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Here are the texts of invocations and benedictions at presidential inaugurals since 1937 when the practice began. I’m still searching for the full texts for some of the earlier ones, and will update this space as I get them.
Invocation Delivered By The Rev. Dr. Luis León, Rector Of St. John’s Episcopal Church On Lafayette Square
Most gracious and eternal God, we gather today as a grateful people who enjoy the many blessings you have bestowed on this nation.
We are grateful for your vision, which inspired the founders of our nation to create this democratic experiment-one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
We are grateful that you have brought to these shores a multitude of peoples of many ethnic, religious and language backgrounds and have fashioned one nation out of our many traditions.
We remember before you the members of the armed forces. We commend them to your care. Give them courage to carry out their duties and courage to face the perils which beset them and grant them a sense of your presence in all that they do. (Book of Common Prayer). We pray for their families. Support them and hold them in the palm of your hand while their loved ones are absent from them.
Today, we are especially grateful for this inauguration marking a new beginning in our journey as a people and a nation. We pray that you will shower the elected leaders of this land and especially George, our President, and Richard, our Vice president, with your life-giving spirit. Fill them with a love of truth and righteousness that they may serve you and this nation ably and are glad to do your will. Endow their hearts with your spirit of wisdom that they may lead us in renewing the “ties of mutual respect which form our civic life.” (Book of Common Prayer).
Strengthen their resolve as our nation seeks to serve you in this world that this good and generous country may be a blessing to the nations of the world. May they lead us to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, members of a beloved community, loving our neighbors as ourselves so that all of us may more closely come to fulfill the promise of our founding fathers-one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
All this we ask in your most holy name. Amen
(Many of these words and themes are taken from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.)
2005 Inaugural Benediction delivered By The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Senior Pastor Of Windsor Village United Methodist Church In Houston, Texas
Oh Lord God Almighty, the supply and supplier of faith and freedom, how excellent is Your name in all the earth. You are great and greatly to be praised. God, as we conclude this 55th inaugural ceremony, we conclude it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Thank You for protecting America’s borders. After all, the Psalmist reminds us, unless You, O God, guard the territory, our efforts will be in vain.
Thank You for our armed service personnel. And it is with unswerving thanksgiving that we pause to remember the persons who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure America’s safety. Thank You, O God, for surrounding our personnel, their families, their friends and our allies with Your favor and Your faithfulness.
Deploy Your hosts from heaven so that Your will for America will be performed on earth as it is already perfected in heaven. I confess that Your face will shine upon the United States of America, granting us social peace and economic prosperity, particularly for the weary and the poor.
I also confess, God, that each American’s latter days will be better than their former days. Let it be unto us according to Your Word.
Rally the Republicans, the Democrats and the independents around Your common good so that America will truly become one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equal opportunity for all–including the least, the last and the lost.
Bless every elected official right now. God, I declare Your blessings to shower upon our President, George W. Bush. Bless him, his family and his administration. I once again declare that no weapon formed against them shall prosper.
God, forgive us for becoming so ensnarled in petty partisan politics that we miss Your glory and block our purpose. Deliver us from the evil one, from evil itself and from the mere appearance of evil.
Give us clean hearts, so that we might have clean agendas, clean priorities and programs and even clean financial statements.
Now, unto You, O God, the One who always has been and always will be, the one King of kings and the true power broker, we glorify and honor You.
Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Invocation delivered by Franklin Graham
Blessed are You, 0 Lord, our God. Yours, 0 God, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, 0 Lord, is the kingdom. You’re exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You. You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and to give strength to all. As President Lincoln once said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended powers, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
O Lord, as we come together on this historic and solemn occasion to inaugurate once again a president and vice president, teach us afresh that power, wisdom and salvation come only from Your hand. We pray, 0 Lord, for President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney, to whom You have entrusted leadership of this nation at this moment in history. We pray that You’ll help them bring our country together so that we may rise above partisan politics and seek the larger vision of Your will for our nation.
Lord, we pray for their families, and especially their wives, Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney, that they may sense Your presence and know Your love. Today, we entrust to You President and Senator Clinton, and Vice President and Mrs. Gore. Lead them as they journey through new doors of opportunity to serve others.
Now, 0 Lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to You. May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before You and acknowledge You alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College
2001 Inaugural Benediction, delivered by the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas
“Let us pray, please.
Almighty God, the supply and supplier of peace, prudent policy and nonpartisanship, we bless your holy and righteous name.
Thank you, oh God, for blessing us with forgiveness, with faith and with favor.
Forgive us for choosing pride over purpose, forgive us for choosing popularity over principles and forgive us for choosing materialism over morals.
Deliver us from these and all other evils and cast our sins into your sea of forgetfulness to be remembered no more.
And Lord not only do we thank you for our forgiveness, we thank you for faith–faith to believe that every child can learn and no child will be left behind and no youth will be left out.
Thank you for blessing us with the faith to believe that all of your leaders can sit down and reason with one another so that each American is blessed.
Thank you for blessing us with the faith to believe that the walls of inequity can be torn down and the gaps between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the uneducated and the educated can and will be closed.
And Lord lastly we thank you for favor. We thank you for your divine favor. Let your favor be upon President Clinton and the outgoing administration.
