Quotations about:
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No longer dream that human prayer
The will of Fate can overbear.

[Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 6, l. 176ff (6.176) [The Sybil] (29-19 BC) [tr. Conington (1866)]
    (Source)

Speaking to dead Palinurus. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Fate, and the dooming gods, are deaf to tears.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Cease to hope that the decrees of the gods are to be altered by prayers.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

          Cease to hope
By prayers to bend the destinies divine.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

Cease to hope prayers may bend the decrees of heaven.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Hope not the Fates of very God to change by any prayer.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Hope not by prayer to bend the Fates' decree.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 51, l. 454]

Hope not by prayer to change the laws of Heaven!
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Cease to dream that heaven's decrees may be turned aside by prayer.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

          Give up the hope
That fate is changed by praying.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Give up this hope that the course of fate can be swerved by prayer.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Leave any hope that prayer can turn aside
the gods' decrees.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), ll. 495-96]

Abandon hope by prayer to make the gods
Change their decrees.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), ll. 506-7]

You must cease to hope that the Fates of the gods can be altered by prayers.
[tr. West (1990)]

Cease to hope that divine fate can be tempered by prayer.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Stop hoping that the gods' decrees
Can be bent with prayer.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

          Hope no more
the gods’ decrees can be brushed aside by prayer,
[tr. Fagles (2006), l. 428-29]

As if the gods' fates could be bent by prayer.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 23-Nov-22 | Last updated 23-Nov-22
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More quotes by Virgil

The time spent in praying to God, might be better employed in deserving well from him. Men think praying the easier Task of the two, and therefore choose it.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Religion,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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You gods who hold dominion over spirits,
you voiceless Shades; you, Phlegethon and Chaos,
immense and soundless regions of the night:
allow me to retell what I was told;
allow me by your power to disclose
things buried in the dark and deep of earth!

[Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes,
Et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,
Sit mihi fas audita loqui: sit numine vestro
Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 6, l. 264ff (6.264-267) (29-19 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 350ff]
    (Source)

The author, asking the spirits of the Underworld permission to tell of what happened to Aeneas there. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Ye realms, yet unrevealed to human sight,
Ye gods who rule the regions of the night,
Ye gliding ghosts, permit me to relate
The mystic wonders of your silent state!
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Ye gods, to whom the empire of ghosts belong, and ye silent shades, and Chaos, and Phlegethon, places where silence reigns around in night! permit me to utter the secrets heard; may I by your divine will disclose things buried in deep earth and darkness.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Eternal Powers, whose sway controls
The empire of departed souls,
Ye too, throughout whose wide domain
Blank Night and grisly Silence reign,
Hoar Chaos, awful Phlegethon,
What ear has heard let tongue make known:
Vouchsafe your sanction, nor forbid
To utter things in darkness hid.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Ye deities, whose empire is of souls!
Ye silent Shades, -- Chaos and Phlegethon!
Ye wide dumb spaces stretching through the night!
Be it lawful that I speak what I have heard,
And by your will divine unfold the things
Buried in gloomy depths of deepest earth!
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 325ff]

Gods who are sovereign over souls! silent ghosts, and Chaos and Phlegethon, the wide dumb realm of night! as I have heard, so let me tell, and according to your will unfold things sunken deep under earth in gloom.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

O Gods, who rule the ghosts of men, O silent shades of death,
Chaos and Phlegethon, hushed lands that lie beneath the night!
Let me speak now, for I have heard: O aid me with your might
To open things deep sunk in earth, and mid the darkness blent.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

O silent Shades, and ye, the powers of Hell,
Chaos and Phlegethon, wide realms of night,
What ear hath heard, permit the tongue to tell,
High matter, veiled in darkness, to indite.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 37, l. 325ff]

