I was asked to begin today's Portland Chamber of Commerce meeting with prayer. To lead civic leaders in prayer is a humbling responsibility.(1) This particular meeting focused on appreciation of our educators and a presentation by Bill English of Cheniere Energy, a liquifier of natural gas, and a company that will soon be our neighbor.
Heavenly Father, gracious God, you have given us all that we need to love you and one another, most especially in and through the gift of your Son. I thank you Lord for also giving to those of us living in Portland these leaders. Bless and support them, I pray. May your Spirit generously strengthen and empower them for the work that you have given them. May they model for our community your wisdom, generosity, and love.
Lord, give to our whole community a heart to serve and uphold these friends who serve us, especially our teachers. We remember that your Son came among us not to be served but to serve, washing the feet of his friends, and becoming poor for the poor, even to death. Grant that we may have grace to do the same with one another.
Lord, bless this time, these friends, and the words and the food we share. It is with grateful hearts that we ask these things in the Name of your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.
(1) Stanley Hauerwas named the potential awkwardness of such times and such prayers in the following prayer from his book Prayers Plainly Spoken:
God, you alone know how we are to pray to you on occasions like this. We do not fear you, since we prefer to fear one another. Accordingly, our prayers are not to you but to some "ultimate vagueness." You have, of course, tried to scare the hell our of some of us through the creation of your people Israel and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But we are a subtle, crafty and stiff-necked people who prefer to be damned into vagueness. So we thank you for giving us common gifts such as food, friendship and good works that remind us our lives are gifts made possible by sacrifice. . . Through such gifts may our desire for status and the envy status breeds be transformed into service that glorifies you. Amen.
I sidestep Stanley's conflict by simply praying in the name of the Triune God, figuring that the God to whom I pray is more true of the me they have invited than anything else. I don't pretend that this erases all of the tension of civic prayer. My two-fold goal in this prayer was to ask God's blessing on the gathering and to pray that those of us gathered would grow in the cross-shaped love of Jesus.