We continue our series on Prayers across the centuries with Dag Hammerskjöld 1905-61 was a Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. As of 2022, he remains the youngest person to have held the post, having been only 47 years old when he was appointed.
Hammarskjöld's tenure was characterised by efforts to strengthen the newly formed UN both internally and externally. He led initiatives to improve morale and organisational efficiency while seeking to make the UN more responsive to global issues.
Hammarskjöld admonished himself with the words, “Pray that your loneliness will spur you into something to live for, great enough to die for.” Still, other entries are short and beautiful, such as, “A landscape can sing about God, a body about spirit.” Hammarskjöld lived his faith. One can sense that his book Markings is both for himself, and in the entries towards the end of his life, for posterity. Hammarskjöld does not fit the profile of the modern, well-connected public scholar who is known for more than just their academic work. Yet, he allowed his faith to inform his secular public work. He served as a conscience for the United Nations, and thus is a forerunner of the modern public scholar.
His prayers mirrors that of Psalm 63 “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”
Hence he prays;
Thou who art over us,
Thou who art one of us,
Thou who art—
Also within us,
May all see thee—in me also,
May I prepare the way for thee,
May I thank thee for all that shall fall to my lot,
May I also not forget the needs of others,
Keep me in thy love
As thou wouldest that all should be kept in mine
May everything in this my being be directed to thy glory
And may I never despair.
For I am under thy hand,
And in thee is all power and goodness.
Give me a pure heart—that I may see thee,
A humble heart—that I may hear thee,
A heart of love——that I may serve thee,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in thee.
To love life and men as God loves them——for the sake of their inﬁnite
to wait like him
to judge like him
without passing judgment,
to obey the order when it is given
and never look back—
then he can use you——then, perhaps, he will use you.
And if he doesn’t use you—what matter. In his hand,
every moment has its meaning, its greatness, its glory,
its peace, its co-inherence. Amen