Ye gods! who rule the spirits of the dead!
Ye voiceless shades and silent lands of night!
O Phlegethon! O Chaos! let my song,
If it be lawful, in fit words declare
What I have heard; and by your help divine
Unfold what hidden things enshrouded lie
In that dark underworld of sightless gloom.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Ye gods, who hold the domain of spirits! You voiceless shades! Thou, Chaos, and thou, Phlegethon, ye broad, silent tracts of night! Suffer me to tell what I have heard; suffer me of your grace to unfold secrets buried in the depths and darkness of the earth!
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Gods of the world of spirit, silent shadows,
Chaos and Phlegethon, areas of silence,
Wide realms of dark, may it be right and proper
To tell what I have heard, this revelation
Of matters buried deep in earth and darkness!
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Chaos, and Phlegethon! O mute wide leagues of Nightland! --
Grant me to tell what I have heard! With your assent
May I reveal what lies deep in the gloomof the Underworld!
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Gods who rule the ghosts; all silent shades;
And Chaos and infernal Fiery Stream,
And regions of wide night without a sound,
May it be right to tell what I have heard,
May it be right, and fitting, by your will,
That I describe the deep world sunk in darkness
Under the earth.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 363ff]

You gods who rule the world of the spirits, you silent shades, and Chaos, and Phlegethon, you dark and silent wastes, let it be right for me to tell what I have been told, let it be with your divine blessing that I reveal what is hidden deep in the mists beneath the earth.
[tr. West (1990)]

You gods, whose is the realm of spirits, and you, dumb shadows,
and Chaos, Phlegethon, wide silent places of the night,
let me tell what I have heard: by your power, let me
reveal things buried in the deep earth, and the darkness.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Gods of the world below, silent shades,
Chaos and Phlegethon, soundless tracts of Night --
Grant me the grace to tell what I have heard,
And lay bare the mysteries in the earth's abyss.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

          You gods
who govern the realm of ghosts, you voiceless shades and Chaos --
you, the River of Fire, you far-flung regions hushed in night --
lend me the right to tell what I have heard, lend your power
to reveal the world immersed in the misty depths of earth.
[tr. Fagles (2006), l. 302ff]

O gods who govern souls, O silent shades, Chaos, Phlegethon, and mute expanses of the night, let it be right to tell what I have heard, let me show what's buried deep in earth and darkness.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 18-Oct-22 | Last updated 18-Oct-22
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The Almighty is a wonderful handicapper: He will not give us everything.

Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) British socialite, author, wit [Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess Oxford and Asquith; Margot Oxford; née Tennant]
Autobiography, Vol. 1, ch. 8 (1920)
    (Source)
 
Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 19-Sep-22
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You’re running away — from me? Oh, I pray you
by these tears, by the faith in your right hand —
what else have I left myself in all my pain? —
by our wedding vows, the marriage we began,
if I deserve some decency from you now,
if anything mine has ever won your heart,
pity a great house about to fall, I pray you,
if prayers have any place — reject this scheme of yours!

[Mene fugis? Per ego has lacrimas dextramque tuam te
(Quando aliud mihi jam miserae nihil ipsa reliqui)
Per connubia nostra, per inceptos Hymenaeos;
Si bene quid de te merui, fuit aut tibi quidquam
Dulce meum, miserere domus labentis, et istam,
Oro, si quis adhuc precibus locus, exue mentem.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 314ff (3.314-319) [Dido] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), l. 390ff]
    (Source)

Dido begging Aeneas not to desert her. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

See whom you fly! am I the foe you shun?
Now, by those holy vows, so late begun,
By this right hand, (since I have nothing more
To challenge, but the faith you gave before;)
I beg you by these tears too truly shed,
By the new pleasures of our nuptial bed;
If ever Dido, when you most were kind,
Were pleasing in your eyes, or touch'd your mind;
By these my pray'rs, if pray'rs may yet have place,
Pity the fortunes of a falling race.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Wilt thou fly from me? By these tears, by that right hand, (since I have left nothing else to myself now, a wretch forlorn,) by our nuptial rights, by our conjugal loves begun; if I have deserved any thanks at they hand, or if ever you saw any charms in me, take pity, I implore thee, on a falling race, and, if yet there is any room for prayers, lay aside your resolution.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

