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AN AMERICAN PRAYER BOOK
By Christopher L. Webber
Church Publishing IncorporatedCopyright © 2008 Christopher L. Webber
All rights reserved.
GENERAL PRAYERS FOR THE COUNTRY
One of the most frequently copied prayers for America was written by the Rev. George Lyman Locke, who served for forty-two years as Rector of St. Michael's Church, Bristol, Rhode Island, and wrote the Prayer for Our Country at the suggestion of the Rev. Daniel Reed Huntington. It was added to the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer in the revision of 1928 and has since been included in the Lutheran Book of Worship, various non-denominational hymnals and prayer books, and even in the prayer book of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. Often revised in various ways, it is given below both in its original form and in the current version from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
For Our Country
Almighty God, who in former time leddest our fathers forth into a wealthy place, and didst set our feet in a large room; Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to us their children, that we may always approve ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Defend our liberties, preserve our unity. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Fashion into one happy people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those whom we entrust in thy Name with the authority of governance, to the end that there may be peace at home, and that we keep our place among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, temper our self-confidence 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.
—George Lyman Locke
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.
—Book of Common Prayer, 1979
A Thanksgiving for This Land and Prayer for Service
O God, we praise Thee for these blessings, that Thou hast given to us in this land and hast blest it with Thy constant prayer and perfect love. We thank Thee for the gold and the silver and the iron, that we use them for Thy glory for all men's good.
We thank Thee for the mountains, the hills, the lakes, and the rivers. We thank Thee that Thou hast sent the waters out into the valleys to make this world alive in the service of our God.
We thank Thee for everything that Thou hast made. Thou hast made it for the good of men. Morning, noon, and night, we renew our praises.
And now, Father, to use everything for Thy service as Thine own children, for the coming of Thy kingdom, help us this day that we may work with God as children do work with their father, as those do live who live and have their being in Thee; that our corn and our wheat may feed the nations; that our iron may build their ships and carry their food; that our fruit may be for all men; best of all, that our laws, our constitutions, the wisdom Thou hast given the fathers, may live to-day for the blessing and benefit of mankind. Show us, Father, show us where we can work, how we can work, how we can live for God. Bind us together as Thine own children, man with man, state with state, nation with nation, that we all may be one, even as He hath said that we may be one with each other and with our God. We ask it in His name. (The Lord's Prayer follows.)
—Edward Everett Hale, in the Senate, April 14, 1904
For the Cooperative Commonwealth
O God, we praise thee for the dream of the golden city of peace and righteousness which has ever haunted the prophets of humanity, and we rejoice with joy unspeakable that at last the people have conquered the freedom and knowledge and power which may avail to turn into reality the vision that so long has beckoned in vain.
Speed now the day when the plains and the hills and the wealth thereof shall be the people's own, and thy freemen shall not live as tenants of men on the earth which thou hast given to all; when no babe shall be born without its equal birthright in the riches and knowledge wrought out by the labor of the ages; and when the mighty engines of industry shall throb with a gladder music because the men who ply these great tools shall be their owners and masters.
Bring to an end, O Lord, the inhumanity of the present, in which all men are ridden by the pale fear of want while the nation of which they are citizens sits throned amid the wealth of their making; when the manhood in some is cowed by helplessness, while the soul of others is surfeited and sick with power which no frail son of the dust should wield.
O God, save us, for our nation is at strife with its own soul and is sinning against the light which thou aforetime hast kindled in it. Thou hast called our people to freedom, but we are withholding from men their share in the common heritage without which freedom becomes a hollow name. Thy Christ has kindled in us the passion for brotherhood, but the social life we have built, denies and slays brotherhood.
We pray thee to revive in us the hardy spirit of our forefathers that we may establish and complete their work, building on the basis of their democracy the firm edifice of a cooperative commonwealth, in which both government and industry shall be of the people, by the people, and for the people. May we, who now live, see the oncoming of the great day of God, when all men shall stand side by side in equal worth and real freedom, all toiling and all reaping, masters of nature but brothers of men, exultant in the tide of the common life, and jubilant in the adoration of Thee, the source of their blessings and the Father of all.
