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This little book completes a trilogy which it has long been my hope to write. “The Meaning of Prayer" is a study in the Christian's inward experience of fellowship with God; “The Meaning of Faith" is a study in the reasonable ideas on which the Christian life is based; and now “The Meaning of Service” is a study in the practical overflow of the Christian life in useful ministry.
This last book has been written at a time when its theme is most congenial with the crucial need of the world and the dominant mood of thoughtful folk. The overturn of human society in the Great War has inevitably brought to the top those elements of Christian life and thought which center about service. The task to be accomplished on earth is so immense, the cheap optimisms which once contented us are so impossible, the enemies against whom the Christian program must win its way are so formidable, and the need of unselfishness, public-mindedness, and sacrificial love is so urgent, that anyone who thinks at all about humanity's condition must think about service, its meaning, motives, and aims. I have not tried to keep these immediate and pressing conditions of our time from showing themselves in this book. One can write more timelessly about prayer and faith than he can about service. Yet I trust that I have not altogether lost the accent of those universal Christian truths and principles which make service, in any age, the indispensable expression of discipleship to the Master.
To many books and many friends, beyond the possibility of individual acknowledgment, I am indebted for the inspiration of these studies. In particular I am once more under heavy obligation to my friend and colleague, Professor George Albert Coe, Ph. D., for his careful reading of the manuscript, and to my publishers for their unfailing kindness and painstaking care in preparing it for the press. November 1, 1920.
H. E. F.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Special acknowledgment is gladly made to the following: to E. P. Dutton & Company for permission to use prayers from "A Chain of Prayer Across the Ages"; to the Rev. Samuel McComb and the publishers for permission to quote from “Prayers for Today,” Copyright, 1918, Harper & Brothers; to the Pilgrim Press for permission to make selections from “Prayers of the Social Awakening” by Walter Rauschenbusch and “The Original Plymouth Pulpit” by Henry Ward Beecher; to Little, Brown & Company for permission to quote one prayer from “Prayers, Ancient and Modern" by Mary W. Tileston; to George H. Doran Company for permission to use one prayer from “Pulpit Prayers” by Alexander Maclaren; to Jarrolds (London) Ltd. for permission to make quotations from "The Communion of Prayer" by William Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon; and to Longmans, Green & Company for permission to quote from “Prayers for the City of God," by Gilbert Clive Binyon.
None of the above material should be reprinted without securing permission.
DAILY READINGS One of the most inveterate and ruinous ideas in the history of human thought is that neither service to man nor any moral rightness whatsoever is essential to religion. In wide areas of religious life, to satisfy God has been one thing, to live in righteous and helpful human relations has been another. As Professor Rauschenbusch put it: “Religion in the past has always spent a large proportion of its force on doings that were apart from the real business of life, on sacrificing, on endless prayers, on traveling to Mecca, Jerusalem, or Rome, on kissing sacred stones, bathing in sacred rivers, climbing sacred stairs, and a thousand things that had at best only an indirect bearing on the practical social relations between men and their fellows."
The conviction that a man who is not living in just and helpful relations with his fellows by no means whatever can be on right terms with God, is one of man's greatest spiritual illuminations, the understanding of which cost long centuries of slow and painful progress out of darkness into light. Note in the daily readings some old, pre-Christian attitudes toward this matter. They are still in evidence, for even yet we have on the one side appalling human need, and on the other an immense amount of religious motive power and zeal, which are not harnessed to the problems of human welfare. Even yet one of mankind's most insistent needs is the interpretation of religion in terms of service and the attachment of religion's enormous driving power to the tasks of service.
First Week, First Day
How much of the latent moral energy of religious faith is wasted because many people, even yet, have only a partially righteous God! We still need to go back for instruction to a Hebrew prophet like Micah.