From me you fly! Ah! let me crave,
By these poor tears, that hand you gave --
Since, parting with my woman's pride,
My madness leaves me nought beside --
By that our wedlock, by the rite
Which, but begun, could yet unite,
If e'er my kindness held you bound,
If e'er in me your joy you found,
Look on this falling house, and still,
If prayer can touch you, change your will.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Fly'st thou from me?
Ah, by these tears, and by this hand of thine
(Since to me, wretched, nothing else is left).
By our marriage tie, our nuptial rites begun.
If any favor I deserved of thee,
Or if in anything I have been sweet
And dear to thee, pity this falling house!
I do beseech thee, if there yet be room
For entreaty, change, ah, change that fixed intent!
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 406ff]

Fliest thou from me? me who by these tears and thine own hand beseech thee, since naught else, alas! have I kept mine own—by our union and the marriage rites preparing; if I have done thee any grace, or aught of mine hath once been sweet in thy sight,—pity our sinking house, and if there yet be room for prayers, put off this purpose of thine.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Yea, me thou fleest. O by these tears, by that right hand of thine,
Since I myself have left myself unhappy nought but this,
And by our bridal of that day and early wedding bliss,
If ever I were worthy thanks, if sweet in aught I were,
Pity a falling house! If yet be left a space for prayer,
O then I pray thee put away this mind of evil things!
[tr. Morris (1900)]

"Me dost thou fly? O, by these tears, thy hand
Late pledged, since madness leaves me naught beside,
By lovers' vows and wedlock's sacred band,
Scarce knit and now too soon to be untied;
If aught were pleasing in a new-won bride,
If sweet the memory of our marriage day,
O by these prayers -- if place for prayer abide --
In mercy put that cruel mind away.
Pity a falling house, now hastening to decay.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 40, l. 352ff]

Is it from me
thou takest flight? O, by these flowing tears,
by thine own plighted word (for nothing more
my weakness left to miserable me),
by our poor marriage of imperfect vow,
if aught to me thou owest, if aught in me
ever have pleased thee -- O, be merciful
to my low-fallen fortunes! I implore,
if place be left for prayer, thy purpose change!
[tr. Williams (1910)]

From me dost thou flee? By these tears and thy right hand, I pray thee -- since naught else, alas! have I left myself -- by our marriage, by the wedlock begun, if ever I deserved well of thee, or if aught of mine has been sweet in thy sight, pity a falling house, and if yet there be any room for prayers, put away this purpose of thine.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

I am the one you flee from: true? I beg you
By my own tears, and your right hand -- (I have nothing
Else left my wretchedness) -- by the beginnings
Of marriage, wedlock, what we had, if ever
I served you well, if anything of mine
Was ever sweet to you, I beg you, pity
A falling house; if there is room for pleading
As late as this, I plead, put off that purpose.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Am I your reason for going? By these tears, by the hand you gave me --
They are all I have left, today, in my misery -- I implore you,
And by our union of hearts, by our marriage hardly begun,
If I have ever helped you at all, if anything
About me pleased you, be sad for our broken home, forgo
Your purpose, I beg you, unless it's too late for prayers of mine!
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

Do you flee me? By tears, by your right hand --
This sorry self is left with nothing else --
by wedding, by the marriage we began,
if I did anything deserving of you
or anything of mine was sweet to you,
take pity on a fallen house, put off
your plan, I pray -- if there is still place for prayers.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 422ff]

Do you go to get away from me? I beg you,
By these tears, by your own right hand, since I
Have left my wretched self nothing but that --
Yes, by the marriage that we entered on,
If ever I did well and you were grateful
Or found some sweetness in a gift from me,
Have pity now on a declining house!
Put this plan by, I beg you, if a prayer
Is not yet out of place.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 429ff]

Is it me you are running away from? I beg you, by these tears, by the pledge you gave me with your own right hand -- I hav enothing else left me now in my misery -- I beg you by our union, by the marriage we have begun -- if I have deserved any kindness from you, if you have ever loved anything about me, pity my house that is falling around me, and I implore you, if it is not too late for prayers, give up this plan of yours.
[tr. West (1990)]

