Don’t Pray When It Rains If You Don’t Pray When the Sun Shines

Satchel Paige? Billy Sunday? Hal Boyle? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Prayers are typically offered when a dangerous situation is encountered or when a disturbing event occurs. Yet, prayers of joy and thankfulness are also appropriate when something positive happens. The following metaphorical guidance is pertinent:

Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.

These words have been credited to the acclaimed baseball pitcher Leroy Paige (Satchel Paige). Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1959 Hal Boyle, a columnist with the Associated Press, wrote a piece about Satchel Paige that included quotations from the Hall of Famer . Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1890 a Ravanna, Kansas newspaper printed a piece titled “Pray While the Sun Shines” which employed the shining sun and thunderstorms literally and symbolically: 2

A little girl who suffered greatly during thunder-storms was told by her mother to pray when she felt alarmed.

One day, at the close of a fearful little storm, she came to her mother with the information that praying during the danger brought her no relief. “Then,” said her mother, “try praying while the sun shines, and see if that will take away the fear.”

The child did so; and when another storm was raging she said sweetly, “Praying while the sun shines is the best way, for I am not the least bit afraid now.” What a lesson we who are older might learn from this incident!

What a lesson we who are older might learn from this incident! How often do we the stay away from our Master until the storms of life drive us to him for shelter and protection! If we would only give our best, our brightest days to His service, we would have no cause to tremble when the dark hours come on.

The periodical “Christian Witness” was acknowledged, and the piece was reprinted in multiple newspapers during 1890 and 1891.

In 1917 “The Atlanta Constitution” of Georgia printed a sermon from the famous preacher Billy Sunday which included another interesting precursor. Sunday criticized people who only prayed during bad times and not during good times. He employed figurative language which contrasted a shining sun versus a storm: 3

The only time they ever pray is when some calamity comes or when they are sick or members of their family, perhaps, ill. They don’t pray when the sun shines, they wait until the storm rages.
. . .
I wish you’d the next time you pray, see how many things you can thank God for and how few you can ask for.

A third interesting precursor appeared as a filler item in several U.S. newspapers in 1920: 4

Some people believe in praying. They pray when the sun shines and they pray when it rains.

In 1959 Satchel Paige received credit for the following remark as noted previously:

And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.

In 1971 “Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations” credited the quotation to the well-known baseball ace, but the book incorrectly spelled “Satchel” as “Sachel”: 5

Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.
Sachel Paige

In 1992 “The New York Public Library Book of Twentieth-Century American Quotations” included the following entry: 6

[D]on’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.
LEROY [SATCHEL] PAIGE, New York Post, October 4, 1959

In conclusion, Satchel Paige should receive credit for the statement in the 1959 citation. Paige was employing a figurative framework that harkened back to a didactic story in the nineteenth century and to a sermon of Billy Sunday in the twentieth century.

Image Notes: Illustration of drops of water from PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay.

(Special thanks to researcher Peter Reitan who located the tale presented in the 1890 citation.)

Notes:

  1. 1959 October 2, Moberly Monitor-Index, Famous Negro Pitcher in Love With Movies After First Role by Hal Boyle (Associated Press), Quote Page 10, Column 6, Moberly, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1890 May 29, Ravanna Chieftain, Pray While the Sun Shines, Quote Page 1, Column 3, Ravanna, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1917 December 6, The Atlanta Constitution, If We Pray Aright, God Will Answer, Says Billy, Quote Page 13, Column 2, Atlanta, Georgia. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1920 June 19, The Richmond Planet, (Filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 1, Richmond, Virginia. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1971, Bartlett’s Unfamiliar Quotations by Leonard Louis Levinson, Topic: Living, Quote Page 162, Cowles Book Company: Henry Regnery Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)
  6. 1992, The New York Public Library Book of Twentieth-Century American Quotations, Edited by Stephen Donadio, Joan Smith, Susan Mesner and Rebecca Davison, Section: Religion and Spirituality, Quote Page 357, Column 1, Warner Books Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)