O God, who brings us into perfect relation with ourselves and our world through your loving presence.

We pause at this midsummer’s moment to reflect upon the joy and responsibility of living in this land of freedom and opportunity.

We are thankful for our country and the way we have honored individual liberty, even when it has led us into the struggles through slavery and suffrage as we have moved toward greater racial and gender equity. May we remember that this struggle and the suffrage it brings are not completed.

With this purpose, we pray for our national leaders and for all who have been elected to serve our common good. Grant them wisdom to represent all our citizens and the courage – when it becomes necessary – to stand up to the powerful and defend the cause of the powerless.

In all endeavors of danger, we ask your protection for those who place themselves in harm’s way in service to others’ safety and rescue. May you be with the families and children of military personnel who are separated from one another because of a call to duty, and may you bring healing to those who have returned from overseas service wounded of mind, heart or body.

For all who have served our country with honor and integrity, we are grateful.

But allow us not to be blind to abuses or so narrow of focus that we forget to seek justice and forgiveness for those suffering because of ignorance or worse, intentional and unrestricted abuses of power.

Indeed, O Lord of compassion for all people, we ask for your loving intervention and mercy upon the innocent, especially those who have been harmed, injured or killed as casualties of our chosen wars. Forgive us when we have treaded recklessly into complicated situations and have generated more conflict than we have resolved.

For this, our prayer of gratitude for the gift of liberty is not merely a selfish indulgence. It is a persistent and sober reminder of sacrifice and cost, a treasure that must be kept and offered with great wisdom, and a commitment that we hope might grow brighter and stronger from each generation to the next.

We thank you for this country and the times we have best represented this liberating message of equal opportunity and inclusive freedom. May this worthy tradition guide us to guard liberty at home and – as a global neighbor – to see beyond sectarian interests and help build peace around the world as we advocate freedom – not only for some, but for all.

Too much has already been given; too much sacrifice has already been offered to allow the gift of liberty to be squandered or neglected. While we celebrate the past, allow us to work in the present and prepare for the future. So that you may surprise us, O God, by the ways a new dimension of freedom’s charge might again repair and transform our world. Amen.

Mark Johnson is senior minister at Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

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