Is it me you are fleeing?
By these tears, I beg you, by your right hand,
Which is all I have left, by your wedding vows,
Still so fresh -- if I have ever done anything
To deserve your thanks, if there is anything in me
That you found sweet, pity a house destined to fall,
And if there is still room for prayers, I beg you,
Please change your mind.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Is it me you run from? Byu my tears and your promise (nothing else is left me in my grief), by our wedding, by the marriage we've begun, if I deserve anything from you, if you found me at all pleasing, pity my poor home, I beg, if there's still time to beg.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 27-Jul-22 | Last updated 27-Jul-22
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But, oh, how little they know, the omniscient seers.
What good are prayers and shrines to a person mad with love?
The flame keeps gnawing into her tender marrow hour by hour
and deep in her heart the silent wound lives on.
Dido burns with love — the tragic queen.

[Heu vatum ignarae mentes! quid vota furentem,
quid delubra iuvant? Est mollis flamma medullas
interea, et tacitum vivit sub pectore volnus.
Uritur infelix Dido ….]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 65ff (4.65-68) (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), l. 82ff]
    (Source)

Of lovesick Dido. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

What priestly rites, alas! what pious art,
What vows avail to cure a bleeding heart!
A gentle fire she feeds within her veins,
Where the soft god secure in silence reigns.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Alas, how ignorant the minds of seers! what can prayers, what can temples, avail a raging lover? The gentle flame preys all the while upon her vitals and the secret wound rankles in her breast. Unhappy dido burns ....
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Alas! but seers are blind to day:
Can vows, can sacrifice allay
     A frantic lover's smart?
The very marrow of her frame
Is turning all the while to flame,
     The wound is at her heart.
Unhappy Dido! all ablaze ....
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Alas, the ignorance
Of all prophetic lore! What vows, what shrines
Can help her raging love? The soft flame burns,
Meanwhile, the marrow of her life; the wound
Lives silently, and rankles 'neath her breast.
The unhappy Dido [...] with burning bosom ....
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 85ff]

Ah, witless souls of soothsayers! how may vows or shrines help her madness? all the while the subtle flame consumes her inly, and deep in her breast the wound is silent and alive.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Woe's me! the idle mind of priests! what prayer, what shrine avails
The wild with love!—and all the while the smooth flame never fails
To eat her heart: the silent wound lives on within her breast:
Unhappy Dido burneth up ....
[tr. Morris (1900), l. 65ff]

Blind seers, alas! what art
To calm her frenzy, now hath vow or shrine?
Deep in her marrow feeds the tender smart,
Unseen, the silent wound is festering in her heart.
Poor Dido burns ....
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 9-10; l. 71ff]

How blind the hearts of prophets be! Alas!
Of what avail be temples and fond prayers
to change a frenzied mind? Devouring ever,
love's fire burns inward to her bones; she feels
quick in her breast the viewless, voiceless wound.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Ah, blind souls of seers! Of what avail are vows or shrines to one wild with love? All the while the flame devours her tender heart-strings, and deep in her breast lives the silent wound. Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Alas, poor blind interpreters! What woman
In love is helped by offerings or altars?
Soft fire consumes the marrow-bones, the silent
Wound grows, deep in the heart.
Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Ah, little the soothsayers know! What value have vows or shrines
For a woman wild with passion, the while love's flame eats into
Her gentle flesh and love's wound works silently in her breast?
So burns the ill-starred Dido ....
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

But oh the ignorance of the augurs! How
can vows and altars help one wild with love?
Meanwhile the supple flame devours her marrow;
within her breast the silent wound lives on.
Unhappy Dido burns ....
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 86ff]

Alas, what darkened minds have soothsayers!
What good are shrines and vows to maddened lovers?
The inward fire eats the soft marrow away,
And the internal wound bleeds on in silence.
Unlucky Dido, burning ...
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 91ff]

But priests, as we know, are ignorant. What use are prayers and shrines to a passionate woman? The flame was eating the soft marrow of her bones and the wound lived quietly under her breast. Dido was on fire with love ....
[tr. West (1990)]