May they go forth in spiritual grace and civic greatness.
And of course, Lord, let your divine favor be upon President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Welch Bush and their family. We declare that no weapon formed against them shall prosper.
Let your divine favor be upon the Bush team and all Americans, with the rising of the sun and the going down of the same may we grow in our willingness and ability to bless you and bless one another.
We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ.
Let all who agree say ‘amen.'”
Invocation delivered by Billy Graham
President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, Vice President Gore, Mrs. Gore. I’m going to ask that we all bow our heads in prayer.
Our Father and our God, we thank You today for the privilege of coming into Your presence on this historic and solemn occasion.
We thank You for Your gracious hand which has preserved us as a nation. We praise You for the peaceful continuity of government that this Inauguration represents.
We recall that the Bible says, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127: 1, KJV). You also said that to whom much has been given, much shall be required.
We look gratefully to the past, and thank You that from the very foundations of America You granted our forefathers courage and wisdom, as they trusted in You. So we ask today that You would inspire us by their example; where there has been failure, forgive us; where there has been progress, confirm; where there has been success, give us humility; and teach us to follow Your instructions more closely as we enter the next century.
Give to all those to whom You have entrusted leadership today a desire to seek Your will and to do it.
So today we ask Your blessing on President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, and their daughter, Chelsea; and upon Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, and their children.
Give to all our leaders the vision of what You desire America to become, and the wisdom to accomplish it, and the strength to cross the bridges into the 21st Century.
We pray also for the members of the House and the Senate; for the Supreme Court; and for all who bear responsibility of leadership in this nation which is blessed with such ethnic diversity.
We have not solved all the social problems of our time, such as drugs and racism. Technology and social engineering have not solved the basic problems of human greed, pride, intolerance, and selfishness. We need Your insight, we need Your compassion, we need Your strength.
As both President Clinton and Senator Dole urged us in the recent presidential campaign, may this be a time of coming together to help us deal with the problems we face. O Lord, help us to be reconciled first to you and secondly to each other. May Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream finally come true for all of us. Help us to learn our courtesy to our fellow countryman that comes from the One who taught us that “whatever you want me to do to you, do also to them.”
Remind us today that You have shown us what is good, and what You require of us: To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
We ask that as a people we may humble ourselves before You, and seek Your will for our lives and for this great nation. Help us in our nation to work as never before to strengthen our families, and to give our children hope and a moral foundation for the future.
So may our desire be to serve You, and in so doing, serve one another. This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College
Benediction by Rev. Gardner C. Taylor – Baptist
[still searching for text]
Invocation delivered by Billy Graham
Our God and our Father, we thank you for this historic occasion when we inaugurate our new President and Vice-President. We thank you for the moral and spiritual foundations which our forefathers gave us and which are rooted deeply in scripture. Those principles nourished and guided us as a nation in the past, but we cannot say that we are a righteous people. We’ve sinned against you. We’ve sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality, and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to you.
And now, on this twentieth day of January, 1993, we commit to you President-elect Clinton and Vice-President-elect Gore, who you have permitted to take leadership at this critical time in our nation’s history. Help them always to see the office to which they’ve been elected as a sacred trust from you. We pray that you will bless their wives who will share so much of the responsibility and burdens. Make President-elect Clinton know that he is never really alone but that the eternal God can he his refuge and he can turn to you in every circumstance. Give him the wisdom you’ve promised to whose who ask and the strength that you alone can give. We thank you for his predecessor President Bush and the dedication he gave to this office. Bless him as he and Mrs. Bush continue their dedicated service to our country in other spheres. We commit this inaugural ceremony to you and ask that the memory of this event may always remind us to pray for our leaders. I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Invocation delivered by Billy Graham
Our Father and our God, Thou hast said, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.’ We recognize on this historic occasion that we are a nation under God. This faith in God is our foundation and our heritage. Thou hast warned us in the Holy Scriptures, ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ We confess that we are in danger of destroying some of those foundations, for at times our faith in Thee has faltered and we chosen to go our own way rather than the way that Thou wouldst have us go, both as individuals and as a nation. Forgive us, we pray, as we turn to Thee in repentance and faith. Restore us to Thyself and create within us a desire to follow Thy will for all our lives. As George Washington reminded us in his farewell address, morality and faith are the pillars of our society. May we never forget that….
And now we come to a new era in our history. In Thy sovereignty Thou hast permitted George Bush to lead us at this momentous hour of our history for the next four years. As he today places his hand upon the Bible and solemnly swears before Thee to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, give him the wisdom, integrity and courage to help this become a nation that is gentle and kind. Protect him from physical danger, and in the lonely moments of decision grant him Thy wisdom to know what is morally right and an uncompromising courage to do it. Give him a cool head and a warm heart. Give him a compassion for those in physical, moral and spiritual need. 0 God, we consecrate today George Herbert Walker Bush to the presidency of these United States.
Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College
Invocation by Rev. Timothy Healy, President, Georgetown University:
“Let us offer this prayer for the President and Vice President and their families for the people and government of these United States, for men and women of goodwill everywhere captive and free who watch us today. Please join me in saying the words our father taught us: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer by Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, President, Hebrew Union College:
We the people, turn to you, oh, God in prayer. We have come again to this place which stirs our hearts, to reaffirm the highest ideals of our nation. The sacred oaths about to be pronounced in your name reflect the awesome responsibilities entrusted to our president and vice president by the American people. May you who are the rock of ages guide them in protecting the Constitution of our beloved commonwealth founded in faith which ensures unity without uniformity. Sustain them, oh, God as they advance the American way which gives to bigotry no sanction, to malevolence no hope. Oh, source of all life, enshrine in their hearts the knowledge that all are created in your image and that life, your gift to us, is sacred. Inspire our leaders to defeat hunger and hurt, to promote compassion and to find successful ways to assure the weak their share of America’s promise. In humility, we pray, that this opportunity for renewal will advance reconciliation in the family of nations, guaranteeing peace in our world and tranquility in the farthest reaches of our universe. May those who follow us, our children and our children’s children, bless our president and vice president, their families, and all those associated with them in government and may all remember this time and this administration as that in which their future was made secure. Oh, God, may you who makes peace in high places help us here on earth to find the way to peace. Blessed are you, oh, God, oseh ha Shalom granter of peace. Amen
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Come, Father, with cleansing power and remove all things from us that would impede your purpose and thwart your plan. Forgive our pride and arrogance before each other and other nations of the world. May we with Godly grace weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who work for a just and free world. Grant us, oh, Father, the courage and the compassion to stand in solidarity with the poor, the needy, the dispossessed, and the disadvantaged. May the President and the Vice-President of these United States and all who stand with him in his desire for peace receive first the peace of Christ and in all things seek first not the kingdom of plenty or the kingdom of political superiority, but may they seek humbly first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In the name of the King even Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.
Benediction by Rev. Peter Gomes, Chaplain, Harvard University:
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 industry, sound learning and pure manners. Save us from discord, violence and confusion and the frailty of our own hearts. Defend our liberties, preserve our unity and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Imbue with the spirit of wisdom, prudence and fortitude the President and Vice-President of these United States and all those to whom is entrusted the authority of government to the end that justice and peace may flourish at home and abroad. Make us, with them, equal to our high trusts, reverent in the use of freedom, just in the exercise of power, generous in the protection of weakness. May wisdom and compassion be the stability of our times, and our deepest trust in thee in whom we live and move and have our being. Unto thee, o, Lord we ascribe all honor and glory and in thanksgiving and in hope we commend now to thy eternal protection, ourselves, our nation and our world. Amen
From the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation
Invocation by Rev. Donn Moomaw, Bel Air Presbyterian Church:
Gracious God our Father, we need you today maybe as never before. We have not lived up to our personal or national potential. We have seen our world from our own selfish parochial point of view. We have lived as though everything depended upon us. We confess our sin and seek your forgiveness. In this historic moment we would pray for our President-elect Ronald Reagan. We also pray for Vice President-elect George Bush, the cabinet and all others who are in positions of leadership in this new administration, may they measure well the shortness of time and the length of eternity. May they see all people and things and nations from your point of view. We thank you, o, God for the release of the hostages and for all those who have made this moment possible. And so in this moment of new beginnings our hearts beat with a cadence of pride in our country and hope in its future. Help us to stand proudly as American citizens and face every challenge with a confidence born of your spirit and humbly touched by your love and grace. So to this end we commit ourselves to this end. We pray in the name of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, even Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Benediction by Rev. Donn Moomaw, Bel Air Presbyterian Church:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace, both now and forever more. Amen”
From the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation
Invocation by Rev. William Cannon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church for Georgia:
O God, whom people of different persuasions call by different names, yet on whom we all alike rely for our lives, our land, and for the opportunity for happiness, Grant us, we pray Thee, a new and vital realization of Thy sovereignty and our dependence, of what it means to be creatures responsible to their creator and of our obligations — both as individuals and as a society — to Thee. Save us as a nation from the arrogant futility of trying to play God, as if we knew everything there is to know, as if our wealth was so great that we can satisfy the needs of people everywhere over the world and buy their favor and support, as if our power was limitless, so that we can manage and direct the affairs of humankind.
The truth is that we are not able to properly manage and control ourselves, to guarantee to every American the full advantage of the fruits of his labor, so that each one of us may sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree and none shall make us afraid. The management of the world is Thy business, not ours, O God. Give us the humility and the good sense to see this.
We ask Thy forgiveness for those sins that marred our national character and impaired the effectiveness of our government in recent times. Help us as a people to confess our sins, not to blame our politicians alone for them. In their evil and wrongdoing, Thou dost hold before our face a mirror in which we see our own misdeed writ large.
Teach us that a democracy is not sacred just because it is a democracy, and that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is no better than the people themselves.
Let this, the first administration in the third century of our national existence, be the beginning of a new era, a time of rectitude, righteousness and propserity for all our citizens based on their own toil and productivity, and peace.
Bless our outgoing President, Gerald Ford. Give him the satisfaction of knowing that he rendered inestimable services to our country under trying circumstances.
Bless the Congress of the United States, the newly designated Cabinet and all others either elected or appointed to public office.
