What's your take on the following adage: "Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer"?

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

It’s not an either/or, it’s a both.

I think of it more as a warning. Focus too much on the spiritual and the physical will be lost.

Right now there is a huge deficit of action in the Catholic church. Lets examine our elder popluation, Daily Mass is good, say, but if you’re the grumpy guy who cuts people off in traffic or the witchy lady who tells the young mother she’s a horrible person then this addage speaks volumes. Or even if these people go about the rest of their day without being mean or nice…their prayer does little.

Some fundys and traddies would also do well to remember it, as they drive by the suffering to go to a prayer services. However, when it comes to things like spititual warefare, nothing can be farther from the truth. Prayer is POWERFUL. I think that our “modern” parishes do well with service but pitifully with prayer.

It can be provided one is united with God as in Don Bosco’s ora est labora. Work is not separated from prayer, teaching is not separated from prayer, playing is not separated from prayer, eating is not separated from prayer, studying is not separated from prayer, so on and so forth. Morning till night…whatever we do can be a prayer if we intend *to do * and to be with the spirit of God in us. It’s called sanctification of the day through purity of intention.

I don’t much like it.

While I can see it in the sense that we need to not only pray but do…what it actually says is that prayer is worthless - or at least 1000 times less effective than “doing”.

As previously posted…It is not an either/or.


I say it’s a bit short sighted.

If two hands doing one thing is absolutely better than if they do another, then it follows that at any given moment, they should never do the other, if the goal is to do what’s “best” in life.

I see working hands as analogous to willfully controlling one’s next act an any given time, whether it be a motion, a focus on a particular thought, or a word spoken.

The praying hands I would consider symbolic of activities where you are conditioning your mind to be able to better handle whatever life throws at us. In a general sense, this could apply to anybody, whether Christian, Buddhist, or Atheist. So it helps our ability to direct our hands to do the “work.”

Personally for me, I think life would be fairly meaningless unless we do both, which it to say that I reject either one as being “better” than the other – for any extended period of time.


The Bhagavad Gita puts this wonderfully, “Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.”

There is an emphasis on prayer, of course but you also have to perform your earthly duties. I think that what the adage says that it is better to help your brethren, say give him food if he is hungry rather simply pray that his hunger is abolished.

I find it to be one of those ‘specialized’ quotes, as in quotes geared to oppose a particular type of thinking. Its niche is limited but within the context of such limitations, the quote is very powerful.

In the case of this quote, I find it very effective against religious people who frown upon the working man who strives hard to help others yet look highly to themselves who coop up in their own spiritual fortresses, rejecting everything outside as earthly and obstructive to their prayer life.

It doesn’t matter if whether or not they have done something for their fellow man. So long as they avoid occasions of sin by locking themselves away (and hence, their abhorrence of anything outside their own religious comfort zones), that takes precedence above all else.

Pure secular humanism at it’s worse.

I like your take on it. Is that a bit like what’s in James 2?

I like the song “Screen Door” by Rich Mullins, which is all about James 2. He used to talk about how the Catholics are ahead of the Protestants on this one.

Click this for a YouTube video of Rich singing the song.

Unrelated factoid: Did you know that Rich Mullins was receiving instructions and in just a few weeks from the time he died, he was expecting to receive his First Holy Communion? I heard this, and I went and talked to Father Matt McGuiness, the priest who was giving him instructions and who would have administered the First Communion, and Fr. Matt confirmed that it was true.


As in what’s your next question.
Do you “get” any of the answers people give you?

As many have said, it isn’t an either/or, it is a both.

It is like the tale I heard just yesterday.

There is a man, in a flood, sitting on his rooftop. A boat comes by, and offers to take the man to safety. The man says, “No, I am praying that God will save me.”

Another boat comes by, again offering him a ride, but he doesn’t get in because he is praying and waiting for God to save him.

Then a helicopter comes by to give the man a ride. “No thanks, God will save me. I am praying.”

After the man dies and meets God, he asks, “God, why didn’t you save me? I was praying you would save me.”

And God answers, “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?” :shrug:

It isn’t an either or. You pray, then get in the damn boat.

:rotfl: Thanks for the story :wink:

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

I agree :slight_smile:

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

exactly! its kinda anti god…with gods help those thousand praying hands could achieve far more than those two working hands…with god nothing is impossible

There is an old saying–pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything depended on you.

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