As I’ve commented in the past, a prayer by an invited “person of faith” always is the first order of business as we begin session. I cherish this tradition. Many of their words are very inspirational.
Often the prayer is traditional. You can always recognize when great effort has gone into finding the right words in planning the prayer. Occasionally the prayer is very different. On May 8, 2013 Pastor Stephen Swanson of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Villa Park, Illinois, the guest of a bright young legislator, Representative Deborah Conroy (D-Downers Grove), delivered the following message:
It was a warm spring day, we lowered the top on our old convertible for a drive on the hilly roads that follow the Ohio River from Cairo to Metropolis. We came down a steep decline to a narrow bridge that crossed a small river and had to stop. On the bridge was a skunk that had gotten its head stuck in a chocolate syrup can and was now running back and forth from one side of the bridge to the other.
What to do. We could turn around and drive back the way we came, accelerate and hope not to hit the skunk as we crossed the bridge or get out of the car, walk up to the skunk and remove the chocolate syrup can…at the risk of being misunderstood.
You have been elected to a holy calling, to write laws that resist evil and provide order for the common good of all people of Illinois.
Let us pray. O God, bless each of these legislators with wisdom and courage to fulfill their call, a call to write laws that “recover sight to the blind, bring liberty to the oppressed and good news to the poor”…even at the risk of being misunderstood. Amen
I’ve saved excerpts of prayers delivered that I’ve found memorable. Who delivered them? lost in the fog of time. One brief excerpt that has stayed with me is “you can deliver a better sermon with your life than with you lips”.
The following is attributed to being found in the pocket of a dead confederate soldier at Gettysburg: “I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed.”
I will go to my grave giving thanks for the privilege of serving as an Illinois State Representative. When my day comes to leave this hallowed chamber, as much as the people, I will miss the prayer.