Pour out the abudnance of they grace, we pray Thee, upon Jimmy Carter, about to be inaugurated President of the United States. We pray for his family, especially Rosalynn his wife, that they may su pport him in this most difficult task. We thank Thee for his brilliant mind, his signal accomplishments in public service, his exemplary Christian life and his devotion to Thee and Thy people. Give him the wisdom, the strength, and the goodness to take his place among the greagest of our Presidents and grant him, like Solomon, an understanding heart to govern Thy people rightly.
Make our people governable, O God. Save our nation from factionalism and from the divisiveness of those who exert pressure on government for their own interests, seeking selfish gain more than the common good.
Make us, we pray, one people under Thee, united for the good of the nation and for the service of the world. Help us together to build a nation here on earth that in this manner of life anticipates Thine everlasting kingdom in Heaven.
Benediction by Archbishop John R. Roach, Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota:
May we join in prayer.
God, our Father,
We thank you now for this earth, for its fertility and strengths, for the green hills, and the windy plains, the pounding of the sea, and the mountain forests, for the earth’s resources and its fragile beauty
We thank You for the gift of life.
May we reverence it and protect it.
We thank You for the gift of peace,
Which you have placed in our earthen hearts.
In our struggles to become a people
You have given us in each age the leadership of men and women whose noble daring and peaceful ways have brought us to this time.
We thank You for those who have gone before us.
From many walks of life and from many races and nations You have fashioned a country whose cultures have enfolded ever broader patterns of life, each reflecting its own brilliance and hopes. For this variety, we thank You.
We thank You, Lord, for the freedom we enjoy to worship, to learn, and to use your gift of talents to the fullest.
For simplicity of life, to live our days in the company of friends, to work in peace in our homes, on our farms and in our cities, we remember, Lord, all these blessings You have given to us in the past and we thank You.
Today we have come to celebrate our future.
Each of us, Father, sets out a hope before You for the days to come.
We beg your special blessing on President Carter and Vice President Mondale and their families. There is loneliness on the mountain. Grace that loneliness with your presence. Give us the strength to struggle beyond pain, to reach out our hands to the alienated and to the poor.
Where suffering and weak voices cry out, may we be present to nourish.
Where injustice speaks, may we have the courage to change it.
Where proper dissent is present, may we have ears to listen.
Watch over the leaders of this earth. Give them hearts for compassion and the fire of freedom. Give them the courage to speak out and to listen quietly. Give them the humility of sincere faith and the vision of future good.
Especially today, we ask You to watch over our new leaders.
Set them upon the right way. For You are the Lord, in whom we trust. You are the God of our faith. To You we praise in glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Transcribed by staff of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
- Invocation by Rev. E. V. Hill, National Baptist Convention, pastor of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles
- Prayer by Rabbi Seymour Siegel – Jewish, professor, Jewish Theological Seminary
- Prayer by His Eminence Iakovos – Greek Orthodox
- Benediction by Archbishop Terence J. Cooke – Catholic
Invocation delivered by Billy Graham
Our Father and our God, Thou hast said, “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord.” We recognize on this historic occasion that we are “a nation under God.” We thank Thee for this torch of faith handed to us by our forefathers. May we never let it be extinguished. Thou alone hast given us our prosperity, our freedom and our power. This faith in God is our heritage and our foundation!
Thou hast warned us in the Scriptures, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” As George Washington reminded us in his farewell address, morality and faith are the pillars of our society. We confess these pillars are being eroded in an increasingly materialistic and permissive society. The whole world is watching to see if the faith of our fathers will stand the trials and tests of the hour. Too long we have neglected Thy word and ignored Thy laws. Too long we have tried to solve our problems without reference to Thee. Too long we have tried to live by bread alone. We have sown to the wind and are now reaping a whirlwind of crime, division, and rebellion.
Help us this day to turn from our sins and to turn by simple faith to the One who said, “Ye must be born again.”
So we pray, O God, as we enter a new era, that we as a nation may experience a moral and spiritual restoration.
Thou hast said, “Promotion comes not from the east nor from the west, but from Thee.” We acknowledge Thy divine help in the selection of our leadership each four years. We recognize, O Lord, that in Thy sovereignty Thou has permitted Richard Nixon to lead us at this momentous hour of our history.
We beseech Thee that he will have Thy divine guidance and power daily. Help him as Thou didst help Thy servants of old. Our Father, we know his burdens and responsibilities will be overwhelming. He will hold in his hands the destiny of more people than any man in history. O God, our new President needs Thee as no man ever needed Thee in leading a people! There will be times when he will be overwhelmed by the problems at home and abroad that have been building up to the breaking point for many years. Protect him from physical danger. And in the lonely moments of decision grant him an uncompromising courage to do what is morally right. Give him a cool head and a warm heart. Give him a compassion for those in physical, moral, and spiritual need. We pray that Thou wilt so guide Richard Nixon in handling the affairs of state that the whole world will marvel and glorify Thee.
O God, we consecrate Richard Milhous Nixon to the Presidency of these United States with the assurance that from this hour on, as he and his family move into the White House, they will have the presence and the power of Thy Son who said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
What we pray for President Nixon we pray for Vice President Agnew and members of the Cabinet. May they be given a wisdom and a courage that is beyond their own. Bless them as a team to lead America to the dawning of a new day with renewed trust in God that will lead to peace, justice, and prosperity.
