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September 7, 2009
Q had Old Glory out when I got home after dark last night, and they were just starting up the fireworks in town. Another Labor Day, the end of summer, the last national holiday until Thanksgiving, although many people also fly their flags on 9/11, as we do. It's the official end of summer: people are gearing up for the renewed burst of energy the new year requries -- although September isn't the beginning of the first quarter in any business that I know, almost all businesses feel a quickening of activity. Back to work, everyone. Vacation is over.

And school is starting. Tomorrow, for lots of kids: we'll see them lining up for the bus, walking along with their new backpacks, their new shoes. New hope, too, I pray, hope that lasts beyond the dismissal bell this afternoon. Every year at this time, I feel tears come oddly close to the surface when I see them on their way, and I'm not sure just why. Remembering my own children? Remembering my own schooling? Just remembering how tender children's spirits are, and how total discouragement feels to them when it comes their way? All of these.

The president will be speaking to kids starting school in his weekly address, as a number of presidents have done before. President Reagan did it. The first President Bush did it. The second President Bush was actually in a public school classroom, reading a story to the children, when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Incredibly, though, this rather routine item in President Obama's schedule has been greeted with hysteria in some quarters, as if it were an enemy invasion of our schools. As if the President of the United States had no appropriate interest in encouraging school children in their work of learning, which is so important to our country.

It is not unAmerican to disagree with anything the government does; our system is built on the right of anyone to do that. But is it helpful to express disagreement so harshly? Is it really good for our children to see us behaving in this way? They have the right to inherit someting from their parents besides spleen. They deserve to have in us an example of how adults navigate diagreement, which is not by namecalling and death threats. They need to see us respect the office of the president, whether or not we favor its incumbent.

The best way I have found in which to manage my own powerful feelings about political figures is to pray for them. You should pray for the one with whom you disagree FIRST, Deacon Brooke used to say firmly, because that's the one you may skip over if you wait till you're almost finished, and she was right. Every Prayer Book the church has ever published has included a prayer for the head of state, and we pray for the president at every service, whether or not we share his political views.

During the Bush administration, a group of praying people began the Presidential Prayer Team, an online place in which people of faith who love this country could pray for its leaders. Visiting it is heartwarming -- it includes prayer for the president, of course, but also a daily selection of other leaders in government, a daily roster of what will come up in Congress and in the Supreme Court, prayer for the armed services, those in active service and those who have been injured, as well as those who have died. The most heartwarming thing about the PPT is that it was begun during a Republican administration and continues under a Democratic one.

Prayer is a remarkable form of energy. It always changes the one who prays. It always changes the one for whom she prays, too, although the pray-er may never know how. And prayer changes the world, as well, bit by bit: it is the creative energy of God passing through our minds and hearts into life here on the earth where we live. God made everything, we believe, although we may differ on just how God did that. God made it all, and said that it was good. We have the chance, when we pray, to be a conscious part of that ongoing, ongrowing goodness.


Visit the Presidential Prayer Team at
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