The History of Prayer in America
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Just in time for a resurgent theocracy, a celebration of prayer in American life.

America is a prayerful place, writes former Reagan administration staffer Moore (Business/Georgetown Univ.). Why, the Indians prayed all the time, even if their “conception of a higher power had been formed in isolation of revelations experienced by other civilizations.” It probably did not cheer those prayerful Native Americans to learn, as Moore writes, that Christopher Columbus “was a devout and religious man,” though Moore carefully admits that he had a few shortcomings, a piously murderous streak among them. Moore finds big-tent room for just about everyone in his pages; though students of early American history may wonder at his desire to recruit Ben Franklin into the Christian ranks, and though Thomas Jefferson would not hang his hat in any pietistic pew, Moore is quite right to note that his compatriots have been quick to turn to the heavens to seek justification for their mischief, authority for their various causes and assurance that they would all one day grow rich. Thus Conrad Hilton, the hotelier who, told by his practical-minded mother that “prayer is the best investment you’ll ever make,” preceded staff meetings and prefaced real-estate transactions with a prayer; thus Richard Nixon, who persuaded Henry Kissinger to put knees to carpet with him and ask God why they were about to be cast into darkness, or at least out of the White House; thus the current president, who likes nothing better than to lead a prayer breakfast and who is like most Americans, as Moore holds them to be: tolerant and empathetic, if “wary of those who do not share their religious views.”

Did Custer pray on his day of reckoning? We may never know. But Elvis probably did. A checklist, mostly, of various of the American faithful over the centuries, without much thesis other than that they believed.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-50403-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2005