We pray this humbly in the Name of the Prince of Peace who shed His blood on the Cross that men might have eternal life. Amen
Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College
- Invocation by Rev. Charles Ewbank Tucker – African Methodist Episcopal Zion, bishop
- Prayer by Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin – Jewish, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles
- Prayer by His Eminence Iakovos – Greek Orthodox
- Benediction by Archbishop Terence J. Cooke – Catholic
Invocation by Archbishop Robert B. Lucey, Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Antonio:
Almighty and eternal God, we ask a blessing upon all who are gathered here today to honor the Chief Executive of our Nation and our Vice President. We thank Thee for peace and prosperity; we are grateful for fertile soil, abundant harvests and the fruits of the earth by which we live. But we remember that man does not live by bread alone and so we are grateful too for the spiritual heritage of our Nation, a sense of Justice to all mankind, a spirt of charity to the lowly and the oppressed.
In Thy divine providence, O Heavenly Father, the moral leadership of the world has been entrusted to us; the fate of humanity is in our hands; the nations look to us for survival; Western civilization stands or falls with America. In these days of tragedy and crisis all that we hold dear is challenged–belief in God, respect for human responsibility, honor, integrity, and every freedom of the human spirit. All these are at stake and our country, champion of truth and justice, must lead the nations of the world to the dawn of a brighter hope.
Prayer by Rabbi Hyman Judah Schachtel of Congregation Beth Israel of Houson:
Almighty God, we thank Thee for this Inaugural, the living historic witness to our faith in Thee and to the choice and actions of a free people. Here at the Capitol of our Nation, the very sight of which exalts our hearts and awakens thrilling memories of the preeminent men of our resplendent past, we pray for Thy blessings upon our beloved President, the Vice President, and those associated with them in the sacred trust of leadership.
As Lyndon Baines Johnson and Hubert Horatio Humphrey each places his hand on the Bible to take his oath of office, let them know and let us feel that the hands of all of us join theirs in this symbolic avowal that Thou art supreme and Thy Holy Word our eternal challenge.
We ask for no miracles beyond the miracle which is always with us, if we will only use it, the power of love to transform foes into friends, slaves into freemen, the curse of war and poverty into the benediction of concord and plenty.
Prayer by Rev. Dr. George R. Davis, National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. :
God of our fathers, to whom persons are of supreme importance, we lift up, this day, a man to be set apart in a special way. In our love and prayers, through this historic and exalting ceremony, we lift him up, as we do the Vice President and their gracious families. To Thy strong help, we commend them and all men and women in all areas and branches of our Nation’s life who share the terrible splendor of leadership and authority.
Bless, guard, and keep Thy servant, Lyndon Baines Johnson, that he may propser in the sacred task to which he has been called by the decisive vote of the people and by divine providence.
We thank Thee for his magnificently significant service to his Nation and the world, already written on history’s scroll. For his gallantry and stability, seen in times of greatest peril and in dark tragedy, as well as in the daily routine of his never-ending duties, we thank Thee.
For all of his skills in the political sciences and arts, and for his insights into the ways of government, we voice our gratitude to Thee, Giver of all good gifts to men.
To the President and the Vice President, continue Thy help and to all those whose judgments and loyalties they must be able to rely upon.
Grant our President not to grow weary, as he must remind us that we are one people and that we are but one of many worthy nations in an aspiring family of nations.
For us, God of all the worlds, our dreams, our efforts, and our sacrifices, Thou will redeem to give them universal meaning and purpose. Uphold him, that he may encourage us to be able increasingly to reason together, to seek an essential consensus, to live in our strange and wonderful diversity with stable unity. Uphold our President, O God, as he leads us onward to that desirable society of persons who seek real worth, a society in which none shall live in fear, because justice, mercy, and brotherhood will flourish on the earth. This we pray in the name of Him who is the wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Benediction by His Eminence Iakovos, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of North and South America:
Omipotent and omniscient God who in Thy providence ordains that the destinies of men and nations upon this earth should be entrusted into the hands of the worthy, harken, we beseech Thee, to our thanksgiving prayer of supplication.
From the time of the Pilgrims and Founding Fathers of our Nation, and throughout the course of our entire history, Thou hast been our guiding light, our constant inspiration and illumination, and an inexhaustible source of reinforcement and fortitude.
Having our trust in Thee, we have raised under the splendor of Thy skies the Stars and Stripes of our exalted ideals and national pursuits, and in the measure of They loving kindness, we selflessly serve the spiritual as well as the material welfare of our fellow man at home and abroad.
We believe it is Thy will that we continue in an unbroken continuity this honored tradition. And it is this belief that underlies the Inaugural ceremonies and the installation of our 36th President in the person of an honorable and dedicated servant of our people — Lyndon Baines Johnson.
This Inaugural ceremony, O Lord, is a most solemn act of rededication. We therefore pray to Thee to empower our beloved President, our Vice President, and their associates in the government of our Nation, to ever guard and preserve the image and beauty of our commonwealth as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Shield and protect them from all ills and enable us ever to uphold the spirit that made our Nation the hope of the distressed and the joy of the oppressed.
