Friday, January 20, 2017

Prayer on Inauguration Day

During my 2005 sabbatical summer at Saint George's House, Windsor Castle, we dutifully prayed for Queen Elizabeth II at daily Morning Prayer and Evensong, which we recited together in the Garter stalls of Saint George's Chapel. Of course, England has an Established Church (of which the Queen is the Supreme Governor). So praying for the Queen according to The Book of Common Prayer was, well, as it should be. On the other hand, we don't have an established Church in the United States. So when and how to pray for the our governmental leaders may seem less obvious. 

That we should do so, however, should also be obvious. First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Paul's prescription to Timothy was consistent with the common 1st-century Jewish practice of offering a daily sacrifice for the Emperor in the Jerusalem Temple and reflected the early Christian appreciation of the civilizational benefits associated with social and political community. 

At the beginning of the American political experiment, the first Catholic Bishop of the United States understood and articulated both our dependence upon government and our responsibilities toward it. In 1789, Pope Pius VI  appointed John Carroll (cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence)  the first Bishop of the Baltimore. (He would become Baltimore's first Archbishop in 1808). On November 10, 1791, Bishop Carroll composed this famous prayer to be recited in parishes throughout the United States. It is still well worth reciting - especially as this Inauguration Day dawns

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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