In Alexander Solzhenitsyn's extensively reported and now famous sermon to America, delivered in 1978 at Harvard University, he said:
Prayer, of course, has to do with God. God is both initiator and recipient of this underreported but extensively pursued activity. But prayer also has to do with much else: war and government, poverty and sentimentality, politics and economics, work and marriage. Everything, in fact. The striking diagnostic consensus of modern experts that we have a self problem is matched by an equally striking consensus among our wise ancestors on a strategy for action: The only way to get out of the cramped world of the ego and into the large world of God without denying or supressing or mutilating the ego is through prayer. The only way to escape from self-annihilating and society-destroying egotism and into self-enhancing community is through prayer. Only in prayer can we escape the distortions and constrictions of the self and enter the truth and expansiveness of God. We find there, to our surprise, both self and society whole and blessed. It is the old business of losing your life to save it; and the life that is saved is not only your own, but everyone else's as well.
Prayer is political action. Prayer is social energy. Prayer is public good. Far more of our nation's life is shaped by prayer than is formed by legislation. That we have not collapsed into anarchy is due more to prayer than to the police. Prayer is a sustained and intricate act of patriotism in the largest sense of that word -- far more precise and loving and preserving than patriotism served up in slogans. That society continues to be livable and that hope continues to be resurgent are attributable to prayer far more than to business prosperity... The single most important action contributing to whatever health and strength there is in our land is prayer. No the only thing, of course, for God uses all things to effect His sovereign will, and the 'all things' most certainly includes police and artists, senators and professors, therapists and steelworkers. But prayer is, all the same, the source action.
The single most widespread American misunderstanding of prayer is that it is private. Strictly and biblically speaking, there is no private prayer. 'Private' in its root meaning refers to theft. It is stealing. When we privatize prayer we embezzle the common currency that belongs to all. When we engage in prayer without any desire for awareness of the comprehensive, inclusive life of the kingdom that is 'at hand' in both time and space, we impoverish the social reality that God is bringing to completion... We can no more have a private prayer than we can have a private language... [since] all speech is relational, making a community of speakers and listeners... The self is only itself, healthy and whole, when it is in relationship, and that relationship is always dual, with God and with other human beings. Relationship implies mutuality, give and take, listening and responding... If the self exploits other selves, whether God or neighbor, subordinating them to its compulsions, it becomes pinched and twisted...