We ask this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the lifegiving Trinity, for the benefit of our Nation and all nations believing or aspiring for freedom, justice, dignity, and peace. Amen.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at University of Texas
Invocation by Richard Cardinal Cushing, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston:
In this year of our Lord 1961, we ask Thee, oh Almighty God, to enlighten us:
That we may know, as men, our personal responsibilities;
That we may know, as Americans, our political, social and humanitarian responsibilities;
That we may know, as citizens of the world, our global responsibilities to ourselves and our fellow men;
That we may know, as children of God, our responsibilities to the Father of Manking;
Enlighten us, oh Lord, that we may know how to combine all of these responsibilities into a continuing principle of responsibility;
Enlighten us that we may know how to put this principle of responsibility into daily practice, both in ideal and action–in these troubled but hopeful times.
In this year of our Lord 1961, we beseech Thee, oh Almighty God, to strengthen our resolve;
To enlarge our vision of the common good;
To implement with personal sacrifice the objectives of our national purpose;
To revere in every man that divine spark which makes him our brother –that human spark which can make him our friend — and that personal spark which makes him himself;
To defend my right to be myself; to defend my neighbor’s right to be himself, and to defend America’s duty to respect the rights of all men.
Strengthen our resolve, oh Lord, to transform this recognition of others into a principle of cooperation.
Inspire us to practice this principle of cooperation both in ideal and action in these most dangerous, but soul-stretching times.
On this twentieth day of January — 1,961 years after the birth of Christ — on occassion of the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as President of the United States of America — do Thou, oh Almighty God, give him, his Cabinet, the Congress and courts of the United States — and all of us — the grace:
To perform with full personal responsibility our duties as free men;
To perform in full cooperation our duties as American citizens;
To perform with complete vigilance our duty to prevent the spread of totalitarian terror everywhere.
To perform with religious fervor our duty to teach, implement and create true freedom as a way of life at home and abroad — for true freedom underlies human dignity and is a holy state of life.
Give us the vision, O Loving Creator of men, to realize that in Thy plan we have a self-sacrificing part to play in completing an unfinished universe; for to sacrifice is to conquer;
Give us the strength to further Thy creation by our responsible and dedicated work — for to labor is to pray;
Give us the charity to further Thy creation by our brotherly cooperation — for to care is to love.
Finally, O Lord of Men and Nations, through confidence in Thee let men tak ehope in what is being done in this capital of our nation, in this hour, in the month of January, in the year of 1961; let hearts everywhere be lifted and let anxieties be dispelled as new hands, in the vigor of youth, grasp the wheel of the ship of state.
Put Thy hands on his hands, put Thy spirit in his heart, put Thy justice and peace, the work of justice, in all his programs and let this land — and all lands — move forward under thy guidance and through his leadership to new frontiers in peace, progress and prosperity. Amen.
Prayer by His Eminence Iakovos, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America:
Almighty and all-merciful Lord, by Whom all powers and authorities are ordained.
Who taught us that rulers are ministers of God to us for all that is good.
Who demandest of us that we offer supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for all who are in authority.
Hear us, O Lord, for unto Thee do we bow submissively, inclining our heads and entreating Thy mercy upon Thy faithful servant our beloved President John F. Kennedy. Save Thy people, O Lord and bless Thine heritage.
Visit Thy world with compassion and bounties.
Exalt the prestige of our country and the office of our President, and send down upon him Thy mercies.
Preserve his life and multiply his days, with health and wisdom.
Grant unto him progress in all virtues.
Guard him within the realm of Thy grace and gird him with the armor of faith, prudence and high morale.
Sanctify his soul and illumine his mind by Thy holy spirt.
Let a host of heavenly angels be his constant guardians, so that, guided and guarded thusly by Thee, he may attain his noble goals.
Finally, O Lord, bless the tenure of his office, so that he may be victorious in all his struggles against evil, violence, injustice and threats of war.
“Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen!
Prayer by John Barclay, pastor of the Central Christian Church of Austin, Texas:
Eternal God, our Father, we pause again to acknowledge that in Thy presence we are living and moving and in Thee alone we have our being.
We are thankful for the great and good men raised up by Thee to lead us in the past. Bless these leaders of recent decades, still with us, who have led us through these tumultuous times, to live out their years with the consciousnes of the admiration and appreciation of a grateful people.
We thank Thee for our country, for the manner in which Thou didst lead our fathers to establish this nation in which all men have equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Help us to so unite duties and rights that there may develop in all our people a new maturity that will continually produce life more abundant, liberty more responsible and spiritual satisfactions more abiding.
Our Father, we pray for the congress and the courts and the all public servants, that there may come from their deep dedication and high patriotisism a new inspiration for all Americans.
Bless them with vigorous health, great strength and courageous boldness to lead our nation out into a new era and into a new frontier. Help them to lead us to return to the virtues of our fathers: industry, honesty, and frugality.
Under their leadership may we recapture the faith of our fathers and their spiritual optimism that problems are soluble, that what ought to be can be, that neighborly potential is inherent in mankind.