But what do prophets know? How much can vows,
Or shrines, help a raging heart? Meanwhile the flame
Eats her soft marrow, and the wound lives,
Silent beneath her breast. Dido is burning.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

But what can prophets known? What use are vows and shrines to the obsessed? The flame devoured her soft marrow; the silent wound throbbed in her heart. Unhappy Dido burned.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

 
Added on 6-Jul-22 | Last updated 8-Jul-22
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The prayer of each man from his soul must be his and his alone. This is the genius of the First Amendment. If there is anything clear in the First Amendment, it is that the right of the people to pray in their own way is not be controlled by the election return.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 425 (1962) [extemporaneous remarks]
    (Source)

Added by Black during his reading of the majority opinion, and not part of the written ruling. The passage follows, "It is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government."
 
Added on 9-Jun-22 | Last updated 2-Feb-23
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There can, of course, be no doubt that New York’s program of daily classroom invocation of God’s blessings as prescribed in the Regents’ prayer is a religious activity. […] We think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 424-425 (1962) [majority opinion]
    (Source)

This case ruled that organized school prayer was unconstitutional. The prayer in question, to be recited by each class before their teacher each day, read: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."
 
Added on 2-Jun-22 | Last updated 2-Feb-23
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The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Morals, Part 1, ch. 7 (1929)
    (Source)
 
Added on 23-Aug-21 | Last updated 23-Aug-21
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FAUSTUS: Blasphemy and prayer are one. Both assert the existence of a superior power. The first, however, with conviction.

David Mamet (b. 1947) American writer, playwright, director
Faustus (2004)
    (Source)
 
Added on 7-Jul-21 | Last updated 7-Jul-21
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Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Snuff (2011)
 
Added on 13-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Believe me, it is not length of time spent in prayer that brings a soul benefit: when we spend our time in good works, it is a great help to us and a better and quicker preparation for the enkindling of our love than many hours of meditation.

Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) Spanish mystic, poet, philosopher, saint
Foundations, ch. 5 “On Prayer” [tr. Peers]
    (Source)

Alternative translations:

And let souls believe me that it is not the length of time spent in prayer that benefits one; when the time is spent as well in good works, it is a help in preparing the soul for the enkindling of love. The soul may thereby be better prepared in a very short time than through many hours of reflection.
[tr. Kavanaugh / Rodriguez]

And, believe me, it is not the length of time which makes a soul advance in prayer, but when being called to other works by obedience and charity, they do these duties well, then (as I have said) the soul advances so much, that in a very short time she is better prepared for enkindling within her the love of God, than (wanting in those works) she would be by spending many hours in meditation.
[tr. Dalton]

But believe me, what helps a soul to advance is not the spending long hours in prayer, but it is a great help to be employed also in active works, so that the soul is better disposed to enkindle its love in a very short space of time than by spending many hours in meditation.
[tr. Mason]
 
Added on 5-Mar-21 | Last updated 5-Mar-21
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Lord have pity upon all men.
To those who are in darkness
Be their light.
To those who are in despair
Be their Hope.
To those who are suffering
Be their Healing.
To those who are fearful
Be their Courage.
To those who are defeated
Be their Victory.
To those who are dying
Be their Life.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“Prayer for All Those Who Work or Fight in the War”
    (Source)

One of several prayers found in Roosevelt's wallet after her death. Author unknown. Another prayer found there:

Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that somewhere someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask, "Am I worth dying for?"
 
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
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Three kinds of souls, three prayers:
1) I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.
2) Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
3) Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
Report to Greco, Epigraph (1965) [tr. Bien (1973)]
    (Source)

In the Epilogue, this is repeated: "There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers. One: I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me lest I rot. Two: Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break. Three: Overdraw me, and who cares if I break!"
 
Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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The worship of God is a Duty; the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful; but, if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as too many do, it is as if a Tree should Value itself on being water’d and putting forth Leaves, tho’ it never produc’d any Fruit.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
    (Source)
 
Added on 22-Oct-20 | Last updated 22-Oct-20
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The Faith you mention has doubtless its use in the World. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavour to lessen it in any Man. But I wish it were more productive of good Works, than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Publick Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing; performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, filled with Flatteries and Compliments, despis’d even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
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Behold me, Lucius; moved by thy prayers, I appear to thee; I, who am Nature, the parent of all things, the mistress of all the elements, the primordial offspring of time, the supreme among Divinities, the queen of departed spirits, the first of the celestials, and the uniform manifestation of the Gods and Goddesses; who govern by my nod the luminous heights of heaven, the salubrious breezes of the ocean, and the anguished silent realms of the shades below: whose one sole divinity the whole orb of the earth venerates under a manifold form, with different rites, and under a variety of appellations. Hence the Phrygians, that primæval race, call me Pessinuntica, the Mother of the Gods; the Aborigines of Attica, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, in their sea-girt isle, Paphian Venus; the arrow-bearing Cretans, Diana Dictynna; the three-tongued Sicilians, Stygian Proserpine; and the Eleusinians, the ancient Goddess Ceres. Some call me Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, and others Rhamnusia. But those who are illumined by the earliest rays of that divinity, the Sun, when he rises, the Æthopians, the Arii, and the Egyptians, so skilled in ancient learning, worshipping me with ceremonies quite appropriate, call me by my true name, Queen Isis. Behold, then commiserating your calamities, I am come to thy assistance; favoring and propitious I am come. Away, then, with tears; leave your lamentations; cast off all sorrow. Soon, through my providence, shall the day of deliverance shine upon you. Listen, therefore, attentively to these my instructions.

[En adsum tuis commota, Luci, precibus, rerum naturae parens, elementorum omnium domina, saeculorum progenies initialis, summa numinum, regina manium, prima caelitum, deorum dearumque facies uniformis, quae caeli luminosa culmina, maris salubria flamina, inferum deplorata silentia nutibus meis dispenso: cuius numen unicum multiformi specie, ritu vario, nomine multiiugo totus veneratur orbis. Inde primigenii Phryges Pessinuntiam deum Matrem, hinc autochthones Attici Cecropeiam Minervam, illinc fluctuantes Cyprii Paphiam Venerem, Cretes sagittiferi Dictynnam Dianam, Siculi trilingues Stygiam Proserpinam, Eleusini vetustam deam Cererem, Iunonem alii, Bellonam alii, Hecatam isti, Rhamnusiam illi, et qui nascentis dei solis inchoantibus illustrantur radiis Aethiopes utrique priscaque doctrina pollentes Aegyptii, caerimoniis me propriis percolentes, appellant vero nomine reginam Isidem. Adsum tuos miserata casus, adsum favens et propitia. Mitte iam fletus et lamentationes omitte, depelle maerorem: iam tibi providentia mea illucescit dies salutaris. Ergo igitur imperiis istis meis animum intende sollicitum.]

Apuleius (c. 124 - c. 170 AD) Numidian writer, philosopher, rhetorician [Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis]
Metamorphoses [Metamorphoseon] (The Golden Ass) Book 11, ch. 47 [tr. Bohn’s Library (1866)]
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Alt. trans. [tr. Adlington (1566)]: "Behold Lucius I am come, thy weeping and prayers hath mooved mee to succour thee. I am she that is the naturall mother of all things, mistresse and governesse of all the Elements, the initiall progeny of worlds, chiefe of powers divine, Queene of heaven! the principall of the Gods celestiall, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the ayre, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be diposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customes and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods: the Athenians, Minerva: the Cyprians, Venus: the Candians, Diana: the Sicilians Proserpina: the Eleusians, Ceres: some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate: and principally the Æthiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Ægyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustome to worship mee, doe call mee Queene Isis. Behold I am come to take pitty of thy fortune and tribulation, behold I am present to favour and ayd thee, leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away all thy sorrow, for behold the healthfull day which is ordained by my providence, therefore be ready to attend to my commandement."

