Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"Prayer is an expression of man’s inner yearning for a response in the awful silence of the universe. It is a unique process of discovery whereby the searching ego affirms itself in the very moment of self-negation, and thus discovers its own worth and justification as a dynamic factor in the life of the universe." - Mohamed Iqbal or Sir Muhammad Iqbal, aka Allama Iqbal

"[Prayer] The very moment itself of the soul, putting itself into a personal relation of contact with the mysterious power - of which it feels the presence." - William James

"We hear in these days of scientific enlightenment a great deal of discussion about the efficacy of Prayer. Many reasons are given why we should not pray. Others give reasons why we should pray. Very little is said of the reason why we do pray. The reason is simple: We pray because we cannot help praying." - William James

"Prayer is a way of increasing our sensitivity to the spiritual aspects of life. From this point of view, it is very much like exercise. A man’s muscles become responsive by training... The soul is stretched and enlarged by prayer just as the body is stretched and enlarged by physical exercise... Prayer is a way of aspiration. It is a way of lifting ourselves, of getting a higher look, of transcending self. For when a man looks at life only from inside himself, or only from within the walls of his home, or profession, seeing the world as though it were all in terms of his special interests, then he is “too full of himself to have any room for God.” But in prayer, he... relates his own little life and his own little needs and life of humanity. He lifts himself up by prayer, and achieves a high spiritual stature." - Robert I. Kahn

"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays." -

"The unreflective person thinks and imagines that when he prays, the important thing, the thing he must concentrate upon, is that God should hear what he is praying for. And yet in the true, eternal sense it is just the reverse; the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills." -

"Enough of us praying often enough could make everybody in the world look up and listen to God. We could transform the world... Prayer is powerful, but it is not the power of a sledge hammer that crushes with one blow. It is the power of sunrays and raindrops which bless, because there are so many of them... When you fill a swamp with stones, a hundred loads may disappear under water before a stone appears on the surface, but all of them are necessary." - Frank Charles Laubach

"Prayer is likely to be undervalued by all but wise people because it is silent and so secret. We are often deceived into thinking that noise is more important than silence. War sounds far more important than the noisesless growing of a crop of what, yet the silent wheat feeds millions, while war destroys them. Nobody but God knows how often prayers have changed the course of history... The highest communion is not asking God for things for ourselves, but letting Him flow down through us, out over the world - in endless benediction." - Frank Charles Laubach

"A single grateful thought toward Heaven is the most perfect prayer." - Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

"Prayer is one human activity where any inner suggestion of triumph, any shy satisfaction is most likely to be false." - John W. Lynch

"What debilitates our prayer life… is our presupposition that the pressures of life are on one side while God is on some other side." - George Fielden MacLeod, Baron MacLeod of Fuinary

"Prayer is the best means to uplift our consciousness from the imprisonment of personal gratification to the oneness and union with all beings. Prayer consecrates all our actions, removes ignorance, and leads us to an expanded vision of who we really are and feel the richness of life." - Bibhuti Mazumder

"The value of consistent prayer is not that he will hear us… but that we will finally hear Him." - William McGill, fully James McGill

"All thinking is not prayer. But thinking can be prayer, just as walking and talking and washing the floor can be prayer." - Vincent McNabb

"Prayer, rightly understood, prepares the soul for action, sustains her on life’s road when weary and worn, and arms her for the right when the foe assails her." - Désiré-Joseph Mercier, fully Désiré-Félicien-François-Joseph Mercier

"“Liturgy” turns into “contemplation” as soon as our prayer ceases to be a search for God and turns into a celebration, by interior experience, of the fact that we have found Him." - Thomas Merton

"What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?" - Thomas Merton

"Charity is incumbent on each person every day. Charity is assisting anyone, moving and carrying their wares, saying a good word. Every step one takes walking to prayer is charity; showing the way is charity." - Muhammad, also spelled Mohammad, Mohammed or Mahomet, full name Muhammad Ibn `Abd Allāh Ibn `Abd al-Muttalib NULL

"People who know they will die live very carefully. Not careful as in fearful; careful as in full of care. Every word, every act, every relationship holds the possibility of giving birth to something filled with great care. And that thing need not be showy or dramatic, for the most potent spiritual acts are often acts of breathtaking simplicity: a simple prayer, a sip of wine and a piece of bread, a single breath in meditation, a sprinkling of water on the forehead, an exchange of rings, a kind word, a hand on the cheek, a blessing." - Wayne Muller

"Your desire is your prayer. Picture the fulfillment of your desire now and feel its reality and you will experience the joy of the answered prayer." - Joseph Murphy

"Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at that point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God’s Spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us." - Henri Nouwen, fully Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen

"One hour in the execution of justice is worth seventy years of prayer." - Islamic Proverbs

"Good deeds are the best prayer." - Serbian Proverbs

"When we dispute over dogmas we are divided. But when we take to the religious life of prayer and contemplation, we are brought together. The deeper the prayers, the more is the individual lost in the apprehension of the Supreme." - Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, fully Sir or Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

