[I originally wrote this prayer for 2009, but in almost every regard it seems just as relevant now, so I reprint it below with a few additions]
A NEW YEAR’S PRAYER FOR OUR NATION—
Lord God, maker of all that is good, and true and beautiful, all that is right, and righteous, and holy, all that is giving and forgiving and merciful, we entreat you on this day to have mercy on our nation America.
We confess to you that we have been self-centered, self-seeking, self-indulgent, self-absorbed. Sometimes we have even assumed that we are your favorite people, but Lord in our better moments we know that arrogance and ignorance dull our spiritual senses and cause us to over-estimate our standing with you, over-compensate for our own sense of being a young and inexperienced nation, and over-react to those who would do us harm.
How much of the bounty you have bestowed on us have we wasted in over-indulging ourselves, in greedy pursuits? How much of the largesse you have bequeathed have we wasted on fighting unnecessary wars, alienating both friend and foe, wasting our moral capital on pointless pursuits and vain strivings, all for little or naught. In the eyes of even our allies we need a complete makeover, but more importantly Lord, where do we stand in your eyes? Are you ashamed of your violent children who refuse to trust you and leave vengeance in your hands?
And now Lord we are experiencing correction, economically and otherwise. Help us to receive it as the discipline we need. Help us not to point fingers of blame at others, but ask ourselves— Is it I Lord? Have I contributed to our being a debtor nation? Have I spent money like there was no tomorrow? Has my capital run through my hands like water through a sieve? Have I built my financial house on sand or on solid rock?
Forgive us Lord our sense of entitlement, our sense that it is ‘owed’ to us, often without hard work, without fulfilling the Genesis mandate. Forgive us for seeking short cuts to success, to wealth, to opulence—gambling, lotteries, and the like. Help us to remember Lord that work is a gift from you, and while ‘the workman is worthy of his hire’, we are not entitled to riches, or early retirement or pension, simply because we have worked hard. Forgive us our dishonesty Lord… for seeking ‘something for nothing’ for seeking compensation without real injury, for seeking good goods for little or no money, and thus driving out of our nation the artisans, the blue collar workers, the furniture makers, the textile experts, and many others. We are reaping what we have sowed Lord, and the fruit is bitter. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves much less loved our enemies, but rather we have loved things more than we have loved people, and so we have used people to get the things we love, rather than the reverse.
And Lord what of our leaders? We remember the stories in Samuel about how Israel got the king that they deserved, rather than the leader that they needed. We ask Lord as we stand on the cusp of a new administration that we will have godly leaders equal to the awesome tasks we face with daunting troubles both at home and abroad. Give us patience with our leaders as they try to dig us out of the enormous holes we have dug ourselves into. Lord, remind us to pray for our leaders even when they exasperate us, perhaps especially when they exasperate us. Give us leaders that promote a culture of life, not death, peace not war, equity not privilege, justice and liberty for all, not just for privileged few. Give us leaders that will appeal to our best and most Christian instincts, not our worst ones, leaders who will make faith rather than fear based decisions about our drastic circumstances.
Lord we do hereby repent of all our sins as individuals and also as a nation, but help us to daily live out that repentance by actually turning away from the very things that made for debt, death, destruction, disaster, and the demise of our nation. We know you are not finished with us yet, and there may yet be more painful corrections along the way, but Lord we take them all as tokens of your love, for we know you chasten those that you love so deeply, so that our relationship with you will not go forfeit, so that we will seek your face when all else around us is falling apart and the dark clouds loom. We remember your promise ‘If my people who are called by my name will repent and turn to me….” and we cling to it, like a man clinging to a rope from a helicopter who is being rescued from a raging sea. Lord, teach us to truly put you first in all that we are and all that we have. Teach us the meaning of doing justice, loving loving kindness, and walking humbly with You.
God we have nearly ruined our environment by the wreckless continued use of fossil fuels. We have fouled our streams, polluted our air, killed the sea life in our oceans, blown the top off our mountains, and burrowed like moles to derive more dirty energy– coal and oil and tar sands. Instead of using the sunlight and air you have given us to generate energy, we have gone our own way and preferred dirty to clean, profitable to careful, harmful to helpful. It is no wonder the polar cap is melting, el Nino is raging, and people wear gas masks in major cities in China. And yet despite all of this we have many people who like ostriches stick their heads in the sand and say “I see nothing, nothing. There is no such thing as climate change.” Instead of caretakers of your earth we have become profit takers, resource wasters, giving no thought to the legacy in air and water and earth we leave to our children and grandchildren. Forgive us Lord for turning our land into a landfill, a land full of trash and waste. We are reaping what we have sown, and quite literally it stinks.
Yes, Lord the naked truth about our sexual misbehavior is all too evident as well. We have exchanged the natural for the unnatural, the creative coupling of male and female which can produce life for the mere gratification of sexual desires with any partner we are inclined to be attracted to. We have exchanged the healthy for the unsafe, the normal for the kinky, love for lust, faithfulness for decisions based on how we ‘feel’ at the time. Were that not enough, we have decided to rewrite the dictionary. By marriage we now mean a committed relationship between any two (or more?) consenting adults, by tolerance we mean acceptance of all sorts of ungodly lifestyles, by good we mean whatever feels good to us at the time. In all these things we have been exposed, laid bare in your eyes, for the sinners we all are. We have indeed exchanged the truth about male and female, about our DNA, about proper sexual behavior, about marriage for a lie.
Most of all, Lord, we ask in the New Year that your Son’s image might be better reflected in our demeanors, our behaviors, our beliefs. Lord we ask in the New Year that when the world looks at us, they may get a glimpse of you. And for us Lord we ask that we might see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly every single day of 2016.
In Your Blessed Name we Pray these things,