A Prayer in Honor of Martin Luther King Day
Adapted by Rabbi Menachem Creditor from the original prayer written by Rabbi Lilly Kaufman for the Rabbinical Assembly in 2011
(the original is available at http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/story/prayer-honor-martin-luther-king-day?tp=205)
We know Dr. King would have faced hard facts today,
and he would have made sure we faced them right by his side.
He would know the number of children
going hungry in America this very minute.
He would know the number of our dead,
killed on soil far from home in war
and by gun violence in our country.
He would have had a thing or two to say about that.
Dr. King, your servant,
would speak truth about the astounding costs
of financial corruption, of institutionalized inequality;
he would have forced us to see the costs of "free trade"
and he would have kept our eyes on 27 million people today
still cursed to live in slavery.
He would have seen beyond the numbers,
to the faces of people.
He would be preaching now
a determined, measured, poetic, prophetic outrage.
He would be teaching by example
our civic duty of compassion,
the obligations of citizenship,
and decrying the grave danger of cynicism.
He would challenge the damaging new notion
that money equals speech
and that corporations could be considered people
in a democracy.
In our democracy.
When he gave his life for peoplesʼ rights
of speech, and assembly, and the vote,
it was for people
who had no money to pay for speech.
They knew speech as an unalienable right,
and their wealth of spirit sufficed.
Dr. King had faith in a few great things:
one was our essential American dream.
Not a middle-class American dream,
or an upper-class, a working-poor,
or an impoverished-class American dream.
But the defining American dream
which lifts up those bowed down.
The abiding American dream
of liberty and justice for all.
Dr. King asked of God in 1964:
... grant that we will always reach out
for that which is high,
realizing that we are made for the stars,
created for the everlasting,
born for eternity.
And he taught us in 1967:
Power at its best is love
implementing the demands of justice,
and justice at its best is power
that stands against love.
He would have believed and done all these great things, O Lord. But we have not lost our hope. Those dreams he dreamed are, and will always be, dreams worth dreaming. We lost our teacher so many years ago. But we have not lost his wisdom. We just need Your Help a little more this year, so that we can remember how to dream and how to act in Dr. King's spirit.
And so we pray:
May we learn, Dear Lord, to reach again for that which is high.
May we be blessed to pursue justice.
May we remember the power of our convictions to change the world.
And may we be blessed to stand - now and for eternity - with overflowing love.