Our Father, we pray Thou will bless Lyndon B. Johnson and add Thy strength to his strength as he continues to lead men of divergent views to reconcile their differences in the interest of the common good of our nation and of all mankind. Add thy wisdom, grace, and power to his great abilities, and may his willingness to serve bring strength and help to the President.
May the beauty, understanding, and spiritual support of his family continue to bless his life all his years.
When he faces great and solmen hours of decision, decisions upon which may hang th efate of all mankind, when he must ascent the lonely pinnacle, help him then to know that he is not alone; that Thou art with him to guide him in making decisions of wisdom and righteousness for his nation and the whole world.
May the magnitude of his leadership inspire tens of millions of Americans into dedicated involvement in their country’s progress. And may peace corwn his years!
In the Master’s name, we pray Amen.
Benediction by Rabbi Nelson Glueck, President of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati:
We turn to these, O God, in deepest gratitude on this exalting day of reaffirmation of our nation’s ideals and unity, and of personal avowal of sacred obligation by our President, in Thy name.
May thou, O God, to Whom alone belong the dominion and the power, be his stay and support in the fulfillment of his awesome trust, to ensure the unfettered implementation of the spirit and letter of our Constitution for all our inhabitants of our land, to provide them in law and in fact equal opportunities of learning and labor and well-being to safeguard the physical and moral integrity of our beloved commonwealth, founded on faith in Thee.
O Thou, Who art the source of all life, quicken his heart always with the awareness of Thy presence, and especially in the lonely moments of fateful decision which may be his to make for us and our world.
Guard and guide him in thy loving kindness, that through his leadership hunger may be stilled, hurts healed, hope sustained, the weak and the worn assisted, human dignity and decency upheld, the blight of war and the specter of annihilation banished, and peace in freedom prevail among all Thy children everywere, with none to make them afraid.
In profound humility, O God, we pray that Thy blessing may rest upon our President and all associated with him in our Government, which we the people have set in authority, upon everyone and everything dear and precious to him and us, and we repeat the ever-new words of the ancient prayer in Sacred Writ:
May the Lord bless thee and keep thee,
May the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee.
May the Lord lift up His countenance unto thee and grant thee peace.
[Before each sentence, Glueck delivered the words in Hebrew]
Let us all join in saying Amen.
- Invocation by Rev. Edward L. R. Elson
- Prayer by His Eminence Michael
- Prayer by Rabbi Louis Finkelstein
- Benediction by Edward Cardinal Mooney
Rev. Elson prayed, “through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” His Eminence Michael prayed, “Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Cardinal Mooney prayed, “through Christ, our Lord.” (According to lawsuit by Michael Newdow, summary of “God Bless the President: The Rhetoric of Inaugural Prayer” by M.J. Medhurst, The Pennsylvania State University, 1980)
Invocation by Father Patrick A. O’Boyle, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.
Our Father, in Thy most holy name we pray Thee, to renew Thy gifts in the minds and hearts of those who, today, are entrusted with the august office of governing our beloved country.
Give to those who frame our laws to know clearly the path of rectitude. Urge them by Thy grace to seek to serve Thee best, by serving most unselfishly the citizens of the land.
Let Thy justice be manifest in our judiciary, and thereby enrich and comfort the world with the vision of equal and impartial justice for all men before the law.
Impart to him the divine gift of piety by which he may walk humbly with Thee in the stern way of duty and honor. Fill him with courage to face his gigantic tasks with serenity and infuse into his spirit that charity whose first law is, by Thy will, the love of his fellowman.
Pour forth, we beseech, O Lord, Thy grace into the hearts of all of us, that we may be always true to Thee and to our country, so richly endowed with all Thy blessings. Amen.
Prayer by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, The Temple, Cleveland:
O God, who art beyond our knowledge but near our hearts and our needs, we pray this day for Thy servant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he takes up the burdens of the high office of President of these United States of America.
Keep him with great kindness, O Thou ruler of nations, and give him a wise and understanding heart that he may lead Thy people in these shadowed times, in truth and steadfastness, in patience and in love.
May Thy spirit rest upon the Vice President of the United States and upon all the chosen representatives of our Government.
Be graciious, O Lord, unto our land and our people. Help us to preserve our blessed heritage of freedom and to make secure our institutions of law, equality and justice. May it be given to us to walk always in the dignity of free men, secure in our rights and faithful in the obligations of our prized citizenship.
Make us all of one heart, O God, so that together as one people we may move forward unafraid to the tasks and challenges of the inscrutable years which lie ahead. Amen.
Benediction by Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill, Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church:
Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit our nation. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace, now and forever.
Associated Press reprinted in The New York Times January 21, 1953
In addition, Eisenhower himself began his inaugural address with a prayer:
MY friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own. And I ask that you bow your heads:
Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.
Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling.
May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.
- Invocation by Rev. Edward Hughes Pruden:
- Invocation by Bishop Angus Dun
- Benediction by Monsignor John A. Ryan
- Invocation by Chaplain ZeBarney Phillips
- Benediction by Father Michael J. Ready
God of the nations in whom we live and move and have our being, and from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, we pause at the beginning of this day’s historic proceeding to invoke Thy blessings upon this beloved country of ours, and upon all who serve her highest interets.
