God Bless America, yes, but in our (or at least my) current state of comfort and abundance we are often warned both in scripture and from our Christian leaders not to forget the God who has provided us with every good thing.
The Rev. Peter Marshall was Chaplain of the United States senate beginning in 1947, and offering daily prayers on the senate floor until his sudden death just two years later. One day perusing the racks at Brattle Book Shop, I stumbled upon a collection of his prayers with which he opened the senate meetings. I didn’t realize there were prayers at every congressional session, but apparently there still are. Here is Dr. Marshall’s prayer from July 3rd, 1947:
God of our Fathers, whose Almighty hand hath made and
preserved our Nation, grant that our people may understand what it is they celebrate tomorrow.
May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must yet be paid for our liberty.
May the freedom be seen, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to please to do what is right.
May it ever be understood that our liberty is Under God and can be found nowhere else.
May our faith be something that is not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives.
Let us, as a nation, be not afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”
We know that we shall be true to the Pilgrim dream when we are true to the God they worshiped.
To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America, and keep her true as THou hast kept her free, and make her good as Thou hast made her rich. Amen.
I heard a sermon yesterday that quoted this prayer of Abraham Lincoln, who set aside a national day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation during the events leading up to the civil war.
…In so much as we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Both prayers remind me somewhat of the scriptures, which often remind us not to forget God who has given us all good things. Here is Deuteronomy 6:10-12, something we are studying at Park Street Church.
10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
And Proverbs 30:
7 “Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
So happy 4th of July! For what it’s worth, I’ll be eating potato salad and watching the fireworks on the Charles, but as Derek Webb reminds us:
our first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
our first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a King and a Kingdom!