"A good man never dies - in worthy deed and prayer and helpful hands, and honest eyes, if smiles or tears be there; who lives for you and me - live for the world he tries to help - he lives eternally. A good man never dies. Who lives bravely take his share of toil and stress and, for his weaker fellows’ sake, makes every burden less - he may, at last, seem worn - lie fallen - hands and eyes folded - yet, though we mourn and mourn, a good man never dies." - James Whitcomb Riley

"Prayer is the responsibility to meet others with all I have, to be ready to encounter the unconditional in the conditional, to expect to meet God in the way, not to turn aside from the way." - John Robinson, fully John Arthur Thomas Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich

"Prayer is the drowning and unconsciousness of the soul." - Rumi, fully Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi NULL

"Prayer is religion in act; that is, prayer is real religion. It is prayer that distinguishes the religious phenomenon from such similar or neighboring phenomena as purely moral or aesthetic sentiment." - Louis Auguste Sabatier

"Our motive for prayer must be the divine will, not our own." - D. Lorenzo (Laurence) Scupoli

"Prayer breathes hope, and prayer without hope is a sinful prayer." - John Sergieff of Cronstadt, aka Saint John of Kronstadt, born John Iliytch Sergieff

"Prayer is the constant feeling (the recognition) of our infirmity or spiritual poverty, the sanctification of the soul, the foretaste of future blessedness, the angelic bliss, the heavenly rain, refreshing, watering, and fertilizing the ground of the soul, the power and strength of the soul and body, the purifying and freshening of the mental air, the enlightenment of the countenance, the joy of spirit, the golden link, uniting the creature to the Creator." - John Sergieff of Cronstadt, aka Saint John of Kronstadt, born John Iliytch Sergieff

"Prayer begins by talking to God, but it ends by listening to Him." - Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

"Prayer is not just the informing of God of our needs, for He already knows them. God does not show Himself equally to all creatures. This does not mean that he has favorites, that He decides to help some and to abandon others, but the difference occurs because it is impossible for Him to manifest Himself to certain hearts under the conditions they set up. The sunlight plays no favorites, but its reflection is very different on a lake and on a swamp." - Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

"I personally have experienced the power of prayer to heal the most devastating disease of them all - the power of prayer to heal fear!" -

"There is no prayer so blessed as the prayer which asks for nothing." - O. J. Simon

"Prayer is God’s own psychotherapy for His sinful children. It is His method of uncovering unconscious motivations and of recalling to consciousness those thins which have been excluded as painful and humiliating." - Raphael Simon, possibly also writes under Pseudonymous Bosch

"Time spent on the knees in prayer will do more to remedy heart strain and nerve worry than anything else." -

"Prayer enables us to disregard self, and it allows us to become disentangled from the trammels of egotism. In prayer as in nothing else we can find refuge from the degradation of self-love." - William L. Sullivan

"What is it but blasphemy when God is merely my means to an end? That takes its toll. If we turn God into a puppet of our desires (even when that happens by the pious route of prayer) then he shuts up his heaven and we find ourselves thrown back into the silence of our unredeemed life." - Helmut Thielicke

"Prayer is a spiritual sighing and longing of a finite being to return to its origin." -

"Without faith a prayer has only form. Without faith a prayer has no heart or flame." - Guy Everton Tremaine

"Prayer is the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father." - Thomas Watson

"We live by Faith; but Faith is not the slave of text and legend. Reason’s voice and God’s, Nature’s and Duty’s, never are at odds. What asks our Father of His children, save justice and mercy and humility, a reasonable service of good deeds, pure living, tenderness to human needs, reverence and trust, and prayer for light to see the Master’s footprints in our daily ways? No knotted scourge nor sacrificial knife, but the calm beauty of an ordered life whose very breathing is unworded praise! A life that stands as all true lives have stood firm-rooted in the faith that God is good." - John Greenleaf Whittier

"God has established prayer in the moral world in order “to communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality.” That is to say, to give us a touch and a taste of what it is to be a Creator." - Alexander Whyte

"If by prayer I mean the power of words to persuade God to do things, then prayer is futile and foolish. One might utter the words of the most devout prayer that was ever breathed and yet not be praying at all. It is the attitude of the personality which is the prayer, not the words." - Henry Nelson Wieman

"Prayer is not a monologue. It speaks to God and to the community. In the last analysis, religion is not what goes on inside a soul. It is what goes on in the world, between people, between us and God. To trap faith in a monologue, and pretend that it resides solely inside the self, undermines the true interchange of all belief." - David J. Wolpe

"Each time we pray individually, we must feel our prayer. When we pray, we feel on behalf of all beings, everywhere. We are all connected. We are all expressions of one life. No matter where we are, our prayers are heard by all. We are all the same one... In the presence of peace, all things are possible: love, compassion, and forgiveness. Peace is the source of all things. I would ask the people of the world to find peace in themselves, so that their peace may be mirrored in the world." -

"Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"What we gain without effort does not satisfy like what comes through the sweat of our brow or the work of self-transformation. No berries taste as sweet as those we pick. No insight changes us as deeply as what we discover ourselves. Prayer might help, but walking the endless path of practice is the only way to a deep reward. Sometimes just the path is reward enough." - Franz Metcalf

"Before going to war say one prayer, before going to sea say two, before getting married – three." - Polish Proverbs