Knock and the door will be open. Ask, and you will receive
[Editor’s note: Father Baker has the week off. This column is from Nov. 20, 2019.]
By Scott Baker
Some years ago, I read a list of funny quips and aphorisms related to church. I’m sure you have read similar sayings. Sayings such as, “If God is your copilot, change seats” or “coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.” The one I have in mind said, “If you want a better preacher for your church, pray for the one you have.” My particular homiletical abilities aside, it put me in mind of current state of our country. If we want a better country, perhaps we should pray for the one we have.
I was speaking with a friend a few months ago and asked him, “Can you ever think of a time when our country has been more polarized?” My friend, being a number of years older, replied, “I can think of only one other time that comes close; the late 1960s.” Considering that was when I was born, I had to take his word for it. However, I have read history, and seen portrayals in movies and other media that have confirmed his recollections.
Last Thursday at our Morning Prayer service I turned to the section of The Book of Common Prayer that is dedicated to a variety of prayers for just about anything concerning human life. I was compelled to pray a prayer for our country. Oddly enough, to the best of my memory, I had never prayed the prayer in my life. I had certainly prayed other prayers for our nation, but never this particular one. The prayer is a follows, “Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy 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 hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail.” I have recited that prayer multiple times since last Thursday. I find in it much of what we need as a nation right now.
In most of my conversations with friends, family, and parishioners, many are weighed down with concern and consternation over the state of affairs in our nation. Some going so far as to express dread with the prospect of gathering around the Thanksgiving table or the Christmas tree with family because of the discord that might ensue. It pains them that we are so polarized and they long for us to have a deeper sense of unity and purpose. Almost every person I speak to bemoans the loss of civility in public discourse and a lack of mutual respect. Perhaps now, more than in recent years, we indeed do need to pray for “pure manners” and to be “save[d] from violence, discord and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.”
If indeed we do stand and say in our Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God, indivisible …” and on our currency we print, “In God we trust,” then perhaps there is no better time than now we need to pray for our nation. Praying the prayer cited above might be a good place to start. By God’s grace, we very well may get what we pray for.
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.