Thursday, July 4, 2013

Praying for our Country

Independence Hall, Philadelphia,
where it all (officially) began.

The Book of Common Prayer lists Independence Day as a Holy Day in its calendar. This is somewhat ironic, as most Anglicans in this land at the time of the Revolution were opposed to severance from the Crown. However, over the years, the meaning of our political and ecclesiastical separations from the Mother Country was more widely agreed upon, and became an occasion for unity rather than division (though, truth to tell, there are still Episcopalians who question the wisdom of our decision to form a separate Province from England!).

All of this is an example of how (at its best) the Church allows for the passage of time to reveal what God's real purposes are--rather than simply ramming controversial decisions down peoples' throats.  Bishop William White, one of the first Bishops in the Episcopal Church, a good friend of Benjamin Franklin, and a staunch supporter of independence, was one the main figures who stood against the post-Revolutionary tide of "winner-takes-all" sentiment. Indeed, the Church only came to recognize Independence Day formally as an occasion of prayer in 1928!

The current Prayer Book uses this day as an opportunity for giving thanks to God for the blessings of political freedom as well as to intercede on behalf of our nation. We see an important role for the Body of Christ as a community praying for the nation to show forth ever more fully the liberty of the Gospel in its laws and manners.

There are many people who find such an all-out connection between Faith and our Governance to be odd or uncomfortable. However, not only does Sacred Scripture call us to do just this, but the fact that the Nation is the immediate context for our ministry and service compels us to pray for its wholeness, healing, and purification. Without these things, all people--regardless of their faith or belief--suffer.

While the Church and the State are (and should be) separate entities in the USA, the Christian is to be a contributing participant in democracy in all ways: voting, serving in office, fulfilling civic responsibilities, exhibiting equity and godliness, volunteering, and praying regularly that this country live up to the ideals of its founding documents. These prayers point us towards that understanding.

A blessed 4th of July to all...and may we all find ourselves praying for this great nation today, other national holidays, and regularly each week.

A Litany for our Nation
For use on or near Independence Day

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

Teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

We thank you, Lord, for the natural majesty and beauty of this land.  They restore us, though we often destroy them.
Heal us.

We thank you for the great resources of this nation. They make us rich, though we often exploit them.
Forgive us.

We thank you for the men and women who have made this country strong. They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.
Inspire us.

We thank you for the torch of liberty which has been lit in this land. It has drawn people from every nation, though we have often hidden from its light.
Enlighten us.

We thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety. It sustains our life, though we have been faithless again and again.
Renew us.

Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun. Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice, and to abolish poverty and crime. And hasten the day when all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will glorify your holy Name. Amen.

The Collect for Independence Day

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(From the Book of Common Prayer)

No comments:

Post a Comment