I have again picked up my copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Advent 2016 took me again to the daily readings of the church year, which I generally follow until Pentecost—when I then dive into a more free pattern of Bible reading. I’ve had my copy of the BCP for something like 35 years (it is the 1979 edition from the U. S. Episcopal Church). As the late Mark Ashton, rector of St. Andrews Church, Cambridge (The Round Church) wrote, Thomas Cranmer produced a reformed book of worship for the new Church of England. Though it has been altered, adjusted, updated, etc. through the centuries it retains a great deal of reformation piety and wisdom. It is a thoughtful guide for Bible reading.
Though the prayers in my copy are (probably) no longer Cranmer’s, the BCP is also a rich manual for prayer. And I was reminded of its breadth, depth, and value when I began reading and praying during Advent. Looking for one set of prayers, I was reminded again of this other set of prayers. And I was ashamed to not have prayed in this way during our recent national election. More importantly, I was reminded to pray in this way for all those in political authority now and as we move into a new federal administration.
Regardless of political commitments, whether my or your candidate is out of or in the White House, this is a deeply Christian way to pray. I will say that if more had prayed in this way, things might have gone a different direction, long before our final two-party candidates were chosen.
Prayers for National Life
For our Country
Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly ask that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your 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 here out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, do not allow our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(language updated from the 1979 edition)
For Sound Government
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.
These are good patterns for public praying. Too often in our churches we pray for leaders according to the political calendar (Right to Life Sunday, July 4, November 11, elections), or when our most cherished values seem at risk. Shouldn’t we be biblical and pray—perhaps this way, but to pray in any case—frequently?
It is not too late for me to be praying this way. And it is never too late to expect and demand from our leaders the kind of character and commitments that we pray for.