, Dear God": Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits give the reader a sense of that inner search which enabled King to not only discover the essence of his own being, but also the true meaning of community. King's prayers really amount to an expression of emotions, thoughts, and words that are consistent with the conviction that everyone and everything in the universe are interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. King called this "the interrelated structure of reality." Evidently, the content and language of his prayers transcend the dimensions of the materialistic world to affirm people, personhood, and the oneness of creation. In other words, the prayers acknowledge a meaning to existence that transcends the self and its immediate circumstances. Thus, they confront the reader with a more perceptive and inclusive definition of spirituality.

O God, our gracious Heavenly Father, help us to rise out of our attitude of self-centeredness, out of our egotism. Help us to rise to the point of having faith in Thee and realizing that we are dependent on Thee. And when we realize this, O God, we will live life with a new meaning and with a new understanding and with a new integration. We ask Thee to grant all of these blessings in the name and spirit of Jesus. 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. 

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