Our Prayerful History

This impressive history of prayer in America neglects theology.
2006This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

James Moore's ambitions are huge: He seeks to provide a "sweeping commentary describing how prayer has affected the country and its people." Retelling the American story in a grand, breezy style, he celebrates the presence of "American prayer" in the midst of both national crises and ordinary life.

Above all, he seeks to show that prayer—across denominations and religions—has been a central force in the formation and continued strength of the nation. Unsurprisingly, he regards the decision to remove public prayer from schools as wrongheaded, at odds with our ongoing need for unity and vitality.

Moore's achievement is to show through sheer empirical evidence that prayer has indeed been laced throughout our past. But his interpretation goes nowhere. Turning to neither theory nor theology for wisdom, he instead simply cheers the prayers—and the nation—on. That prayer may be used for malign political or cultural ends, or may at times be evil, never makes it into his story. Which means there's another story waiting to be told.

Related Elsewhere:

One Nation Under God is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.

More information is available from Doubleday.

An article written by James P. Moore about prayer in America is available from The Boston Globe.

For book lovers, our 2006 CT book awards are available online, along with our book awards for 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1997, as well as our Books of the Twentieth Century. For other coverage or reviews, see our Books archive and the weekly Books & Culture Corner.

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