—Walter Rauschenbusch, 1910
For the Cooperative Commonwealth (modern revision)
We praise you, O God, for the dream of the shining city of peace and righteousness which has always haunted the prophets of humanity, and we rejoice with great joy that we have gained freedom and knowledge and power that could enable us to turn into reality the vision that so long has beckoned in vain.
Speed now the day when the wealth of this great land will benefit all who live here, and when no one shall be impoverished by our failure to share the gifts you have given us, when no infant shall be born without its equal birthright in the riches and knowledge won by the labor of the past, and when young people can find the education they need to enrich their lives and the lives of all.
Bring to an end, O God, the inhumanity that leaves so many fearful of their security while others pile up possessions beyond their needs and power beyond what any single person should have.
Save us, O God, for our nation is at war with its own soul and is sinning against the light which you have kindled in it. You have called our people to freedom, but we are withholding from some their share in the common heritage without which freedom becomes a hollow name. Your Christ has kindled in us the passion for equality and friendship, but the social life we have built often denies and slays that vision.
We pray you to revive in us the strong spirit of those who founded this country that we may establish and complete their work, building on the basis of their democracy the firm edifice of a cooperative society in which both government and industry shall be of the people, by the people, and for the people. May we, who now live, see the oncoming of the great day of God, when all people shall stand side by side in equal worth and true freedom, all toiling according to their ability and all reaping according to their need, rejoicing in the sharing of our common life, and jubilant in worshiping you, the source of their blessings and the Creator of all. Amen.
A Meditation on Patriotism
Our Father in heaven, make us true lovers of our country; make us true Americans. Help us to keep the promise which our country hath made to the world, to be the home of freedom and justice and brotherhood for all. Enable us in our lives to keep this promise. In our happiness and in our strength put us in mind of the pleasures and the rights of others. Make us brave and truthful and fair. In our play and in our work keep our successes free from boasting and conceit. And when we fail and are defeated, give us a higher courage and a stauncher strength. Help us to become noble and great-hearted citizens, an honour to our nation, and a spring of hope to our neighbors.
—Henry Sylvester Nash, 1915
Prayer for the Nation
O God, who by thy providence didst lead our forefathers to this good land wherein they found liberty and freedom to worship Thee: We beseech Thee ever to guide our nation in the way of Thy truth and peace, so that we may never fail in the blessing which Thou hast promised to that people whose God is the Lord; through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen.
—The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946
O Almighty Lord, who fashionest the hearts of all and considerest all their works; grant, we beseech Thee, to us and to all the people of this land the spirit of obedience to Thy commandments, that walking humbly in Thy fear, we may under Thy mighty protection possess our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—John Heuss, 1957, adapted
Behold, O God, this our beloved country:
The old, the young, the little children; rich and poor, ignorant and learned;
The laborers and mangers of industry; workers in factory and mine, office and home;
A people of many traditions, many colors, divergent hopes and fears. Behold America:
Its mountains and plains, rivers and forests, its inland seas and shining coasts. Upon this land, upon these people, pour down thy life-giving Spirit of nobility and truth.
Where there is strife, bring co-operation for the common good;
Where greed and envy abound, control us with that divine perspective which sees in every person the dignity of a growing soul;
Where interests clash, set free in us the higher impulse which seeks first thy righteous kingdom, where we may enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Behold, O Father, this our Nation. Bless it, make it strong with thy strength, and fill it with the beauty of holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
—John Wallace Suter, 1964, adapted
For Our Country
In the beginning was the Truth, and the Truth was with God, and the Truth was God. All things were made by him, and without Truth was not anything made that was made. In the Truth was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light of Truth shines in darkness, and the darkness never puts it out. All who bear witness to Truth bring light to all who come into the world, that they may believe that Truth finally prevails.