The original Latin

Sometimes referenced as Chapter 5 within Book 11.
 
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Man proposes, and God disposes.

[Ordina l’uomo e Dio dispone.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 46, st. 35 (1532)
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I don’t kno as i want tew bet enny money, and giv odds, on the man, who iz alwus anxious tew pray out loud, every chance he kan git.

[I don’t know as I want to bet any money, and give odds, on the man who is always anxious to pray out loud, every chance he can get.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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“Praying for particular things,” said I, “always seems to me like advising God how to run the world. Wouldn’t it be wiser to assume that He knows best?”

“On the same principle,” said he, “I suppose you never ask a man next to you to pass the salt, because God knows best whether you ought to have salt or not. And I suppose you never take an umbrella, because God knows best whether you ought to be wet or dry.”

“That’s quite different,” I protested.

“I don’t see why,” said he. “The odd thing is that He should let us influence the course of events at all. But since He lets us do it in one way, I don’t see why He shouldn’t let us do it in the other.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
God in the Dock, Part 2, ch. 7 “Scraps,” #4 (1970)
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Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) English divine and hymnist
“Abide with Me” (1847)
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In meditation we should not look for a “method” or “system,” but cultivate an “attitude,” and “outlook”: faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, and joy.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) French-American religious and writer [a.k.a. Fr. M. Louis]
Contemplative Prayer (1973)
 
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I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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On the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban school-led prayer.
 
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Be able to be alone. Loose not the advantage of Solitude, and the Society of thy self, nor be only content, but delight to be alone and single with Omnipresency.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 9 (1716)
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O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!

(Other Authors and Sources)
Anonymous Soldier, Battle of Blenheim (31 Aug 1704)

Also given as "Oh, God, if there is one, save my soul, if I have one."

The original printed source for this quote appears to be in William King (1685-1763), Political and Literary Anecdotes of His Own Times (1761), who quotes William Wyndham (1688-1740) claiming it "the shortest prayer he had ever heard," given by a common soldier prior to the Battle of Blenheim.

Also attributed to:
  • Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), without citation, supposedly on his deathbed, sometimes with the final phrase "... from hell, if there be a hell!"
  • Ernest Renan (1823-1892) as "The Agnostic's Prayer" or "Prayer of a Skeptic [Prière d'un sceptique]" ("Ô Seigneur, s'il y a un Seigneur; sauvez mon âme, si j'ai une âme.")
  • Frederick the Great (1712-1786), in M. Goldsmith, Frederick the Great (1929), without citation.
  • Voltaire (1694-1778), without citation.
 
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The Woman tempted me — and tempts me still!
Lord god, I pray You that she ever will!

Edmund Vance Cooke (1866-1932) Canadian poet
“Adam”
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It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother — the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Screwtape Letters (1942)
 
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Laborare est orare. By the Puritan moralist the ancient maxim is repeated with a new and intenser significance. The labor which he idealizes is not simply a requirement imposed by nature, or a punishment for the sin of Adam. It is itself a kind of ascetic discipline, more rigorous than that demanded of any order of mendicants — a discipline imposed by the will of God, and to be undergone, not in solitude, but in the punctual discharge of secular duties. It is not merely an economic means, to be laid aside when physical needs have been satisfied. It is a spiritual end, for in it alone can the soul find health, and it must be continued as an ethical duty long after it has ceased to be a material necessity.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4 (1926)
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The Latin means, "To work is to pray."
 
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But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (3 Jul 1776)
 
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Lady Maccon cast her hands heavenward, although there was no one up there for her to appeal to. It was an accepted fact that preternaturals had no spiritual recourse, only pragmatism. Alexia didn’t mind; the latter had often gotten her out of sticky situations, whereas the former seemed highly unreliable when one was in a bind.

Gail Carriger (b. 1976) American archaeologist, author [pen name of Tofa Borregaard]
Heartless (2011)
 
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Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled. Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still he was never a whit abashed, but said, “If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essays, “Of Boldness” (1625)
 
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
With Open Hands (1972)
 
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So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“The Vatican Rag,” That Was the Year That Was (1965)
 
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Prayer is not a pious decoration of life but the breath of human existence.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
The Wounded Healer (1972)
 
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I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.

