Prayer in Implementing Social Policy

  • Bill DudleyEmail author
Living reference work entry


Moral Standard Servant Leader Good Good Religious Liberty Divine Providence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Objective Moral Standard

Merriam-Webster ( defines moral as “considered right and good by most people: agreeing with a standard of right behavior.” When combined with an object (God) from which the standard is provided there is a reference point to where authority, integrity, and morality combine in governance over the subjective will of man.


The ultimate goal of social policy is the mitigation of an identified need for the better good of the people. Deciding what social need is warranted and then legislated, funded, and supported must be validated against some sort of standard. This work assumes some moral standard in each and every endeavor. At issue is the diverse moral standard among society that elicits division and animosity. So there must be an objective moral standard that is the guideline for setting policy. If there is a moral standard, then there must be an entity that provided the wisdom, intent, and applicability of the standard. In applying that standard there must be an acknowledgment of the provider and an attempt in knowing and following the wisdom of that origin. There must be a relationship that is established with the provider, which this endeavor submits as God, which enables the public servant to captures God’s wisdom and intent in meeting the societal need. That relationship is established and maintained via communication in which the vehicle is prayer. While it is evident in a diverse society that some will vehemently oppose that supposition, governments have throughout history sought that very relationship.

The purpose of this entry is not to determine if God exists. Rather, the concern here is the role prayer plays in the implementation of social policy. Prayer is examined in its personal form (through devotion), its professional form (through servant leadership), and its public form (in practice, perception, and provision).

Why the Discussion?

Diversity has become a key principle, rightly so, in which policy makers must consider when enacting or developing agents of delivery to meet an acknowledged need. However, within that framework of diversity are distinct and unique culture and belief systems that come in conflict with that very diversity. So how is the decision, to implement policy, decided when those diverse systems of belief and culture conflict in purpose and scope? Is it majority wins? Some would think. Yet many hot topic policy decisions have been made that support only the smaller fraction of some members of society. Is it monetarily driven? In some cases and in others it is a political power move. Other examples could be cited but not necessary to the argument. Is it always the greater good of society that many would like to cite as justification? If it is, who decides what is good? Again, what is the moral standard?

Currently there is contention in respect to the intention of religious liberty mandates in numerous countries. There are many that believe religious influence in any way has no right or benefit in the public domain. There is strong sentiment from numerous organizations to have prayer of any kind banned in the governmental platform. This becomes interesting as countries where this struggle rises to notice are demographically religious by large percentages. Those in that religious demographic believe in prayer for wisdom and guidance. Do the wants of a substantially less numbered constituency culture trump the needs or wants of the much larger demographic? Every policy presents a solution that has winners and losers. Who decides? The answer of course is not easy.

Within this battlefield of opinion are curious ethical irregularities. Is it permissible for presidents, kings, and leaders to call for prayer in each and every disaster, whether they are by natural divine providence, or by psychopaths, intent on causing harm? No matter the political party there are calls for prayer and condolences. Many of those same legislators and leaders reject the premise of the need or utility of prayer in conducting daily governmental tasking. When dignitaries or celebrity lives have come to their end, these same leaders send prayers and best wishes to the families in very public declarations.

In the very founding documents of the United States, numerous references to the Almighty are evident. Numerous early monuments of the capital city declare commandments, writings, and scripture on the institutional building architecture. Currently a small constituency seeks to have those inscriptions removed and prayer banned in those buildings once free to all ideals. The argument may be that we need to remain neutral. That is a very subjective term, for no one is really neutral in any position. Even those that call for tolerance and diversity seek heavily to have their opinion (belief structure) as the statement of truth. Every policy-maker comes from a paradigm of belief that directs their worldview and subsequent action.

When deciding on actions affecting those large religious (believers in an Almighty) demographics, why is it so wrong to invoke the wisdom of the Almighty? When the Almighty is left out the standard then is man who has proven to fall short time and time again. When moral and ethical decisions are being made, why is it wrong to involve the One that instituted those moral and ethical standards? Does diversity and tolerance demand the abstinence of religious thought and action? If so, is that really diversity and tolerance in action? While no one religious dogma should control or coerce others into subjection, the open acknowledgment of the Almighty on occasions of needed wisdom should not be excluded.

