Ending Abortion the Church’s Way, Part 3: Prayer and Protest
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (whose niece Alveda is a
full-time Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life) spoke of a
man who once said, “You Negroes should stop protesting and
start praying.” He responded as follows:
“The idea that man expects God to do everything leads
inevitably to a callous misuse of prayer. For if God
does everything, man then asks him for anything, and God
becomes little more than a "cosmic bellhop." … I am
certain we need to pray for God's help and guidance in
this integration struggle, but we are gravely misled if
we think the struggle will be won only by prayer. God,
who gave us minds for thinking and bodies for working,
would defeat his own purpose if he permitted us to
obtain through prayer what may come through work and
intelligence. Prayer is a marvelous and necessary
supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous
substitute” (King 1963, p. 131-132).
We should never fall into the mistaken notion that prayer
and protest don’t mix, or that prayer and politics don’t
mix. No document of the Popes, the Bishops’ Conference, or
individual bishops suggests that because we believe in
prayer, we should forsake all other action, nor that we
should keep that action separate from prayer. In fact, the
US Bishops’ current Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities
outlines prayer as one of four key types of activity which
the Church must foster in defense of life. The others are
public information/education, pastoral care, and influencing
public policy. As Gandhi said, those who think religion has
nothing to do with politics understand neither religion nor
When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus not only praying
privately, but also in front of the crowds. At the raising
of Lazarus, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have
heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this
for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may
believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). The Acts of the
Apostles demonstrates a Church at prayer in public,
confronting confusion, idolatry, and abuse of power.
The bishops’ prayerful presence at the March for Life,
and at abortion clinic vigils nationwide is an encouraging
and instructive witness. Praying at an abortion clinic, or
praying in front of the Supreme Court, is an expression of
the fact that union with God means opposition to evil. God
has something to say about public affairs, and about
publicly advertised killing. Moreover, he is denied and
ridiculed in public, just as he was at Calvary, and
therefore he should be honored in public, including when we
protest evil. Worship inherently is a stand against evil,
and is also inherently public, because it is the action of a
community. To publicly protest evil that is inherently
contrary to worship is perfectly compatible with worship
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At any time, of course, you may write a
check payable to “Priests for Life” and mail it to PO Box
141172, Staten Island, NY 10314.