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Inaugurations rich in SBC participation

WASHINGTON (BP)–Rick Warren’s inaugural prayer Jan. 20 continued a trend that has seen Southern Baptists, or someone who attends a Southern Baptist church, deliver the invocation at five of the past six inaugurations.

The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Warren got to know President Obama when then-Sen. Obama spoke at Warren’s church during the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS. Obama returned to the church nearly two years later, in August, for a general election forum with Republican nominee John McCain.

Warren, though, is but the latest Southern Baptist to pray at an inauguration.

Billy Graham, then a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas and now a member of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. — both Southern Baptist churches — delivered the invocation at President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration in 1989 and at President Bill Clinton’s inaugurations in 1993 and 1997.

Franklin Graham, who for years has attended Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, N.C., a Southern Baptist Church, delivered the invocation at President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001.

Following are the complete texts of the prayers delivered by Billy and Franklin Graham at those inaugurations.

— Franklin Graham, Jan. 20, 2001, inauguration of President George W. Bush:

“Blessed are You, Oh Lord, our God. Yours, Oh God, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Oh Lord, is the kingdom. You’re exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You. You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and to give strength to all. As President Lincoln once said, ‘We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended powers, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.’

“O Lord, as we come together on this historic and solemn occasion to inaugurate once again a president and vice president, teach us afresh that power, wisdom and salvation come only from Your hand. We pray, Oh Lord, for President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney, to whom You have entrusted leadership of this nation at this moment in history. We pray that You’ll help them bring our country together so that we may rise above partisan politics and seek the larger vision of Your will for our nation. Use them to bring reconciliation between the races, healing to political wounds, that we may truly become one nation under God. Give our new president, and all who advise him, calmness in the face of storms, encouragement in the face of frustration, and humility in the face of success. Give them the wisdom to know and to do what is right, and the courage to say no to all that is contrary to Your statutes of holy law.

“Lord, we pray for their families, and especially their wives, Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney, that they may sense Your presence and know Your love. Today, we entrust to You President and Sen. Clinton, and Vice President and Mrs. Gore. Lead them as they journey through new doors of opportunity to serve others. Now, O Lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to You. May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before You and acknowledge You alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son — the Lord Jesus Christ — and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

— Billy Graham, Jan. 20, 1997, inauguration of President Bill Clinton:

“Our Father and our God, we thank You today for the privilege of coming into Your presence on this historic and solemn occasion. We thank You for Your gracious hand which has preserved us as a nation. We praise You for the peaceful continuity of government that this inauguration represents.

“We recall that the Bible says, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it’ You also said that to whom much has been given, much shall be required. We look gratefully to the past, and thank You that from the very foundations of America You granted our forefathers courage and wisdom, as they trusted in You. So we ask today that You would inspire us by their example. Where there has been failure, forgive us; where there has been progress, confirm; where there has been success, give us humility. And teach us to follow Your instructions more closely as we enter the next century.

“Give to all those to whom You have entrusted leadership today a desire to seek Your will and to do it. So today we ask Your blessing on President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, and their daughter, Chelsea; and upon Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, and their children.

“Give to all our leaders the vision of what You desire America to become, and the wisdom to accomplish it, and the strength to cross the bridges into the 21st Century. We pray also for the members of the House and the Senate, for the Supreme Court, and for all who bear responsibility of leadership in this nation which is blessed with such ethnic diversity.

“We have not solved all the social problems of our time, such as drugs and racism. Technology and social engineering have not solved the basic problems of human greed, pride, intolerance and selfishness. We need Your insight, we need Your compassion, we need Your strength.

“As both President Clinton and Senator Dole urged us in the recent presidential campaign, may this be a time of coming together to help us deal with the problems we face. O Lord, help us to be reconciled first to you and secondly to each other. May Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream finally come true for all of us. Help us to learn our courtesy to our fellow countryman that comes from the One who taught us that ‘whatever you want me to do to you, do also to them.’

“Remind us today that You have shown us what is good, and what You require of us: To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

“We ask that as a people we may humble ourselves before You, and seek Your will for our lives and for this great nation. Help us in our nation to work as never before to strengthen our families, and to give our children hope and a moral foundation for the future.

“So may our desire be to serve You, and in so doing, serve one another. This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

— Billy Graham, Jan. 20, 1993, inauguration of President Bill Clinton:

“Our God and our Father, we thank You for this historic occasion when we inaugurate our new president and vice-president. We thank You for the moral and spiritual foundations which our forefathers gave us and which are rooted deeply in Scripture. Those principles nourished and guided us as a nation in the past, but we cannot say that we are a righteous people. We’ve sinned against You. We’ve sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to You.

“And now, on this 20th day of January, 1993, we commit to you President-elect Clinton and Vice-President-elect Gore, who You have permitted to take leadership at this critical time in our nation’s history. Help them always to see the office to which they’ve been elected as a sacred trust from You. We pray that You will bless their wives who will share so much of the responsibility and burdens. Make President-elect Clinton know that he is never really alone but that the eternal God can be his refuge and he can turn to You in every circumstance. Give him the wisdom You’ve promised to those who ask and the strength that You alone can give. We thank You for his predecessor President Bush and the dedication he gave to this office. Bless him as he and Mrs. Bush continue their dedicated service to our country in other spheres. We commit this inaugural ceremony to You and ask that the memory of this event may always remind us to pray for our leaders. I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Amen.”

— Billy Graham, Jan. 20, 1989, inauguration of President George H.W. Bush:

“Our Father and our God, Thou hast said, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.’ We recognize on this historic occasion that we are a nation under God. This faith in God is our foundation and our heritage. Thou hast warned us in the Holy Scriptures, ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ We confess that we are in danger of destroying some of those foundations, for at times our faith in Thee has faltered and we have chosen to go our own way rather than the way that Thou wouldst have us go, both as individuals and as a nation. Forgive us, we pray, as we turn to Thee in repentance and faith. Restore us to Thyself and create within us a desire to follow Thy will for all our lives. As George Washington reminded us in his farewell address, morality and faith are the pillars of our society. May we never forget that.

“And now we come to a new era in our history. In Thy sovereignty Thou hast permitted George Bush to lead us at this momentous hour of our history for the next four years. As he today places his hand upon the Bible and solemnly swears before Thee to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, give him the wisdom, integrity and courage to help this become a nation that is gentle and kind. Protect him from physical danger, and in the lonely moments of decision grant him Thy wisdom to know what is morally right and an uncompromising courage to do it. Give him a cool head and a warm heart. Give him a compassion for those in physical, moral and spiritual need. O God, we consecrate today George Herbert Walker Bush to the presidency of these United States.”
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press. Text of inaugural prayers courtesy of Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

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  • Michael Foust