On Route 40, somewhere east of Old Fort, I noticed a sign in front of a church: “God BlessAmerica.” As we approach the anniversary of our country’s independence, I continue to wonder what exactly the people who placed the sign there meant.
We call on God to bless a meal, newborns, a marriage. “Bless this house, Oh Lord we pray.” Often, as at mealtime, we’re vague. “To its intended use,” my father used to pray. When a baby is baptized or dedicated, parents and grandparents may be praying that God will keep him safe. Help her grow up to be healthy and happy. By happy, we may envision a good education, someday a well-paying job, a loving partner, a roomy house. Maybe a large-screen TV too.
A wedding or commitment ceremony marks the occasion to bless a union. Please, God, we’re thinking, help them be faithful to each other and act in loving ways. Help their relationship survive.
What do we mean, then, when we ask God to bless our country? Maybe, God, help us remain strong militarily. Keep us wealthy. And please keep us exceptional among all the nations of the earth.
I suggest we ask God to bless America in the following ways:
God, bless us by giving us good judgment in our relationships with other countries. Help us engage with them respectfully with neither a desire to dominate nor exploit them. Bless us with a careful attitude that knows when to intervene in conflicts and in what ways.
God, bless our relationships here at home. Help us work together for a society that is just, tolerant of differences of opinions and lifestyles.
God, bless us as we deal with change. Technology, the interdependence of economies, the ways of a younger generation. Help us adapt to the complexities of a world quite different from the one we are comfortable in.
You have already blessed us with forested mountains, clear rivers and lakes, a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Please bless us with knowledge of how to use your creation without exploiting it.
“God Bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.” No matter what we mean by these words, let us pray that God’s vision for the United States, for all nations of the world, becomes our vision.