I have been asked to offer the prayer for a new session of court, which opens Monday, October 19. The courtroom and anterooms of our 156-year old courthouse have also been renovated, and this is the first day court sessions will be held in the refreshed space. Here’s the prayer I will offer:
Almighty God and Heavenly Father,
We invite your presence here in this room today, but not because this is a place of worship. These antique pews could hold an assembled congregation, but those who gather in this room regularly do not gather here for devotions. We invite your presence today, even though this is not a place of religious practice, because the proceedings of this court require Divine wisdom and guidance.
For this is the place where the accused and their accusers meet, not for revenge or retribution, but for an impartial hearing and rightly-delivered verdict.
This is the place where the law of this land, and of this community, stands as the arbiter of disputes both great and small.
This is the place where the common good is preserved, and the conscience of a community challenged.
And so our prayer today is first a prayer of gratitude.
We are thankful we live in a nation where laws govern our actions and interactions.
We are thankful for a heritage of freedom, tempered with responsibility and mutuality.
We are thankful for those engaged in the calling of the law, and those who serve this court in particular —
— for judges past and present, officers of this court, and the attorneys who stand at this bar to plead their causes before this bench.
May they sense Your hand in their endeavors, and seek Your guidance in their lives.
Our prayer today is also a prayer of dedication.
This historic building, a constant presence on Main Street generation-after-generation, bears powerful witness to our hope for order and decency.
This sanctuary of struggle-and-tears has seen families united and torn asunder; lives redeemed and destroyed; and dreams realized or denied.
For this is the place where truth and mercy meet.
This is the place where justice is done.
And even though the appearance of this court room has changed, let there be more than an appearance that justice is being done here.
Lord, we hear again the words of the prophet Micah —
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
May this court and this courtroom be filled with the confidence of Your wisdom, the generosity of Your mercy, and the power of Your love.
Bless this nation we love so dearly, and those whom we have chosen to guide her path. May peace come in our lifetime, and may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
This is our prayer today, and we make it in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
2 thoughts on “Prayer for the Opening of Court on October 19, 2009”
Chuck, What an honor that you’ve been asked to pray at the opening of the new court session in a renovated, historic courthouse! I like your well-thought-out prayer in general but have one question: Are only Christians to be present at the event? If so, it’s fine to end your prayer in the name of OUR Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If not, you may want to use a more inclusive ending to your prayer (“In your holy Name. Amen” or simply “Amen.”).
Nothing in scripture requires that we tack the words such as “in Jesus name” onto the end of every prayer. The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught us to pray doesn’t. If your conscience will allow an alteration, you may want to err on the side of caution. I don’t think God will be offended if you don’t mention his Son by name in your prayer, but I know some people will likely be offended if you do.
Travis, good point, and I actually took your advice. And, you are right, no one was offended and the prayer was well-received. Thanks for your insight and your experience in this area.
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