Mahatma Gandhi claimed to have never made even a minor decision
without prayer. Gandhi was known best as an Indian nationalist and
spiritual leader, but he was also a man of rare courage. He developed
the practice of nonviolent disobedience that eventually forced Great
Britain to grant India’s independence.
He spoke often about spirituality and prayer. He told about
traveling to South Africa to oppose a law there directed
expressly against Indians. His ship was met by a hostile mob and
he was advised to stay on board. They had come, he was told, with
the express intention of lynching him. Gandhi said of the
incident: “I went ashore nevertheless. I was stoned and kicked
and beaten a good deal; but I had not prayed for safety, but for
the courage to face the mob, and that courage came and did not
Gandhi preferred courage over safety. If accomplishing his goals put
him in the way of danger, then he wanted to face that danger bravely.
His prayer was to receive enough courage to do what needed to be done,
not to live his life free from harm.
Rabbi Harold Kushner speaks about such prayer. He reminds us that
“people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for
the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have
lost, very often find their prayers answered. Their prayers helped
them tap hidden reserves of faith and courage that were not available
to them before.”