Praying with our feet

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Douglass escaped from slavery when he was 20, and became a leader of the American abolition movement. As a young man he briefly embraced Christianity but soon abandoned it, observing that the religion did so little to soften the behavior of slave owners. Here are two versions of a quotation attributed to him:

  1. Praying for freedom never did me any good til I started praying with my feet.
  2. I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)

According to Heschel’s daughter Dr. Susanna Heschel:

"When he came home from Selma in 1965, my father wrote, 'For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.'"