Can anyone think of any larger and more frequent gathering of citizens of the United States than when we attend sporting events in local gymnasiums and large stadiums for the singing of our national anthem? Our anthem celebrates who we are as Americans and our sacred respect for those who gave their lives on battlefields, for our flag, for our veterans and for the great privilege we have in living in a democratic society.

The anthem should never be used as a forum for protest for any perceived injustice. It is a time when we come together, standing by our Pledge of Allegiance that proudly states, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I believe we all can justifiably find fault with the way many things are handled in our country, and it is incumbent on us to address these injustices if they truly exist, subjecting them to our laws, our courts and the principles of justice available to all of us.

This is what we all seek, and it is obtainable not through protest but through prayer. I don’t believe anyone who believes in God would deny that our nation desperately needs prayer. President Abraham Lincoln once spoke sternly on our nation’s need for prayer. “[W]e have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God who made us.”

We come together so often and in such great numbers for sporting events that we truly could unite in prayer for all of the injustices in our country that need healing and solutions. Prayer is needed for an end to bigotry, hate, violence and all forms of racism. We need prayer for our government to work together to find bipartisan solutions for our nation’s needs. We need a fair and affordable health care system, more and better paying jobs for all our citizens, laws that protect all our people equally, and respect for life in all its stages. I believe our goals for America can be realized if we unite in our prayers, and all our flaws and injustices can be healed.

Our First Amendment gives us the right to disrespectfully sit down during the national anthem. Would the same right be given to anyone who wanted, with the utmost respect, to pray for our nation during the national anthem? What is paramount is that, out of true respect, our stance at the anthem would be to look straight forward with our right hand over our heart, and as the anthem is sung, we maintain this stance.

When we are led, we close our eyes and bring our hands together in a prayer posture, and we maintain this posture to the end of the anthem. This would be a united prayer to God to intercede for us as a nation for wisdom, guidance and healing. The prayer is done in silence, for our prayer is symbolized by our joined hands.

Just think of the number of sporting events that are held throughout the United States, and then, if our imaginations could carry us, what if when we opened our eyes half the stadium had joined us in prayer.

When I recall our patriotic song “America the Beautiful,” the lyrics say it all for the intent of our prayers. “America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea … God mend thy every flaw … may God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.”

Peter Vaughn Pinette lives in Woodland.

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