Bishop Robinson’s “lost prayer”

22 Jan

Totally flying in the face of many people’s stereotyping, evangelical sites God’s Politics and Christianity Today have given due respect to the inauguration prayer of gay bishop Gene Robinson. The two God’s Politics references are Bishop Robinson’s Lost Prayer at the Inaugural Kick-off and More About Bishop Robinson’s Lost Inaugural Prayer. This is the prayer:

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

Bless us with tears — 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.

Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs as a nation 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.

And 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 President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

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

Give him stirring words — 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 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.


It’s a beautiful prayer.

Powerful and inclusive. At once humble and bold.

Religion in the USA – as in most places – is rather more nuanced and interesting than many pundits and bloggers would credit.


3 responses to “Bishop Robinson’s “lost prayer”

  1. James Russell

    January 22, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I think it’s a great prayer. I just found it terribly interesting that 1) there was a lot more coverage given in the run-up to the inauguration to the presence of Rick Warren (I didn’t know Robinson was going to be there until a day or two before, I think), and 2) HBO somehow managed to avoid transmitting Robinson’s prayer on the day it actually happened. Whether these things were intentional or not is something I don’t know, and neither is the meaning of these things if they were intentional.

  2. Neil

    January 22, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    To quote the first of the God’s Politics posts:

    Robinson was there, but where was his prayer?

    HBO, which had exclusive rights to air the nearly two-hour concert, didn’t broadcast Robinson’s invocation, saying it was the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s call to keep it in the “pre-show.”

    PIC spokesman Josh Earnest’s explanation to me via e-mail late Monday afternoon:

    “We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson’s invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday’s program. We regret the error in executing this plan — but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event.”

    A source confirmed that highlights from the concert — including Robinson’s invocation — will be shown on jumbo screens on the Washington mall during today’s inauguration.

    Whether it was an unfortunate mistake (one that was curiously repeated when the concert was re-aired Sunday night) or a bone-headed misstep by cowardly political wonks afraid to let the controversial Robinson talk to God on national TV, silencing the bishop’s voice was a great loss.

  3. Neil

    January 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Sojourners is having issues with my internet provider address right now: “HTTP Error 403.6 – Forbidden: IP address of the client has been rejected.” That is I hope an issue at their end; I have emailed them. (Update: the issue appears to be resolved.)

    If you check the “Christianity Today” column, read the comment thread. Some of it is exceedingly depressing. For me, it show that Bishop Robinson’s prayer is indeed sorely needed today. My belief is that it is through such thinking as Robinson’s we see the Holy Spirit at work.

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