Tuesday, January 20, 2009

O God of our Many Understandings: A “Prayer” for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

Today we celebrate the inauguration of the first black president of the United States of America. However, the ceremony has already been tainted by the words of openly gay Episcopal Bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson.

He claims his words are a prayer. But instead of words of sincere gratitude, sincere faith in God, sincere humility, Robinson’s words drip with pretentiously didactic cliches promoting his own agenda.

At one point during the prayer, people laugh-- not for their own irreverence, but for the irreverence of Robinson’s words.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah. [Laughter from crowd]

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


© Copyright 2004-2006 by The Diocese of New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church



  1. That's not a prayer. It's a speech. Prayer is a humble conversation with our Heavenly Father. This sounds more like "Rev" Robinson is counseling the Lord (not counseling with the Lord) and our new president, Obama. Bless us with anger? Really? I seem to recall that anger is as frowned upon as the actions such anger leads to.

  2. For Contrast Rick Warren's Prayer:

    Here is the transcript of Warren’s entire prayer:

    Almighty God, Our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of You alone. It all comes from You, it all belongs to You, it all exists for Your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’ and You are the compassionate and merciful one and You are loving to everyone You have made.

    Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 43rd time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the united states. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a a son of an African Immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

    Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet and every one of our freely elected leaders.

    Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans. United not by race or religion or by blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.

    When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

    Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations, all people will stand accountable before You. We now commit our new president and his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

    I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray:

    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. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

  3. I find this quote the most disconcerting: "Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences." I think there are some things that even tolerating is stretching it. Things like adultery, sleazy billboards, and questionable language are tolerated by much of our society. But I don't think we should respect them, and I definitely don't think we should embrace them! If he's talking about innate differences, that's one thing. But if it's behavioral differences, that's something else entirely.

  4. Robinson should never have been chosen to say a prayer at this event. He is too controversial, openly claiming that he supports homosexual relations but still claiming to be a Christian.

  5. Bless this nation with anger – anger at...immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

    Why would anyone pray for us to be angry at all these people? A very peculiar prayer.

  6. "Why would anyone pray for us to be angry at all these people?

    You're joking, right? He was praying for us to be angry at DISCRIMINATION AGAINST "all these people" (read this portion of the prayer again, INCLUDING the words chopped off by your ellipsis).

  7. One would suggest that perhaps "anger at discrimination" is less effective than a firm resolve to eliminate true discrimination. Anger is never a good emotion and, more often than not, tends to lead to a blood-boiling loss of restraint such as the behavior displayed at the "protests" we were privy to following Proposition 8's victory. Anger is a hard word, one which bears a negative connotation owing to its regular debut in the company of such miscreants as vitriol, revenge, violence, and wild abandon. Why do you think they have aptly named certain crime-specific therapy classes, "Anger Management"? Anger is not something we should foster, but eradicate.

  8. "Anger is never a good emotion..."

    "Never?" You cannot be serious, Pearl.

  9. Sure I can. And I am. But thanks for asking. :0)

  10. Anger, or any other emotion is neither good nor bad. It is our actions which can be good or bad. Our emotions can drive us to certain good/bad actions but we still have the freedom to choose good over evil regardless of our emotional state.

  11. Okay, those are good points, Secular Heretic. But let me ask you this: Does anything good ever come of anger? And for anyone else interested in this conversation, let's not confuse indignation with anger. Does anything good come from feeling anger?

  12. Not that I can think of Pearl. I realise now that I responded from an objective point of view while I think you were speaking about the subjective experience of anger.

    When I said that anger is neither good nor bad I meant from an objective moral perspective. They are emotions that we experience rather than moral decisions that we make. When we experience anger it feels bad, we don't like it so we perceive it as a bad thing and non of us likes to be angry so from an experience perspective you could say that anger is bad. The problem with experiencing anger is that it can lead us to do bad things. We must always try to do good actions even if our emotions suggest to us to do bad things.


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