I have been trying to find the words to pray for this nation at a time when it seems to me that we are in crisis; the most serious in my lifetime and I would argue the most serious since the Civil War. I have hardly hidden my personal and theological and political objections to the forty-fifth President of the United States, but it may be less obvious that I do pray for him on a daily basis and for this nation. I understand the sentiments of those who say things like "not my president" and "I don't want his name uttered in Church" but I strongly disagree with those friends just as I did when others said the same about the forty-fourth President. I believe that with God all things are possible, perhaps even a change in heart. I believe that whatever prophetic words I might ever have to share must be rooted in prayer.
Having said that, and praying with sincerity for the President's heart to be softened, I am not holding my breath either. It feels to me as I watch tweet after tweet coming from the White House in the early morning hours something like Pharaoh hardening his heart against the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt. I joked recently when we had swarms of gypsy moths and then hailstones the size of golf balls in Worcester that the plagues have begun. (I was joking, mostly.) But I do believe that we reap what we sow as individuals and as nations and what is being sown right now is fear and division that will yield more violence and degradation. If the Christian witness is about love of neighbor toward the "healing of the nations" then we are headed in the wrong direction.
In any case, it seems to me that one can pray for the President and tell the truth about the real harm he is causing to our nation. During my Sabbatical I re-read some Dietrich Bonhoeffer and both read and blogged here about the community at Le Chambon that practiced resistance against Nazi Germany. I remain convinced that silence is complicity and I will not be complicit as our country turns our backs on those tired and huddled masses that Lady Liberty has been inviting in for more than two hundred years. Doing so is not what makes this nation great. We have our work cut out for us, as citizens and as the Church. But the Fourth of July is as good a time as any to ponder such things and to ask not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country in this hour of need. Whatever else we may be called to do, I will continue to pray.
The Book of Common Prayer truly is an amazing collection of prayers that direct our attention to love of God and neighbor. One of those prayers can be found on page 821, "For Sound Government." I invite others to join me in praying it for this great nation, even those who may disagree with my politics but who also seek to respect the dignity of every human being, with God's help. Pay close attention to the words and what it is this prayer asks God to do - for both leaders and citizens. May we be blessed with wisdom, courage, understanding, integrity, and hope for the living of these days.
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.
And finally, 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. For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.