Douglass - prayed with my legs - wist_info quote

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
(Attributed)

Mentioned frequently as being part of his earlier speeches, but unsourced. Also found as "failed to see the slightest scintillation of an answer until I prayed with my legs."
 
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The trouble about God is that he is like a person who never acknowledges one’s letters and so, in time, one comes to the conclusion either that he does not exist or that you have got the address wrong. I admitted that it was of great moment: but what was the use of going on dispatching fervent messages — say to Edinburgh — if they all came back through the dead letter office: nay more, if you couldn’t even find Edinburgh on the map.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Warren Lewis (1 Jul 1921)
 
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He preaches well that lives well, quoth Sancho; that’s all the Divinity I understand.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 2, Book 3, ch. 29 (1615) [tr. Motteux & Ozell (1743)]
 
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Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
Phaedrus, 279 [tr. Jowett (1894)]
 
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Teach me to feel another’s Woe;
To hide the Fault I see;
That Mercy I to others show,
That Mercy show to me.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
“The Universal Prayer,” 9 (1738)
 
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The believer sings louder than he speaks.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” #33
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Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; — one step enough for me.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
“Lead, Kindly Light” (16 Jun 1833)
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You can’t pray a lie.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 31 (1884)
 
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I have never made but one prayer to God, and very short one: “O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Letter to M. Damilaville (16 May 1767)
 
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When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
An Ideal Husband, Act 2 (1895)
 
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An act of goodness surpasses a thousand prayers.

Sa'adi (1184-1283/1291?) Persian poet [a.k.a. Sa'di, Moslih Eddin Sa'adi, Mushrif-ud-Din Abdullah, Muslih-ud-Din Mushrif ibn Abdullah, Mosleh al-Din Saadi Shirazi, Shaikh Mosslehedin Saadi Shirazi]
The Maxims of Sa’di, 1 [tr. Nakosteen (1977)]
 
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To spend more time in learning is better than spending more time in praying.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
The Sayings of Muhammed, #277 [tr. Al-Suhrawardy (1941)]
 
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If you leap into a Well, Providence is not bound to fetch you out.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #2795 (1732)
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Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce … Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.

Sarah Waters (b. 1966) Welsh novelist
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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“There are no atheists in foxholes” isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.

James Morrow (b. 1947) American author, humanist
Towing Jehovah, Part 2, “Famine” (1994)
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Paraphrase of this passage: "'There are no atheists in foxholes, people say, and it's so true, it's so fucking true.' Cassie swallowed, savoring the aftertaste of the Cheerios. 'No ... no, I'm being too hard on myself. That maxim, it's not an argument against atheism -- it's an argument against foxholes.'"
 
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Piety practised in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of heaven, and delight those unbodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men; but it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendour of beneficence.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Adventurer, #126 “Praises of Solitude”
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The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive their flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love, “Intermission” (1973)
 
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Quite often, people who mean well will inquire of me whether I ever ask myself, in the face of my diseases, “Why me?” I never do. If I ask “Why me?” as I am assaulted by heart disease and AIDS, I must ask “Why me?” about my blessings, and question my right to enjoy them. The morning after I won Wimbledon in 1975 I should have asked “Why me?” and doubted that I deserved the victory. If I don’t ask “Why me?” after my victories, I cannot ask “Why me?” after my setbacks and disasters.

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) American athlete
Days of Grace, ch. 10 (1993)

Often paraphrased (or used elsewhere by Ashe) as "If I were to say 'God, why me?' about the bad things, then I should have said 'God, why me?' about the good things that happened in my life."

 
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Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say — that the people’s religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. Under that Amendment’s prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 429-30 (1962) [majority opinion]
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I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises [….]  But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe, a day of fasting and praying. That is, I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? […] Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercise of his constituents.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Samuel Miller (23 Jan 1808)
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On refusing to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation during his presidency.
 
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