Grant to Thy servant, the President of the United States, all needed wisdom, help, and strength as he rededicates himself anew today to the high office to which he has been called. May he continue to lead us as he is led by Thee, in the ways that make for domestic tranquillity and international accord.
Bestow upon us, our Father, the happiness which is reserved for that nation whose God is the Lord, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, we pray, amen.
Prayer by Rabbi Samuel Thurman of the United Hebrew Temple of St. Louis:
Lord god of all the nation: the hearts and minds of this nation turn to Thee in this solemn moment in prayer and in gratitude.
This nation, blessed by Thee and dedicated to the holiest conception of Thee as the Father of all manking, is now being reconsecrated and rededicated in the person of its First Citizen, the President of these United States of America.
Chosen by the people to be its Chief Magistrate, may the people’s confidence in him never wane. May he continue told the high convictions of righteousness and justice, of truth and peace which have won for him the people’s faith and admiration.
Touch him with Thy divine wisdom that he may, with humility, yet also with strength and courage, pursue the high purposes and noble ideals which moved him to seek and to win the leadership of this nation.
May Thy hand lead and guide him through the many and torturous paths through which this nation and all nations of the world must pass in the years ahead.
Keep his heart steadfast and his mind single in the performance of the tasks and duties of his great office, and may this nation, under his leadership, hold fast to its traditional
ideal of freedom and justice for all men.
Thus, blessed by Thee and devoted to the holy purposes of Thy will, our nation shall go forward with unabated strength and unceasing labor in the service of Thee and of humanity, spreading light and liberty to those peoples that walk in darkness and dwell in servitude.
Benediction by Father Patick A. O’Boyle, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington:
“Blessed art Thou, Lord God of our fathers, and worthy to be praised and glorified forever” (Daniel, 3)
Stretch forth Thy hand, O Lord, in fruitful blessing upon our President, our Vice President, the members of our Congress, our judges and magistrates and all those who, by our will, are entrusted with the well-being and security of our country, so that by Thy aid they may be able to discharge their duties of office with wisdom and prudence and justice.
Great indeed are our faults and numberless our needs, but complete is our trust in Thee, the God of all consolation, into whose hands we commit ourselves with faith and docility. Bless the people of our country that they may be governed by Thy law and walk in the ways of Thy commandments. Endow them with grace to bear one another’s burdens in that generous spirit which befits men in true brotherhood under Thee the common father of all men.
Send forth Thy Holy Spirit in the fullness of his gifts to bless us with wisdom to perceive the ways of Thy Holy Will; with understanding to enlighten the darkness of our minds; with counsel to guide us unfailingly in the path of rectitude; with fortitude to sustain and strengthen us; with knowledge to instruct our ignorance; with piety to fructify in good works; and with reverent fear to deliver us from evil.
Multiply, O Lord, upon this nation the manifold marks of Thy divine approval and benediction, set up, as it is, like a sign and symbol among the nations of the earth. Bless the land with fertile soil to bring forth the harvests that nourish us and feed the hungry mouths of the unfortunate who look to us for the necessities of life. Enkindle in our people the spirit of charity for the many whom poverty and misery have reduced to contditions unworthy of the dignity of man. Awaken in the souls of all who call thee Father a hunger and thirst after social justice and fraternal charity.
Grant, O Lord, peace in our days, peace in our land, and peace among the nations, to the end that the rainbow of peace and reconciliation may enfold under its serene light all peoples of the earth with the graces and blessings of tranquility. Amen.
Associated Press, reported in The New York Times January 21, 1949
Monsignor Ryan prayed, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost … Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (According to lawsuit by Michael Newdow, summary of “God Bless the President: The Rhetoric of Inaugural Prayer” by M.J. Medhurst, The Pennsylvania State University, 1980)
Chaplain Phillips prayed, “In the name of Him who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord. Amen.” Father Ready prayed, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost … Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (According to lawsuit by Michael Newdow, summary of “God Bless the President: The Rhetoric of Inaugural Prayer” by M.J. Medhurst, The Pennsylvania State University, 1980
Invocation by Chaplain ZeBarney Phillips, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate:
Almighty God and Heavenly Father, ruler and guardian of the world: Sanctify to the nation the meaning of this hour that Thy people with one heart and mind may acknowledge their fealty to Thee.
In particular, we beseech Thee for our President that, casting all his care upon Thee, he may feel underneath Thine everlasting arms. Touch Thou his lips that he may speak, in the words of the unshorn truth and never-wearying kindness. They message for the healing of the nations, and hasten the day when men shall rise above all lesser things to those glorious heights where love shall weave a holy bond of peace enduring till earth’s shadows vanish in the light of light. Amen.”
Benediction by Father John A. Ryan of Catholic University:
Almighty God, ruler of nations, we beseech Thee to bless the people of the United States. Keep them at peace among themselves and in concord with all other peoples. Cause justice and charity to flourish among them, that they may all be enabled to live as persons created in Thine own image and likeness.
Do Thou bless abundantly our Chief Magistrate. Inspire his leadership. Grant him, O God of infinite wisdom and power, the light and the strength to carry through the great work that he has so well begun, and to pursue untiringly his magnificent vision of social peace and social justice. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
From New York Times January 21, 1937.