By Matt Sapp
As we pause to celebrate our country this week, I am grateful for the unique promise of liberty granted to Americans and for those who have dedicated their lives to upholding it over the centuries.
But I’m also struck this year by the work required of each generation to nurture and protect the Christian values and common bonds that give meaning to our freedom. One of the ways we do that is through the language that we use.
The way we talk about and to one another can either strengthen our common bonds or fray them, and I’m worried that the tenor of our national discourse is too often doing the latter right now as political differences and partisanship bury the fruits of the spirit under a mountain of divisive rhetoric.
So I want to suggest a prayer that asks Christians to lead the way in bringing Christian values—things like love, gentleness and self-control—back into our public discourse as we celebrate 242 years of liberty.
I hope you’ll join me in this prayer:
AS A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
God of our common faith and ruler of the nations,
As we pause for the Fourth of July, we are grateful for our country, for the place you’ve given us in it, and for your presence among us. We pray that you would guide us as Christians to seek the best interests of our nation with the benefit of your blessing—and to engage our work as citizens in a way that acknowledges that you are God and Father of us all.
As Christians in America, we pray hopefully for a future of peace and shared prosperity consistent with the dawning reality of your kingdom here on earth.
As Christians in America, we pray collectively that we would use our words in ways that promote your values, and we repent of the words that we have used in error.
As Christians in America, we pray that you will guide us to act collectively in ways that inspire unity as we make intentional efforts to heal the divisions among us.
As Christians in America, we pray that you will use us to take the lead in building good will and common purpose among Americans of all political stripes; among rich and poor, male and female, young and old, rural and urban, immigrants and native-born; and among people of every race and from every nation.
All of this can be summed up very simply: God, Bless America, and use the shared efforts of Christians to do it.
AS INDIVIDUAL FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST
God who reigns in me,
As a dutiful citizen of my country and a faithful disciple in your kingdom, I pray that you will lead me to be generous and forgiving as you are generous and forgiving—especially toward those with whom I disagree.
As a dutiful citizen and faithful disciple, I pray each day that my words and actions will serve to calm rather than inflame the fears of those around me.
As a dutiful citizen and faithful disciple, I pray that you will help me to be the kind of person who inspires the best in others rather than someone who seeks to exploit the worst in them.
As a dutiful citizen and faithful disciple, I pray that you will bless me with the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it; with the humility to admit wrongs and the dignity to seek forgiveness; and with compassion for those who struggle and a genuine concern for the least among us.
All of this can be summed up very simply: God, Bless America, and use me as your instrument to do it,
As we pause to honor our country next week, I’m praying that God’s love would be reflected in the way that Christians engage their work as citizens—and that Christians would take the lead in welcoming charity back into our common discourse.
God is alive and present in our world and in our nation, and we have the privilege of nurturing and protecting the values that God has entrusted to our care for this generation.
With humble gratitude for the blessings of liberty and the means through which to preserve it, we remember that the future ultimately isn’t ours to fight over. The future, like the present, belongs to God. And it’s already been decided.
Happy Fourth of July.