June 29, 2018
There is some really good stuff tucked away in the American Book of Common Prayer. There's a wonderful section toward the back of the book with prayers for all kinds of occasions - prayers for birthdays and for families and for travelers and for those we love. There's collections of prayers for various aspects of church life and for our personal lives and a section of prayers for our national life. You can find them all on the internet at bcponline.org - click on "Prayers and Thanksgivings."
I often flip to that section of prayers for the nation around certain holidays, like Memorial Day, Election Day, and the Fourth of July. I've been doing it for years, and every time I'm struck by a prayer that is simply entitled "For our Country."
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer is often attributed to George Washington, but alas, that isn't true. It was actually written by the Rev. George Lyman Locke in the year 1882.
And it helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.*
This prayer for our country was written just after the end of reconstruction and ten years before Ellis Island was opened. It was written almost 40 years before women's suffrage, 60 years before Pearl Harbor, and over 80 years before the Civil Rights Act. And in each of those times, at each of those turning points, someone was praying this prayer for our country. They were probably thinking of different challenges, envisioning different leaders at each of those points. But when they prayed this prayer, they did so out of a deep sense of patriotism, a patriotism that said "it's not enough to just be America, we must always strive to be a better America than we have been."
It's been 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This Fourth of July, I invite you to step back and take the long view. I find that it helps, now and then, to do so.
See you Sunday,
*See the Prayer Attributed to Oscar Romero