So we ask the blessing of God upon the searchers for Truth, and the transmitters of Truth, that they may bring light to the dark places of the world, to the shadowed side of our nation and into the dark recesses of our hearts. May the Truth which alone makes humanity free strengthen the President of the United States, the Vice-President, and all who have been given the authority of government to execute justice, to maintain peace, to bring hope to all humankind.
And may the same light of Truth illumine the hearts of all the citizens of this land, that honesty, honor, integrity, and compassion may prevail; and that we all may know in our personal lives that the important question is never "Will it work?" but "Is it true?"
So may the moral fiber of this nation be strengthened by us all—in high estate and low—to show forth the glory of God in the life of his people, full of grace and truth. Amen.
—John B. Coburn, 1975, adapted
A Citizen's Prayer
Let us pay our taxes ... obey the laws of the land ... tell the truth ... obey God rather than man if they are in conflict ... be fearful only of not being true to our true selves ... honor God, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
—John B. Coburn, 1975
O Lord our Heavenly Father, who dost from Thy throne, behold all the dwellers upon earth; we pray Thee for Thy blessing upon all Christian rulers and magistrates, and more especially upon the President of the United States and the Governor of this State, and upon all these throughout the land who are invested with executive, judicial, or legislative authority. Give them wisdom and grace from above that by their judicious counsel, faithful administration, and good example and influence we may enjoy peace and prosperity, the stability of our Union and of our civil and religious liberties and witness the extension amongst us of sound morals, useful knowledge, and the beneficent arts of social life.
To all bishops and other ministers of Thy Gospel grant Thy spiritual help, that they may faithfully administer Thy sacraments, and teach and preach Thy word to the promotion of pure doctrine and holiness of living amongst Thy people. Endue all teachers of youth in schools and colleges with understanding patience and love, that they may advance the cause of sound learning and godly discipline, and prepare the rising generation to live virtuous, honorable, lives.
And finally, be pleased to suit Thy graces and blessings to our several necessities of soul and body, and dispose us all to glorify Thee in our lives, that after death we may receive the reward of good and faithful servants; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—John Heuss, 1957
Prayer for America
December 12, 1940
Almighty and eternal God, before whom the nations are as the dust of the balance, who hast cast down the mighty from their seat and hast exalted the humble and meek: We bless Thee for all the channels of Thy grace, for joy and pain, freedom and necessity, sunshine and rain, sickness and health; yet most of all we bless Thee for the tender ministries of human love, for the love that binds man and woman, for the unselfishness of parents, for the confidence of little children, and for the encouragement of friends. As Thou hast blessed us, so do Thou quicken within us a deep sense of penitence for the foulness of our cities, the shame of our streets, and the misery of the poor. Let the flood of Thy purifying power cleanse our national life, lest our destruction be determined and we go the way of the nations that have forgotten God. Harken to our prayer, O Lord, for the sake of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
—Ze Barney Thorne Phillips, 1940–1941
Excerpted from AN AMERICAN PRAYER BOOK by Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2008 Christopher L. Webber. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part One PRAYERS FOR AMERICA,
GENERAL PRAYERS FOR THE COUNTRY,
PRAYERS FOR THE GOVERNMENT,
IN TIMES OF WAR OR CRISIS,
PRAYERS FOR NATIONAL FORGIVENESS AND RENEWAL,
Part Two PRAYERS FROM AMERICAN HISTORY,
THE NEW NATION,
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION,
THE SLAVE TRADE AND CAMPAIGN FOR ABOLITION,
THE WAR OF 1812,
1861–1865: THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR,
THE DEATH OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, APRIL 1865,
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION,
THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR,
WORLD WAR I,
WORLD WAR II,
THE COLD WAR AND AFTERWARD,
Part Three PRAYERS FOR NATIONAL OCCASIONS,
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.,
About the Authors,
Acknowledgments and Permissions,