Obama’s Western Wall Prayer

Posted by Katherine | July 29, 2008 – 2:05 pm
Prayers tucked into Western Wall
Prayers in Western Wall [beggs / Flickr]

The prayer that Obama slid into the Western Wall in Israel has been much debated since a Jewish seminary student and his friends filched it and passed it on to the media. Some people feel it was a piece of political polish written with the public eye in mind; others believe that something deeply personal has been desecrated.

These two bloggers suspect Obama may have crafted his prayer rather carefully, but they nonetheless comment on its face value. Donald Sensing is a retired Army officer making a second career as a Methodist pastor. He lives in Clarksville, Tennessee. On a blog that he shares with a rabbi in Israel and another former Army officer in Tennessee, he says that Obama’s use of hotel stationery is immaterial since “true prayer is written upon the heart, anyway.” He has no problem with Obama’s words and compares them to his own recent Western Wall prayer:

Is the prayer too self centered, “all about me,” as some have commented? Again, my prayer, which was much shorter, was almost exclusively about me. To go to the Wall, especially for the first time, is a very “focusing” event. It was, for me, a place of deep confession and contrition before God. […]

I would also note that there is not much room to cram a big piece of paper. I prayed with my lips much more than I wrote on the paper. Did Obama also? I cannot know, but must presume that if he approached the Wall with a modicum of faith, he did.

But the written record […] strikes me as a fully appropriate prayer, one that I would be more than willing to pray myself. There is not a single problematic sentiment. And it ends, “Make me an instrument of your will.” How can anyone possibly pray or wish otherwise?

Aaron Ross Powell does wish otherwise. “Make me an instrument of your will” is precisely the part that disturbs him deeply on the chance that God doesn’t exist:

[I]f Obama is acting through his own volition but believes he’s acting on the will of his god, then no amount of evidence and argumentation will sway him from his path. What is evidence in the face of omnicience? What is argumentation in the face of omnibenevolence? This is a terrifying prospect. And it’s one we’ve already rejected when the instrument of divine will is George W. Bush. Why should we give Obama a theological free pass when his professed believe is just as dangerous? Let us not forget that we are currently in a war, justified or not, with fanatics who themselves act in accordance with the will of their god.

It’s certainly a line into which you can read any degree of personal faith or fervent politicking.


  1. One Response to “Obama’s Western Wall Prayer”

  2. I should point out that the line is equally disturbing to me if the god he’s praying to does exist. Given what I know about Yahweh from his Book, I’d rather that none of our leaders follow His example. In a sense, if Obama is an instrument of Yahweh’s will, he’s not a leader but a pawn of a much bigger and more powerful leader. That’s not a happy thought.

    By Aaron Ross Powell on Jul 29, 2008

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