God of all grace and goodness, as we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we are beaming with gratitude. From the beginning you have revealed yourself to be a freedom loving God. Throughout history you have taught your people to pursue and cherish freedom.
This week as we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we are thankful for our spiritual and national heritage, yet we are also concerned for our future.
We are thankful for the privilege of living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We are grateful for unequaled liberties that allow us to freely make choices about our work, our worship, our ideology, and lifestyle. We are indebted to past and present veterans who risked life and limb in the pursuit and protection of these liberties.
From the “mountains to the prairies” we are inspired by some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes on our planet. From “sea to shining sea” we are privileged to draw from a treasure trove of the world’s natural resources. We have access to comfortable housing, the best in healthcare, a more than adequate wardrobe, and an abundance of favorite foods. We are blessed far beyond our deserving.
During this season of celebration, we must also confess to you our concerns and appeal to you for guidance. Regardless of our personal ideology or perspective, we are concerned about things like the abuse of political power, the threat of terrorism, the divisiveness of harsh and misleading rhetoric, the lack of civil discourse, a growing sense of moral anarchy, and the possibility of another natural disaster. These concerns lead to an elevated sense of anxiety about the integrity of our government, the stability of our economy, and the future of our world.
And we confess that these anxieties all too frequently divert us from our mission to “minister to the least of these,” and to “love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly” with you.
These concerns and anxieties also remind us of our need to confess our sins, personally and corporately. We confess that we have too often taken our freedom for granted and we have too frequently been negligent in living up to the responsibilities of our citizenship. We confess that at times we are too quick to judge and quicker to criticize. We confess that we are slow to intercede and slower to trust in your providential care.
We confess that our self-interests have too often taken priority over the best interest you have in mind for our nation and for our world. We confess that we have been irresponsible in our stewardship of “our space and our stuff,” often consuming and storing compulsively without conscious regard for sharing. We confess that we have too often trusted in our own initiatives and ingenuity more than we have trusted in you.
You tell us in time-tested scripture that, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
As we celebrate this Independence Day, we ask you to forgive our sin and to heal our land.
On this day, we pray for the leaders of our nation, our state, and our community that they will lead with wisdom and courage.
We pray that in the upcoming election we will vote with discernment and conviction, and that we will support and pray for all who are elected.
We pray for the men and women who serve in our military that they will fulfill their humanitarian mission and return home safely and soon.
We pray for our enemies that their swords will also be “turned into plowshares,” even as we long for that day when the “lion will lie down alongside the lamb.”
We pray for the churches, cathedrals, and temples of our community and our world that they will be lighthouses of grace and peace, ever pressing toward the mark of our high calling.
Because you are the freedom-loving God, lead us to exercise our freedom responsibly and to pursue “liberty and justice for all” people around the globe.
We pray in the strong name of the One who came to deliver us from evil and to make us free indeed. Amen.
(Barry Howard serves as Lead Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida.)