Minnesota Legislature’s Daily Prayer          

Rule 1.01 of the Minnesota House of Representatives for the Convening of the House provides, “The call to order is followed by a prayer by the Chaplain or time for a brief meditation, then by the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and then by a call of the roll of members.” (Emphasis added.)[1]

Journalist Jennifer Brooks tells us, “In the middle of a pandemic, when the crowds at the State Capitol are at a bare minimum, it falls to the lawmakers themselves to open each session with a few good words in these bad times.”[2]

In early April 2020, Representative Pat Garofalo (Rep.) was the substitute chaplain who said the prayer should be “a time for some patience, for unity and most importantly for hope” and that he wanted it to be “a meaningful message that the people of Minnesota could respect, but would have particular relevance to House staff and House members.” Therefore, he chose the following passage from the New Testament of the Bible (1 Peter 3: 13-17):

  • “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threat, do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

On April 28, 2020, the opening prayer was provided by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL), who used what he said was his favorite prayer, the Lutheran Prayer of Good Courage, because it “gives us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.” Here is that prayer:

  • “Lord God,
    you have called your servants
    to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
    by paths as yet untrodden,
    through perils unknown.
    Give us faith to go out with good courage,
    not knowing where we go,
    but only that your hand is leading us
    and your love supporting us;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This same prayer was given on May 16, 2010, the final day of that session, by the House Chaplain, Rev. Dennis J. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), who placed it in a broader context as follows:[3]

  • “In my experience, all prayers seem to come down to two simple petitions”
  • Lord have mercy covers all the sins, disappointments, failures, mistakes, what we did not get done, and stubbornness or hardness of hearts or posturing that contribute to stalemates. Yes, Lord, have mercy. Thanks be to God for that mercy which brings second chances and new beginnings.” (Emphasis added.)
  • Thanks be to God is a petition that covers all that went right during this session, that acknowledges successes and the hope we have in what seems like setbacks, hope for seeds that were planted, ideas that may yet come to fruition, laws that may yet be improved, the hope for tomorrow. Thanks be to God for partnerships forged, transcendent moments when the good of the people triumphs over partisanship. Thanks be to God for all who are willing to put in the long hours, endure the critics and do the heavy lifting , and to participate in this messy but necessary and godly process of democracy. Yes, thanks be to God.” (Emphasis added.)
  • Now, Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give use faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.” (Emphasis added.)

This prayer was published in The Lutheran Book of Worship, which was produced by the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, a collaboration of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada that was started by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which left the collaboration just before publication of this book.[4]

Rev. Johnson reports that this prayer previously was written by Eric Milner-White, an English Anglican priest (1884-1963), who was Dean of Chapel at King’s College, Cambridge University (1918-1941) and the creator of its now world famous “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.”[5]

Rev. Johnson was the House Chaplain, 2009-10, and his book, cited below, provides a history of that chaplaincy, including a list of the chaplains, 1849-1857 (Territorial Sessions) and 1857-2011 (State Sessions) along with an overview of issues of church and state, personal reflections on the roles and a compilation of prayers he (and guest chaplains) had offered in 2009-10. He spent a combined 21 years in parish ministry in Dallas, Texas and St. Peter, Minnesota. He also served as a vice president of Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, and one year as its interim president (2002-2003). After his retirement, he was an associate to the bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA, which he joined on January 1, 1988, when the Lutheran Church in America joined the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to create the ELCA and more recently (2015-17) was Interim Senior Pastor at Minneapolis’ Mount Olivet Lutheran Church.   I am proud to say he is a friend of mine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelical_Lutheran_Church_in_America

An earlier House Chaplain (1993-94) was Rev. Dr. Donald M. Meisel, then Senior Pastor at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is this blogger’s church.

Reflection

The Prayer of Good Courage is instructive to us all. We all are God’s servants, and we all ”are called to ventures” even though  “we cannot see the ending “ and even though they lead us  on “paths as yet untrodden” and even though they lead us “through perils unknown.”  Too often we forget these basic truths when we embark on new ventures.

Therefore, we also should not forget that we need to embark on these new ventures “with good courage” and with faith that God’s “hand is leading us” and “God’s love [is] supporting us.” This “good courage” includes  humility to recognize that we may not have correctly analyzed the situation. We need to listen to others and try to learn from their opinions. We need to be able to admit that we were wrong.

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[1] Rule 1.01 of the Temporary Rules of the [Minnesota] House of Representatives] 2019-2020. Surprisingly the Minnesota Senate apparently does not have a similar rule. (Temporary Rules of the [Minnesota] Senate, 91st Legislature (2019-2020). A special comment is invited for identification of the Minnesota Senate’s rule or practice for a chaplain.

[2] Brooks, In a Minnesota Legislature on lockdown, State Capitol gets used to a new normal, StarTribune (May 1, 2020).

[3] Johnson, Chaplain of the House: A Ministry of Prayer and Presence in the Minnesota House of Representatives at 78-79 (Hennepin House 2011).

[4] The Lutheran Book of Worship at 153 (1978); Lutheran Book of Worship, Wikipedia.

[5] Milner-White, O God you have called your servants, DAILY PRAYER edited by Eric Milner-White & G. W. Briggs (1941).

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster Presbyterian Church

At Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2015, Executive Associate Pastor Meghan Gage-Finn gave this moving Great Prayer of Thanksgiving before communion was served.  ===============================

 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Wondrous God of glory, you shrouded chaos with your imagination. All that is in creation is yours, all that lives in it is your gift. You shaped us in your image, gathering us in your joy.

But we turned our backs on you, seeking the seductive face of our own ways.   You would show us the way, filling us with hope’s promise, through the words of the prophets, but we were deaf to what they had to say. So, deeply moved by our helplessness, you sent Jesus into our presence, the One we waited for that we might be saved.

Gracious are you, Creator of all. Blessed is Jesus Christ, model for our lives. With clean hands and a pure heart He descended from your holy side, coming to wipe away our tears, to remove the disgrace of our sin, to walk with those who seek your face, to stand with us at grief’s doorstep.

As we wait to come to this gracious feast, as we remember the spirit in which Jesus lived, served, died, and was raised, we speak of that mystery of faith,             even as we offer our doubts and our very selves.

Pour out your Spirit upon these gifts of the Table and on your children in this sacred space. With a simple cup filled with hope, with bread broken in love,         you make a feast for all those who put their trust in you.

As we open our hands to receive grace’s brokenness, may we go forth in service to all around us. As we take in the well-aged hope of your Spirit, may we discover our hearts to be as broken as yours, by the injustices of our world.                      

We remember in our prayers those in shock and grief following the Afghan earthquake and Russian plane crash. And we pray this day for those in our community who need to know of your love and comfort.

As we pray for your beloved members of the Body of Christ, send us out to be your hands and feet to a world in need.

And when all things become new, when we are gathered with our sisters and brothers of every age, we will join our voices together, singing before your throne of grace, God in Community, Holy in One, even as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us, saying,

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day, our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors.

Lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

Forever.

Amen