Randy Forbes: A prayer for our nation today

randy forbesSenators used to come into the chamber early just to hear Peter Marshall pray. He was a Senate chaplain, serving for a few short years in the late 1940s as our nation recovered from World War II. Peter Marshall was known for his profound wisdom. In fact, it is said that one day Chaplain Marshall opened the Senate in prayer at a time when two Senators were deep in an argument. They heard his prayer and later came to apologize – both to each other and to him.

But it wasn’t just eloquence that left an impression. Peter Marshall’s prayers had life behind them. He hit right at the very heart of what was troubling our nation and he spoke grace and wisdom over them. I have a book of prayers by Peter Marshall, and I’ve often found myself referring to them and reflecting on them throughout my time in Congress.

There is one prayer in particular that has always stuck with me. It hangs in a large frame on the wall in my office serving as a daily compass – a way of re-centering after hard decisions and conversations, and in the midst of our heavy news cycle. The prayer says this:

Our Father in Heaven, save us from the conceit which refuses to believe that God knows more about government than we do, and deliver us from the stubbornness that will not seek God’s help.

Today we claim Thy promise: “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and it shall be given him.” Thou knowest, Lord, how much we need it. Make us willing to ask for it and eager to have it.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Chaplain Peter Marshall addressed conceit and wisdom in the same breath. Conceit is the chief enemy of wisdom.  Conceit digs its feet in the ground, focusing on personal power over principles; wisdom, however, is birthed out of humility. In fact, it is nearly impossible to have conceit and also have true wisdom.

I hear often from people who say they have lost heart and trust in government today, especially as we face considerable challenges. Uncertainty hangs in the air. Lack of trust creates room for fear – something I sense increasingly in our nation today.

What I think these individuals mean when they talk about losing heart and trust in government is that they are aching for wisdom from America’s leaders. They desire leaders who are outwardly focused rather than leaders who are focused on themselves. They need leaders, from both sides of the aisle, who let integrity eclipse image.

But wisdom isn’t just chosen. It cannot be placed in talking points or written on a teleprompter or made up in a press release. Wisdom is earned. It’s built over years of actively setting pride aside. It’s formed through years of listening – quieting our own voice and leaning on the voices of others and that of a greater power as a thoughtful guide. It’s the daily decision to set our own stubborn ways aside – those natural tendencies that say that we are the only ones who know best.

True wisdom requires deep humility.  It also requires an able heart. “Make us willing to ask for it and eager to have it,”Peter Marshall prayed. Humility and wisdom are bipartisan principles, and they only come when we are willing to ask for it and eager to earn it.

Our nation desperately needs humility and wisdom right now as we navigate the sea of challenges and opportunities in front of us. My impression is this: I believe we need Peter Marshall’s prayer now more than ever. And so I will continue to pray those words with fervency, for my own life and for those alongside of whom I serve.

Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District of Virginia in Congress.

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