Prayer That Is Personal

Relationships are at the heart of every endeavor of life. The family relationship is one of utmost importance and has a dramatic influence on all other relationships. The interaction, cooperation, communication, and compromise that are needed in the family relationship guide and direct the further expansion of relationship into the community. Each of the character traits of the individual are molded and reinforced within the family structure. One of the more important skills learned within the family context is conflict resolution. How does the individual face relationship struggles, health issues, financial hardship, or the myriad of other challenges of daily life? There must be a developed sense of direction and purpose that leads to effective problem-solving.

The direction and purpose of an individual has a foundational base in the moral principles displayed and promoted within the family structure. Yet, there must be an authority for the moral fiber of the relationships. For a large demographic, their morals, purpose, and direction are learned and reflected via the personal relationship with the Almighty. Certainly the parental leadership has a huge influence, but belief in an Almighty cannot be coerced. A behavior model can be coerced but character and internal morality cannot be forced. It is the result of experience and evidence that the individual prioritizes via relationship with the Almighty. As evidence is presented in the divine documents, and experienced thru principles validated in real world situations, it is the personal communication with the Almighty and the witnessed response that builds the trust and reliability on the Almighty.

Altruism and the desire to serve others is not a natural predisposition. The opposite is actually the natural desire. Most would have to admit the selfishness and self-adoration that exists within. That is overcome only as the individual realizes there is a greater purpose to serve. The personal development of that purpose comes through the vehicle of prayer as the wisdom, love, and direction of the Almighty is sought. Volumes have been written on individuals who once sought selfish gain, but whose heart was turned by a relationship with the Almighty that resulted in a passion to impact and serve others that had worldwide change and utility for many. Mother Theresa and her dedication to ease the plight of the poor, William Wilberforce and his passion to have slavery abolished, the Salvation Army and the millions touched by their generosity all have their roots in an individual who sought the wisdom, love, and direction of the Almighty as a result of the touch upon their heart through the purposed communication provided through prayer. Prayers that were done in secret, tears that were shed, sorrows that were shared, and hopes that were expressed were all done in the privacy of the home. It was the personal activation of faith that produced the changes. It was the personal, prayerful relationship that was built with the Almighty, unseen by the masses, which impacted the world. Had these individuals chosen to remain private in their purpose, and withheld the wisdom provided through the hours of prayer, many a life would have remained in despair waiting on relief for their sorrow and pain.

Purpose, character, and initiative are personal and developed with family, friends, community, and the relationship with the Almighty. Those relationships spark the drive for individuals to seek public service and influence in order to participate in the change for the greater good of society. It is the personal prayers that lead to that expression in the professional workplace through leadership and involvement in policy advocacy.

Prayer That Is Professional

A glance into the biography of a stellar achiever or one that has presented a legacy of superior service will reveal strength in leadership and an acknowledgment of personal integrity. While leadership is developed in certain roles within the family context, much more is learned and honed in the execution outside the family unit. Yet the character and moral development resultant from prayer and the family relationship is the foundation that many leadership qualities are built upon. Servant leadership principles find their success in individuals who learned that leadership is all about serving. That serving principle, tied back to the altruistic spirit, again goes against the natural grain. It would be ignorant to express that only servant leaders get things done. Certainly, despots through centuries achieved phenomenal works done through coercion and fear. While many would say governmental policies could fall into that category, the assumption this work makes is that public servants really are trying to advance the good of the people.

What then defines the separation between the despot and the servant leader? The answer is found in the attitude of the heart and the integrity of purpose. The despot is driven by greed and personal grandeur. The servant leader is purposed to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. The despot seeks and serves self. The servant leader seeks the will of God and the hope of using the wisdom and skills learned to make a change that benefits society. One accomplishes through fear what the other accomplishes through the empowerment of others willing to follow because of the sincerity expressed and demonstrated by the servant leader. While the followers may not share the same moral and ethical principles of the servant leader they follow because of the integrity displayed. While subordinates may not pray or believe in prayer, they respect the servant leader that does knowing that the result is not self-centered but others centered. Why pray to an Almighty for self-fulfillment? Why pray for wisdom if it is already inherent within the individual? Is it then wrong that subordinates or customers see a leader pray if that same prayer is not forced upon them? Within the work environment many ideas and cultures are expressed through pictures on desks, slogans on shirts, conversations, and actions that run the gambit of ethical and moral boundaries. Each occurrence is a direct representation of a worldview or culture of belief. Certainly there is diversity, and there is tolerance, but why only for those that choose not to believe in God?

