Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I have seen this date for a number of months, now. One of the cars of a fellow faculty at my community college has this date on the bumper.

I have been waiting. Counting down.

And praying.

Prayer has become quite the subject of late. President Obama (oooo--the first time I have typed that!) had asked several people to offer prayers--controversially, Rick Warren; Joseph Lowery; and on Sunday at the "We are One" concert--Bishop Gene Robinson.

An Internet discussion group that I read had a lively exchange on whether or not Rick Warren "would invoke the name of Jesus." Some on this discussion group opined that he had better--almost with a teeth gritting tone. Others weren't so sure. The discussion went back and forth. If you watched the inauguration, you know that Rick Warren said "in the name of the one who changed my life."

I did not see any flurry of controversy about Reverend Joseph Lowery's benediction prayer--but I actually found it to be one of the most authentic moments of the inauguration (that is, if you don't count Chief Justice Roberts' flubbing of the oath of office).

On Sunday, when the celebratory concert of "We are One" was held, Bishop Gene Robinson prayed the invocation, not that anyone watching HBO saw it. Big mix-up.

I find Gene Robinson to be one of the most delightful, good-humored, gentle souls. Upon his being asked to pray, he began studying inaugural prayers. He was stunned, he said, at how militantly Christian he found them. In light of the "invoke the name" discussion surrounding Rick Warren's prayer, Gene Robinson said he planned to pray to the God of his understanding. Then, he explained that during his recovery from alcoholism, he learned that in AA one of the phrases is to invoke "the God of my understanding."

I was so touched by that admission on Bishop Robinson's part.

Thanks to the quick thinking of Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today, we have the text of Robinson's prayer. Apparently, she taped it with her cell phone and then transcribed it. You can read about her here.

And here is Bishop Robinson's prayer:

“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with
tears -- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a
dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting
an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and

Bless this nation with anger -- anger at discrimination, at home and
abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a
nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine
respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s
reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best
efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his
leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that
experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those
who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."

AMEN and amen.


possumlady said...

"Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future."

When I read those words, I said out loud "YES!" Oh, I wish he could have read it today in front of the millions watching.

P.S. I'm SO glad I didn't go down to watch. Local reports of 10s of thousands of people stuck in areas and not let through to the parade route because of overcrowding. Also reports of over 250 people being treated for hypothermia. I sat with my cats and "Orson" here at home and had a grand time.

Ruth said...

The words of this prayer are meaningful and I hope they are all fulfilled. I was never inclined to watch an presidential inauguration until this one. One of my coworkers said to me, "Do they have something like this for every president?" We are Canadians, but like the rest of the world are watching with interest and hope.

NCmountainwoman said...

This is one day in which I am so proud that the eyes of the world are watching us. It was a wonderful day. My heart was filled with joy on many occasions today, not the least of which was when George Walker Bush climbed into that helicopter as the former President of the United States.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Thanks for reproducing Gene Robinson's Prayer, it is very well thought out.

I thought the Benediction by Rev. Lowrey was very inspirational.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing Bishop Robinson's prayer. I heard him interviewed on NPR and I was really hoping to hear his words. I loved his "God of our many understandings."

What a joyous, joyous day . . . in particular, because our president, President Obama, doesn't appear to be avoiding the difficult, painful, and worrisome. I am just so happy tonight.

Susan Gets Native said...

I held my breath during the prayer and benediction. But I then let it out. It was all okay.
My favorite part, like Carolyn's, was when President Obama (shivers!) walked Bush to the helicopter...maybe to make sure he really was leaving?
: )

Mary said...

I watched all day and I mumbled several times, Amen.

It's a good day.

mon@rch said...

It is a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Here is the source of Obama's First Day stuff to replace the Last Day of Bush. http://www.obamasfirstday.com/index.html

JeanMac said...

What a wonderful prayer - touches on all Mankind - it's needs and wants. Thanks for posting. May I copy for my records?