The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

A Prayer for Presidents’ Day


A Prayer for the Nation

Almighty God, Who has 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 ministry, 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 multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those 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 time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801.
Read other prayers of presidents here.

Comments read comments(13)
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posted February 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

The current President certainly needs prayer…as do all of us Americans.

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posted February 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Is it immoral for us republicans to pray for an early death?/

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posted February 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm

This prayer is falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson. It comes from the 1928 US Book of Common Prayer.
Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, but he had a commanding understanding of the Gospels. Read “Jefferson’s Bible”, an early and impressive effort to uncover the historical Jesus.
An interesting quote from another founding father of our Country…
“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon…” – Benjamin Franklin

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Franklin Jennings

posted February 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm

“Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, but he had a commanding understanding of the Gospels. Read “Jefferson’s Bible”, an early and impressive effort to uncover the historical Jesus.”
Sure, DML, if you call cutting out any part of a text that contradicts your dogma ‘an impressive effort to uncover’ something, I guess you are right.
The only thing impressive about Jefferson’s work is that he was able to translate his mutilated bible into multiple languages.

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posted February 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Jefferson wasn’t driven by dogma, everything he and the founding fathers did strikes me as thoroughly pragmatic. All credible New Testament scholarship is indebted to the politically risky work that Jefferson started. Robert Funk even dedicates “The Five Gospels” to Jefferson’s early efforts.

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posted February 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

Save the Liturgy
Save the world.

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Franklin Jennings

posted February 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Then, DML, you simply do not understand what ‘dogma’ means.
What criteria did Jefferson use in choosing which testimony recorded inthe 4 gospels to keep and which to excise?
I am certain you’ll find his criteria coincided in great part with his dogmas.

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Franklin Jennings

posted February 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

As for claims of pragmatism, I am still trying to find what pragmatic use the Jefferson Bible serves.
He wasn’t noted for carrying around a bible, so he didn’t cut out the parts which offended his materialist dogmas to reduce weight.
It certainly seems far-fetched that he translated his excised gospels into multiple languages in case he found himself unable to read written english due to a freak brain injury.
No, it looks much more like a work of vanity, rather than pragmatism.
Maybe while you are reviewing the definition of ‘dogma’, you might also flip forward and peruse ‘pragmatism’.

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posted February 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm

To some, dogma is a virtue and pragmatism is a vice. Being told what to believe about the Bible or anything else, is dogma. Making up your own mind about the subject is not. Asking questions, especially when you question bedrock formula for orthodox understands of the Gospels can lead to rather uncomfortable paradigm shifts. Jefferson set one of these paradigm shifts into play.
I suppose that you are right that he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus and he sought to rearrange the Gospels with that supposition in mind. For that, I see his effort as systematic, but not dogmatic.
Scientists and scholars typically like to transmit their findings to a wider audience, hence publishing in other languages. Nothing dogmatic in this act of his.
For him and other scholars of the Gospels, their work usually plays out within a certain framework that they use to understand the historical Jesus. Such as whether Jesus actually simulated/performed healings, was a wisdom sage, preached only about an interim ethic in the context of an impending eschaton, or instead was a wisdom sage. These do lead to systematic differences of interpretation that are grounded in honest scholarship, but I would hope that as good scholars/scientists, one would not be obstinate.

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Your Name

posted February 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Sigh, so much ignorance, so little time.
If you wish to invent definitions, go right ahead.
For that matter, if you have any desire to waste your Sunday mornings worshipping a rabble-rousing carpenter cum rabbi who claimed divinity right up until they tortured him to death and left his remains to be eaten by dogs, more power to you.
I just think watching home shopping channels would be less of a waste of your time.

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Etaoin Shrdlu

posted April 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Dear DML and Mr. Jennings:
Your are both ignoring the significance of the “Jefferson Bible”, it is definitive proof (as if anymore were needed) that the attempts of the “Christian Nationalists” to claim Jefferson as one of their own, to cite the phony so-called “Jefferson Prayer for the Nation” as proof, is nothing more than a lie.
Obviously, the man who could remove all references to miracles from his version of the Bible can hardly be called a “fundamentalist Christian” or a supporter of mixing church and state.
Anyone who wants to know Jefferson’s true views about Jesus need only read the following: “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every HUMAN excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.” – Letter to Doctor Rush, April 21, 1803, printed in The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Random House, 1972) page 567 (emphasis in the original).
All of which demonstrates that the “Prayer for the Nation” (which ends with an invocation of Jesus’ name) wasn’t by Jefferson. Why invoke the name of someone you believe is merely human?

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The Rt. Rev. David Gregory McMannes

posted July 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

It’s nice that Thomas Jefferson was cited as the author of the above prayer; however, it was actually written by the Rev. George Lyman Lock, 52 years the rector of St. Michael’s Bristol R.I.
The prayer was first published in a work entitled “The Book Annexed” in 1883, and was subsequently included in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (page 36). As Massey Shepherd said in his “The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary,” “… it reflects no less truly the expansive and turbulent era of our national history in which the prayer was composed: the rapid development of the West, the tremendous influx of foreign immigration, the rise of ‘big business,’ the violent attendant upon the organization of labour, the corruption and scandals in high places, and, not least, the emergence of the United States as a world power.”
Some things never change, others only slightly!

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Ruth Walker

posted January 26, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Why isn’t the misattributed prayer taken down? It’s unconscionable that so many believe such nonsense came from T.J. and those making up these things have a huge following. Set the record straight!

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