Public service is not easy; sometimes, it is not even pleasant. Trying to meet the needs of such diversity comes with challenges. It demands the public servant to invest and commit their time and talent all for the edification of others. In every policy endeavor, moral and ethical decision are made. The professional public servant that makes decisions based on their own volition or some coerced allegiance to an outside entity will quite often create problems rather than find solutions for the contingency they serve. As stated, every policy that finds funding and implementation will always have a negative effect on some. Sometimes, it is in accountability for wrongdoing, at other times it is the unintentional impact upon certain individuals. Certainly, wisdom is needed to mitigate the unintentional impacts.

While the leadership contingency draws wisdom and ideas from other leaders, the wisdom and intent of the Almighty will always find the best solution for all. The servant leader that has learned to utilize prayer to not only seek the wisdom of God, but to also put in check any selfish desire, can rest knowing that the integrity of the decision was based on others and not on selfish gain. That professional decision is the outcome of communications starting with the personal prayers in the family unit. Why would anyone not want that as part of the professional decision-making process? Would a better process be the self-absorbed individual bent on fame and fortune?

Prayer That Is Public

Transparency seems to be a catch-phrase for the politically correct. Society demands integrity and character of its leaders if trust is to be developed. That trust is built upon observance of integrity in action. Those claiming transparency often fall prey to modern technology that catches the hypocritical practices of leaders who promote one set of morals in public, but in private demonstrate the opposite. Trust is built by those that display the same moral standards in public that they live in the private and professional environment. Why should the spiritual servant leader be required to hide the very foundation of faith that provides the bedrock of success that led to the beneficial policies that flow from the conversation with the Almighty? Many of the United States presidents have volumes of personal letters and communication which cited the deep passionate guidance received from the vehicle of prayer with the Almighty. Why the rush to abandon that process today? To be transparent is to reveal the driving passion that makes the servant willing to put the needs of others first and to be a good steward of the responsibility laid upon their shoulders. So in practice, prayer seems a logical response to God to start any endeavor.

Certainly, there will never be the utopia of consent by all individuals in any societal setting. The hope is that the contingency sees the intention of pure motive when decisions are being made. Respect can be given to an opposing view if the intent of the heart is perceived to be focused on trying to do the right thing. Integrity once was a driving principle in compromise for reaching decisions that were beneficial to the contingency. The perception of honor was based on the observance of the actions of the leader in their public and personal lives. In decades and centuries past, it was perceived to be honorable to pray and ask for guidance of the Almighty. Certainly there are those that used the generosity of trusting individuals and presented the façade of being spiritual to get votes and power; but the dishonesty of those chameleons should not be used as the excuse to be rid of prayer for those that earnestly and sincerely rely upon the Almighty for wisdom. The perception of prayer is favorable in times of disaster, chaos, and in the death of cherished public figures; even sought after, but now there is reluctance and a forced abolition in the public demonstration. This is a detriment to the better good of society. The forced abolition will lead to the self-centered decision-making of power brokers intent on personal gain. That perception is already evident and prevalent in many governmental dealings.


Finally, the performance of prayer provides the transparency, perception, and professional consideration while seeking the greatest possible resolution for the problems that place such high demand upon public servants. No single individual possesses the intellect or wisdom greater than the Almighty that graced the creation of this universe and placed the differing cultures that bring beauty to life. There is no need to hide or cast out such a great tool to bring success in the public arena. Prayer should neither be feared or coerced but part of the dialogue of differing ideas and cultures that result in wisdom that has led so many to provide great change and benefit to society. The personal devotion, the professional dedication, and the public display resultant from the communication with God will lead to altruism and integrity that will impact lives and bring honor to the public servant and those they serve.


Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Department of DefenseVirginia BeachUSA