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Monday, January 26, 2009
Inauguration Prayer from Bishop Gene Robinson
To complete the trifecta, here's the inauguration celebration kick-off prayer from the Right Reverend Gene Robinson. Thoughts? Observations? Analysis?

"A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

posted by John David Walt | at 1/26/2009 03:01:00 PM



Blogger Marcus G said...

Analysing prayer is hard - because it seems that one is analysing a man's soul, and that is a brave endeavour. Or a foolish one.

One might comment therefore on its form, or on its type of spirituality, but as soon as this crosses a line into its fitness for purpose or some such judgement, there is a feeling of - well, reluctance. I am not surprised that this opportunity to comment on these prayers has not been oversubscribed.

So taking my life into my hands...

Clearly, we have three very different men and three very different spiritualities on show. I guess that's the point. But if God is going to be brought into the civic environment (something I champion in our local environment), then I think that there are perhaps three simple rules that ought to be in place.

1. No compromise. If you ask a Muslim, you are going to get Muslim prayers. If you ask a Jew, Jewish prayers. If you ask a Christian, you shouldn't expect God-unspecific prayers. "O God (whoever you are, whatever your name is, let the worshipper add their own tag, or not)..." invocations should never cross the lips of Christian ministers. Never. Sorry, but this is a biggie. We aren't vaguely religious people, we are followers of Jesus, and asking us to pray in public gets us to pray Trinitarianly. Or not at all.

2. Well known religious party leaders or news-worthy names are not the best people to write prayers for public occasions. All denominations have really great spiritual people and groups who can provide appropriate material for major times and feasts. This felt a bit like one of those movies where you couldn't see the characters or plot for going "isn't that John Travolta in a dress!"

3. Prayer is to God. It is not the place to rehearse our favourite arguments or causes. It is not a teaching tool for the nation. It's a privilege to call people to prayer, and a sin to lead them to your soapbox rather than Jesus' feet at that moment.

I think each of these three points appeared one way or another in each of the three prayers. And at the end of the day, it is for each of us to decide where the integrity line gets drawn. So putting the proverbial gun to my head, in calling a nation to pray, for me, a little more John 3.30 could generally have been applied, but maybe that's just me.

Shoot me down.

3:53 PM EST  
Blogger JAy. said...

Marcus, nice response.

I would like to add a 4th point to Marcus's rules.

4. Prayer is not entertainment. Focus on God, and don't worry if some people have to work to pay attention. Faith doesn't come without effort.

I think a couple of the prayers got "cutesy" in an effort to keep the attention of the inattentive.

However, I hope God sees beyond the words of the prayers and looks at the heart of all those praying along. And I hope that in the end, to God be the glory.

God Bless,

5:24 PM EST  
Anonymous John said...

It was interesting that of the people listed in Robinson's prayer about "bless us with anger" - 8 groups of people, half of which were located in the homosexual spectrum.

I like Marcus's rules for public prayer, especially of such a Huge public nature as these were.

5:35 PM EST  
Blogger Rob said...

nice, marcus. you are a bright, bright man. i'd like to meet you some day.

my thought is that speeches with "Oh God" at the beginning and "Amen" at the end are not prayers.

Judge for yourselves the extent that the description above fits each prayer.

7:47 PM EST  

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