A pastor’s Independence Day prayer

God of all grace and mercy, as we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we are grateful for our heritage and concerned for our future.

We are thankful, Lord. We are grateful for the privilege of living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  We are thankful for those who came before us paving the way for unrivaled liberties that allow us to freely make choices about our work, our worship, our ideology, and lifestyle. We are indebted to past and present veterans who risked life and limb in the pursuit and protection of these freedoms.

From the “mountains to the prairies” we are inspired by some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes on our planet.  From “sea to shining sea” we are privileged to draw from a treasure trove of natural resources.  We have access to comfortable housing, above average healthcare, an abundant wardrobe, a diverse menu of our favorite foods, and high tech communication and entertainment.  We are certainly blessed beyond our deserving.

During this season of celebration we are grateful, yet concerned . . . concerned about our nation, concerned about our world, and concerned about the future.

From our many different perspectives and ideologies we are concerned about things like the threats of terrorism, the brutalities of war, the abuse of political power, the divisiveness of harsh and misleading political rhetoric, a lack of civil discourse, a growing sense of moral anarchy, and the possibility of an approaching storm or natural disaster.  These concerns lead to heightened anxiety about the stability of our economy, the tenure of our employment, and the cost of our insurance.

And we confess that these anxieties often divert us from our mission to “minister to the least of these,” and to “love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly” with you.

These concerns and anxieties also remind us of our need to confess our sins, personally and corporately. We confess that we have too often taken our freedom for granted and we have too frequently been negligent in living up to the responsibilities of our citizenship. We confess that at times we are too quick to judge and even quicker to criticize. We confess that we are slow to intercede for our neighbors and our leaders, and even slower to trust in your leadership.

We confess that our self-interests have too often taken priority over the best interest you have in mind for our nation and for our world.  We confess that we have been irresponsible in our stewardship of “our space and our stuff,” often consuming and storing compulsively without conscious regard for sharing. We confess that we have too often trusted in our own initiatives and ingenuity more than we have trusted in you.

You tell us in time-tested scripture that, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

As we approach this Independence Day, we ask you to forgive our sin and to heal our land. On this day, we pray for the leaders of our nation, our state, and our community that they will lead with wisdom and courage.

We pray for the men and women who serve in our military that they will fulfill their mission effectively and return home safely and soon.

We pray for our enemies that their swords will also be “turned into plowshares,” even as we long for that day when the “lion will lie down alongside the lamb.”

We pray for the churches, cathedrals, and temples of our community and our world that they will be lighthouses of grace and peace, ever pressing toward the mark of our high calling.

Because you are the freedom-loving God, lead us to exercise our freedom responsibly and to pursue “liberty and justice for all” people around the globe.

Barry Howard

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Barry Howard serves as senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

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