The Greatest Power Known to Man in this World
His name was Wernher von Braun. He was the German-born rocket scientist who, along with his German V-2 missile team of more than four hundred scientists, research and development specialists, was taken into custody by the U.S. Army in 1945. Numerous authorities have observed that the technical thinking of these rocket leaders was twenty-five years ahead of U.S. rocketry work at that time. Eventually, 118 of these German missile experts came to the U.S. and worked for the U.S. Army in rocket development at Fort Bliss (El Paso, TX) in the late 1940s. In the spring of 1950, “von Braun and his team of peripatetic rocketeers moved with their families to their new verdant ‘homeland’” in northern Alabama (Huntsville) to form the Huntsville and Redstone Arsenals there for the newly minted Army Ordinance Rocket Center (Ward 73).
Wernher von Braun became director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama, in 1960. He died June 16, 1977. The New York Times ran a lengthy front page June 18 obituary written by its space writer John Noble Wilford. The obituary was extended inside for a full page. It stated, “Dr. von Braun’s name perhaps more than any other, [is] synonymous with space travel.”
Long time religion writer for The Associated Press, George W. Cornell, quoted von Braun in another 1977 feature obituary. Von Braun said, “Prayer is the most important work of man” (qtd. in Ward 258, emp. added). Wernher von Braun was a man of great faith in God. In an interview with United Press International religion columnist Louis Cassels, Dr. von Braun stated:
Any effort to visualize God, to reduce Him to our comprehension, to describe Him in our language, beggars His greatness. . . . I find it best to accept God as an intelligent will, perfect in goodness, revealing Himself in the world of experience. . . . Thus, in this age of space travel which dramatizes the immensity of the universe, men must enlarge their concept of God and recognize that He is not a local deity of this planet but the creator and master of everything. Manned space flight is an amazing achievement, but it has opened for us thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. Our outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe only confirms our belief in its creator. (40A)
All of this reminds me of the mid twentieth century Pittsburgh preacher, Samuel Shoemaker, who, in his sermon “Lord, Teach Us to Pray,” addressed the issue of the power of prayer. Shoemaker says:
Whether anything happens in prayer depends on what kind of god God is. If He created the universe . . . and then retired beyond where we can get in contact with Him, prayer is a vain effort. . . . He is not like that. . . .
Let me try to answer that, not from my own wisdom, but from that of a man who graduated Princeton with the highest honors in all its history—signe cum laude—the late Dr. Henry Norris Russell, of the department of astronomy [1905-1947]. One evening he had been giving us some hair-splitting figures on the size of the universe. Talking with him afterwards, I said, “Dr. Russell, how is it possible that an infinite God can have time for us?” He replied (and I recall his exact words), “The trouble is that your infinite God is not infinite enough. If He is really infinite, He can dispatch the affairs of this universe in the twinkling of an eye, and then have all the time in the world for you.” . . . He was a great scientist, and a great Christian. His word gave great lift to a young man seeking foundations for his faith! (102)
Among the greatest needs in the land today is for citizens of the nation, individually and collectively, to recognize the greatest power known to humans as we live in the world—the power of God through prayer. The power of prayer implies the posture of the identity of humanity—the image of God—that enables a human to seek, obey, and worship God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Acts 17:26-27). The power of prayer implies the power of morality. Any philosophy of life that negates the existence and power of God is without an absolute point of reference for morality and ethics. The power of prayer implies the protector of liberty. True faith in God is no threat to civil society. It is absolutely vital to the survival of civility. Prayer is a reminder of the absolute foundation of freedom. Thus, the first “Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress [appealed] to the Supreme Judge of the world . . . with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence. . . .” (Declaration of Independence).
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice” (Proverbs 29:25-26). “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth” (Luke 18:8)?
-Charles C. Pugh III
Cassels, Louis. “Science-Discredits-God Idea Baffles Wernher Von Braun.” Columbus Dispatch. 26 June 1969: 40A
Shoemaker, Samuel. “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” 20 Centuries of Great Preaching. Vol. 11. Waco: Word, 1971.
Ward, Bob. Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun. 2005. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2009.