July 4th And Singing Prayers
Rev. Jeff Wood, First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian
It’s July and July has July 4th. Let’s be grateful and prayerful for our nation. “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” can lead us in our prayers. Did you know that as you have sung it all these years, you have been praying? It has four prayers.
There is first, “God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” In other words, God, grace this country and to its good add a sense of kinship where we love and take care of each other. You know the picture I see when I ponder this prayer is a morning meadow in Amish country covered with a heavy dew and neighbors helping to put up a man’s barn. I see the dew as God’s grace and the neighbors being helpful to each other as a sweet brotherhood. You can pray this for your family, for your church, and for your country.
Next is, “God, mend our every flaw and confirm our soul in self control, our liberty in law.” We all have flaws, every person and every nation. But we can confess them to God. As we are humble and prayerful, he’ll help us with them. This prayer also says, “God, bring for us a soul out of self control and a liberty out of order and respect.” This is a profound and biblical point – we’ll never have freedom without character and we’ll never have character without self-control. Watch the Olympic trials. The freedom of fast running only comes from self-control. It’s true in athletics. It’s true for character. It’s true for individuals. It’s true for nations.
The third verse concludes with, “May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.” Here’s my paraphrase of that: God, refine us until we are pure and rich in character with you and others.” Do you remember how it is said of Jesus, summing up his childhood and adolescence, “He increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man”? That’s what is being prayed for here, that as a whole country we wouldn’t just be affluent but that we would be rich in good deeds, rich in how we are with God and man.
Finally, we pray at the fourth stanza, “God, shed your grace on thee and crown thy good with servanthood.” “Servanthood” is an alternate phrasing offered in the hymnbook. I’m selecting it because it picks up the sense of some of the verses of this hymn has that are not in our hymnbook. For example, there is the verse ending with, “God shed his grace on thee ‘till selfish gain no longer stains the banner of the free!” What the author is calling for, and what the Bible calls for, is a life of self-care but not self-indulgence, a life of self-care and neighbor-care. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We are our brother’s keeper.
Have a good Fourth of July and a good July. Make it good by thanking God for our country and praying for it.
Rev. Jeff Wood First Presbyterian, 1405 Louisiana Ave, Sebastian FL 32903 (772)589-5656