Pastoral Prayer at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church by Dr. Gary Furr, Pastor.
Based on an insight from Hugh Heclo’s book, On Thinking Institutionally
Who was before all that is, and will be after all ends,
As Creator, You are the ground on which we stand, the order on which we depend
As the Sender of Jesus, You have entered into our tiny frame of mind
felt our crippled spirits, seen our weaknesses, and resisted the sins that kill us.
As Spirit You are ever with us, present in our lives, operating even within the limits
and cruelties of the human spirit.
You accommodate our freedom into greater purpose
Thank you for gifts of grace and life, hope and freedom, responsibility and fellowship.
For nation and virtue and for the chance to find a life worth living.
For the privileges of family, of being and having parents, siblings, cousins and grandparents
and knowing the love of all those who care whether we live or die.
For the gifts of friendship and citizenship and neighbor-ship that we may claim.
In this crucial moment in the soul of our nation, we stand at a crossroads–
but it is not between Democratic ideas and Republican ideas.
It is not between liberals and conservatives, or races and classes, or business and government.
These are perpetual arguments that have existed from the Republic’s beginning.
Instead our crossroads is a road that leads through a cross: whether we will, as did Jesus,
take up a spirit of mutual service, neighbor love, care for what is right for all
or plunge more deeply into reckless rancor and reactiveness and anger.
One way envisions that our nation can be the fulfillment of humanity’s deepest
and most ancient hopes for freedom.
Our ancestors, even those who were brought to our shores through the cruelties of slavery
have been able to breathe that hope.
The struggle to realize that dream has been ongoing and still goes on.
On this Martin Luther King weekend, we remember the shame of owning human beings,
but also the glorious journey of finding our better angels, through bloodshed and prayer
That freedom is for all, not some, and that it must be guarded and nurtured.
We pray for the largeness of soul of Abraham Lincoln for this time,
that a great spirit of reconciliation and painful surrender to the highest within us might prevail.
Help us to love one another, to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you, our God.
In our zeal to defend freedom, to never to deny it to another, and to be quick to listen
slow to speak, and always ready to wage peace and hope in the world.
We carry a great responsibility now to not cower our freedoms away
Because of lifeless and non-existent fears.
In this Inauguration Week, we do not ask for conformity, or silence, or unanimity of thought.
Let us speak, but in our speaking be ready to uphold the ancient dreams that birthed this land.
Remind us that at our best, our founders believed
that we were engaged in a great and momentous experiment that mattered for all the world.
If we are to be faithful to it, help us to stand firm, but not with arrogance or pride;
To convince and persuade rather than bully or coerce;
To listen and understand so that we might find common ground.
We thank you for President Obama and thank you for his service to his country.
We thank you for President elect Trump and for his willingness to serve.
Help us to put the rancor of campaigning behind and the vision of the great experiment
back before our eyes.
Help our new President, who is not yet experienced in governing as he learns his task.
We pray for Congress and all elected officials, and ask
That all would cease thinking so much about having their way, and turn their minds
to safeguard all that is best about our common life.
that they all might help the new President and each other to do what is right and not expedient.
Help him and all who lead to serve and to seek greatness through humility and service to our people,
To see the faces of the poor and the least and their pain and trouble,
to turn to you in their considerations and not only their own inclinations,
To put justice before profit and power, duty ahead of self-importance,
And responsibility before entitlement.
Remind us that we are all entitled by living here.
Help us not to act from resentment but to seek the best for each other.
And as our founders envisioned and believed what they undertook had vast implications for posterity.
let us work together not to win or to vanquish one another,
but with our children and grandchildren’s wellbeing foremost in our minds.
Lead us to take care of the earth and its beauty that you have given us
multiply our talents and wealth so that we might give to others not bloat ourselves with possession,
love our fellow citizens as neighbors and not opponents or problems,
and act from maturity and deliberation and wise counsel
So perhaps we might leave this nation better than we found it.
These things we can do, but only if You, merciful God, pour out upon us,
A renewal of the humble spirit of the Servant Lord who came to give his life as a ransom for many.
We pray today for the grief-stricken, the sick and dying,
those burdened with the disadvantages of broken home or hopeless addictions,
others suffocated by poverty of spirit or money that wilt their souls,
for the angry and the deluded, dying from the ideology of death and ignorance,
for the jobless and the underemployed, for the stranger and alien among us,
for those diseased with hate and misunderstanding and those they hurt,
and for the children of all human trouble, who are the victims of our limitations.
We need Thee every hour, O Lord, but we especially need Thee now in this .
Heal us, mind heart and soul, nation, state and town, neighborhood and family,
Heal us from ancient racial animus and class resentment, from selfishness and greed
Heal us of exhaustion and weariness, from resignation and apathy, from rudeness and incivility
We need Thee now, O Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.