OUR OPINION: Prayers shape each day in the Capitol

By NEMS Daily Journal

Prayers opening each daily session of Congress have been practiced since the early days of the newly independent United States of America.
While controversial, the practice affirms the public religiosity practiced by many of the founders, framers and early patriots.
The Rev. Norman A. Hjelm, director of faith and order, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States in New York, offered the following prayer before Independence Day 1992:
“Lord God of hosts, God of the nations: By your grace and in Your patience You have allowed this our land once again to celebrate its birth, its primal guest for liberty, justice, and equity. And we are grateful.
“And once again by Your grace and in Your patience You have called this House – responsible men and women who are equally faithful and unfaithful, righteous and unrighteous before You, each other, and the people – You have called this House to the exercise of its solemn task of the legislation of law and the formation of the Nation.
“Remind these Your servants that liberty, justice, and equity remain ahead of this Nation as tasks yet to be fulfilled and not as goals already reached.
“Maintain before us a clear dedication to the needs of those in our midst who are on the outside because of age, ill health, race, sex, poverty, and urban or rural degradation.
“And consecrate anew this Nation to the exercise of imaginative and sacrificial leadership in a restless and violent world which still struggles for authentic justice, peace, and a safe home in Your creation.
“Accept now, O God, the labors of this day and the frail lives of Your servants in this House. To You be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen. (Source: Congressional Record-House, 102d Congress, second session, 138/99, Wednesday July 7, 1992, H5981.)
The Rev. Peter Marshall, Senate chaplain, offered this Thanksgiving prayer on Nov. 26, 1947:
“Our Father in Heaven,
“If ever we had a cause to offer unto Thee our fervent thanks, surely it is now, on the Eve of our Thanksgiving Day, when we, the people of this Nation, are comfortable, well fed, well clad, and blessed with good things beyond our deserving. May gratitude, the rarest of all virtues, be the spirit of our observance.
“Let not feasting, football, and festivity end in forgetfulness of God. May the desperate need of the rest of the world, and our own glorious heritage, remind us of the God who led our Fathers every step of the way by which they advanced to the character of an independent nation.
“May the faith and conviction of George Washington be renewed in us as we remember his words:
“…there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…”
“For if we do not have the grace to thank Thee for all that we have and enjoy, how can we have the effrontery to seek Thy further blessings? God, give us grateful hearts.
“For Jesus’ sake.
“Amen.”