Last night I went to the Hollywood Bowl with my family to listen to some rock music, some Souza and take in some fireworks. When the Song ‘America the Beautiful’ was played by the LA Philharmonic, I became quite emotional. It was not just then swelling of the violin and the horn that made me tear up – it was the realization in my mind that this song and our country is really a prayer.
When Katherine Lee Bates wrote her poem she meant it to be a devotional. Two years later she published it in the Congregationalist – church publication. Scribed on the heights of Pike’s Peak in Colorado, Bates felt moved by what America is for so many – a prayer in our hearts.
What is a prayer? Prayers take on many forms, but they fall generally into three categories.
- Wonderment- finding our place in the vastness of the universe.
- Thanksgiving- giving gratitude for our lives.
- Request – brining to the surface the words that yearn in our hearts.
‘Wow‘, ‘Thanks‘ and ‘Please‘ are the warp and woof of prayer. Together they form the a thick tapestry of our souls that bring us to a more meaningful life.
America is a prayer. But only if we allow her to be.
We have to remember to be humbled by the experiment founded hundreds of years ago when community of colonists decided to become a community of exiles that built a nation – perhaps the first – that aspires to transcend ethnicity and class.
We have to remember to give thanks to all who have served in the cause of liberty to secure our way of life for the sake of our patriotic dream. Millions have served and died. Millions more serve today across the globe.
And so Thanks
We have to remember to what Bates wrote most famously – ‘God shed His grace on thee.’ That America with all its riches and power is not self-evident. It takes aspiration and grit.
It also takes grace. Grace for each other to forgive our shortcomings. Grace for those who look to America as their holy land of salvation. Grace for our soil so that the future might share in our prosperity. Grace for what America might become if we see ‘beyond our years.’
Please, Please, Please.
That is my prayer.
America is a prayer.
America is beautiful.
Happy Independence Day