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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Praying on Independence Day (USA) - 2013

Here is the prayer for Independence Day from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Independence Day.
[July 4.]
The Collect.
O ETERNAL God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I like this particular version of the prayer far better than the slightly embellished one found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer {**see the end of this post}. It's short, thoughtful, and too the point. Notice how the prayer breaks down.

The Attribution:

First, the God from whom our forbearers gained strength to win their liberties is not some fleeting, momentary divinity, but the eternal, unending, indestructible God.

Next, our liberties are attributed to this God's active, powerful providential involvement, "through whose almighty powers our fathers won their liberties of old".

The Petition:

This section acknowledges that personal responsibility lies on our own shoulders, "we" as well as all other inhabitants "of this land". 
  • The request portion begins by asking this eternal God for "grace" {abilities, strength} for ourselves and all inhabitants "to maintain these liberties", recognizing that our liberties just don't fall from the sky, but must be maintenanced, kept up, even struggled for.
  •  Then the praying person is asking this God for the grace to maintain these liberties with two qualities: righteousness and peace. There is an obvious connotation flowing through these words. On the one hand, it requires good, sound, wholesome morality {"righteousness"} to uphold these God-bestowed liberties. And on the other hand, it requires "peace", both an objective realm of peace and tranquility, as well as a more subjective, practiced peace or peacefulness, which we would rightly understand as civility {something that is increasingly lacking in the public discourses of our current era}.
  • Last, and of utmost importance, the conclusion of the prayer falls into the hands of Jesus the Messiah. If you mentally take out the semi-colon, you end up asking correctly that we all may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace through Jesus Christ. In other words, by our union with Jesus and under the Lordship or Rulership of Jesus. And who is this Jesus? The one who "was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4.25); the one who "loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2.20);  the one who is "appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10.42), before whose judgment seat we must all appear "so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5.10).
I hope that this short meditation on the prayer for Independence Day might encourage you to pray for our country. Not only to pray today, but throughout the rest of the year. And if you are scratching your head and wondering what to pray - start with the one at the beginning of this post, and use it daily until something takes hold of you and launches you into other requests.

Mike

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**"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, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

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