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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – as a Prayer

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Today is the 146th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of one of the most sublime and enduring political statements in history: The Gettysburg Address. The 16th President stood and spoke simply and directly, in just a few short minutes, framing the meaning of the horrible but decisive Civil War battle at Gettysburg. In his words he explains to his war weary nation and the world the meaning of the terrible and bloody conflict.

For Lincoln the War marked history’s greatest test determining whether a nation born and borne on the principles of self-government could endure not only external foes – as she had in the Revolution – but dividing internal strife. For Lincoln America was a God-founded nation, “Under God” he calls her. Preserving her unity was for him a calling from God himself. To be so placed – Under God – is to recognize that all our valued rights and the laws that protect them have a higher source and a spiritual accountability. America, Lincoln believed and proclaimed, was a society governed by laws, not men, and those laws derived their power from God and his moral stipulations.

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Lincoln in this sense is speaking this great address not only to Americans past and future, but also as a kind of prayer, a declaration to God, that we do not take his gift of trust lightly, and that we will resolve to not let God’s great American experiment fall to dust!

Here’s Lincoln’s Gettysburg “Prayer”  

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

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We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

 

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Thankgiving Prayer: When Words Fail, Borrow a Line

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Everyone’s gathered and waiting. The food is hot and on the table. It’s Thankgiving, and dinner time. it’s time to pray and say “Thank you” to the One who has given us life and the means to sustain it. How do we put “Thank you” into words? Most people in America pray privately, though a minority now verbalize prayers for meals on an average day. Still, most families who celebrate Thanksgiving dinner will puase for a verbal prayer of Thanks. What to say at such a moment? When our own words fail us, here are few rich examples to draw from.  

Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.

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A Moravian Blessing

 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into God’s presence with singing!
Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Psalm 100

 

“Bless this food and us that eats it.”

Cowboy Grace

 

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Eternal King,
Who feeds the whole world with Your goodness,
With grace, with loving kindness, and with tender mercy.
You give food to all flesh,
For Your loving kindness endures forever.
Through Your great goodness, food has never failed us.
O may it not fail us forever, for Your name’s sake,
Since You nourish and sustain all living things,
And do good to all,
And provide food for all Your creatures
Whom You have created.
Blesses are You, O Lord, Who gives food to all.

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A Hebrew Blessing

 

If you know of other Thanksgiving prayers, post them in the comment section below. Someone slated to say “Grace” a week from Thursday may be grateful for a good example they can draw from.

 

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Thanksgiving Prayer: Gratitude is the Fountain of Youth!

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…  Psalm 103

Everyone wants the fountain of youth. Supposedly, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida looking for the secret of eternal youth. Millions still go there every January with the same ambition. Yes, staying young is big business.

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The Bible has a simpler and cheaper solution: Gratitude and thanks. In his 3,000 year old poem (we call it Psalm 103 in the Bible) King David tells himself to “Praise the Lord,” and “don’t forget his benefits” – another way of saying, “Be thankful to God.” One of the benefits of remembering God’s benefits, those things he’s already given us, is that our “youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” In other words, gratitude lifts us above and through the winds of adversity, as an eagle sores through and above the storm. With thankfulness we fly.

There is now scientific evidence to support what David demonstrated so long ago. Thankfulness and gratitude is good for our health. It makes us young again.

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Dr. Jeffry Froh, Assistant Psychology Professor at Hofstra University, There may be measurable, scientific benefits to the American tradition of giving thanks. In study of college students Froh found that “Students who counted blessings were less likely to report headaches, stomach aches, pains in the body.” Gratitude works. Praising God for his goodness keeps us young… forever! It’s literally a “fountain of youth for all eternity!

“God, we thank you for the benefits of life that you have given us. We will not forget that you are the source of all good things. We know that this is not only right to acknowledge – it is the truth – but it is also beneficial to acknowledge. When we give honor to whom honor is due – you – we reap great benefits in our lives. Gratitude rejuvenates our bones and releases our anxieties and worries into your hands. Thank you, God. We say this in Jesus’ name.”

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Thanksgiving Prayer: Satisfaction Guaranteed

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

Who satisfies your desires with good things…

“Satisfies…” Really? “With good things…” Is this true?

I read this line this morning and my mind flashed to a most unholy image: February 2006, and the Super Bowl XL halftime show. If you saw it, you’ll remember: Two 60 year-old men, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones bounced around the stage like skeletons draped in greasy rags bellowing out their anthem, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

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“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Cause I try, and I try, and I try and I try, I can’t get no, I can’t get no”

40 years after Mick and Keith wrote and released this song, after all the food and drugs and women and attention and adulation talent and money can buy, I saw them still singing this simple riff with a passion and power that only conviction and experience can bring. They meant it and they were living proof: Life has not satisfied.

Desires of course are dangerous things. I recall once talking to a devout Buddhist friend who warned me against wanting too much from life. “Life is suffering,” he said. “Suffering comes from desires that can never be had. The power of enlightenment comes only when we control, release, and ultimately eliminate desire.” I thought about her words and later came back to my friend with another challenge. I recalled reading C.S. Lewis’ great essay, “The Weight of Glory.” I shared the following quote with her.

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Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.    

Lewis believed – and I’m convinced he was right – that we are too easily satisfied with pursuing immediate satisfaction, which as Mick and Keith admit, never answers as it promises. The solution isn’t on the one hand to desire more of the same, and pursue more at all costs, or on the other to suppress desire and cease to want and so to live. The surprising solution is to aim desire itself at a higher target. The answer is do desire God!

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As we amble our way toward Thanksgiving we return to this amazing promise in Psalm 103. We have benefits granted by God, benefits that are settled and sealed for us. All we need to do is “remember them.” The gifts of these benefits are already given. One of those benefits, David says, is “satisfying our desires with good things.” The challenge is not to temper desire. The challenge is to remember – and see already around us at our feet – that the “good things” are already here – good at the level of right and fitting and fulfilling. The promise is astounding and simple: we now have all good things necessary for all true desire. And what is this “good thing?” It is first and last and only God himself!

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Thank you God for giving us passion and desire. You have set up our lives so that nothing and no one can ever satisfy our deepest need. We say, “I can’t get no satisfaction…Cause I try and I try…” Yet you have promised that we can be fulfilled when we take hold of the one “good thing” that does fill our emptiness. You are that one “good thing.” Help us today to look for and find your presence in our world here and now. We will not suppress our passions; we will find completion of them in you! We trust you, and you yourself are the object of our deepest desire. You are the only and ultimate “good thing” that satisfies, and you have given us yourself for this very reason. Thank you.

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