+Gene Robinson’s Prayer for President-elect Barack Obama

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

(Also available on You Tube).

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


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  1. Peter Macinnis

    At last, the sort of decent and caring USA that we in the rest of the world can look up to!

    I was a teenager in 1961, but I still remember the hope we felt then. I got my hope out today, and dusted it off. I truly believe that it will be safe.

  2. HBO did not broadcast the part of the event that included +Gene’s prayer – the first half hour, I guess – so I am checking Youtube every hour or so to see if it appears. Unfortunately, Beyonce seems way more popular. Go figure.

    -Pamela Grenfell Smith

  3. NY Times live blog:

    Reverend V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop from New Hampshire who advised Mr. Obama on gay rights issues, gave the invocation. But his words were lost to hundreds of thousands gathered along the Reflecting Pool and those tuning in on HBO. A malfunction in at least one massive speaker tower on the south side of the memorial left tightly-packed crowds on pins and needles chanting thunderously, “We can’t hear. We can’t hear.”

  4. Wow, too bad that this wonderful prayer wasn’t included in HBO’s coverage, and I hadn’t heard about the technical problems with the speaker. I too, am hoping that some coverage will prop up on youtube !


  5. Tom Morgan

    I find it incredibly disappointing, but not at all surprising, that HBO failed to broadcast Bishop Robinson’s invocation. There is no excuse for this and it is just one more example of trying to silence gay and lesbian people. As far as I am concerned, the invitation to give the invocation was a hollow gesture. One thing is for sure NO ONE IS GOING TO NOT broadcast the invocation that the bigoted, narrow minded Rick Warren is going to give.

  6. I thought this was an excellent prayer. I, too am aware that HBO did not run this segment. I assume that either (1) they are living in the twentieth, if not the nineteenth, century (this is the charitable view), or (2) they are afraid their sponsors (most of whom are probably Episcopalians anyway) will be upset, or (3) that they think time is money and don’t think religion is worth bothering about. I have written to them in no uncertain terms.

  7. I watched the concert when it first aired and again on the rerun because I thought I’d somehow missed the prayer I’d been waiting to hear since it was announced.

    Now I know it wasn’t included.

    Thank you for printing the text and shame on HBO who will be hearing from me.

    I don’t suppose they’ll skip Rich Warren’s invocation though. Of course not.

    Ann Adams

  8. As a singer with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC (which, along with the other backup choruses at the event, did not receive credit), I heard Rev. Robinson give his invocation at about 2:20, 10 minutes before the show officially started. I’m Jewish, and I was sitting next to an atheist, and both of us were in tears by the end of these brave and powerful words.

    I won’t try to speculate why this was not included in the broadcast; truth be told, this whole show was thrown together so fast, and backstage was so disorganized, I’m amazed at how smoothly it went, and how polished it all looked in the end.

    But I will say that speaking Truth has been a difficult thing these past 8 years, hampered by an increasingly fearful and fear-inducing administration. You should see how many “Freedom Fences” (that’s what I call ’em) are denying and restricting free access in DC this week.

    I personally plan to spread these words as far and wide as I can. They need to be heard.

  9. Megaera Fitch

    I too am waiting for the youtube version. Hope it’s true that it was just a technical glitch. The spirit of the day was so incredible, I want to believe we weren’t intentionally denied access.

  10. Even though HBO “deleted” this segment, I was glad to read the whole text. Will they “excerpt” Rick Warren, I doubt it. Rev. Robinson’s invocation was moving and went right to the heart. It doesn’t matter whether he is gay, so what? Are you saying that a gay minister’s prayers are not registered with the Almighty? I don’t think so! He listens to us all, because HE made us!

  11. Here’s the YouTube URL for yhe Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson Invocation. You can’t see him, but, you can hear him perfectly:


    In Peace, Pride & Euqality

    R. Zeke Fread

  12. Mary Pratt

    The Episcopal Church is so blessed to have a bishop with Gene’s gifts, and words. What more could our country be hoping for, on this amazing, renewing occasion?

  13. The Rev Dr. Hugh Tudor-Foley

    Sad that we somehow expect that HBO won’t carry the prayer – and that a “tower of speakers had a glitch” and that our sad expectations are met. Cowardly is the word for HBO. Thanks to the new administration for inviting our Bishop to participate.

    At least I can reprint and share the prayer – along with the prayer we offered yesterday in church for our new President.

    We should and will also continue to pray for change.

  14. Maggie Martin

    I am sad and confused and deeply, deeply upset. This casts a dark shadow on everything that I had hoped Barack Obama’s presidency would bring to this country. The breath of fresh air that I expected to partake of has just shifted to a smelly breeze.

    Gene Robinson gave a stunning interview just last week on NPR and frankly, that was the reason I watched the event — to hear the invocation. After 90 minutes passed, I looked on line for an explanation and then started to piece together what happened. I hope and pray that this is not what it appears to be. However, the fact that the Biden’s and Obama’s were not yet visible when Bishop Robinson delivered the invocation troubles me deeply.

    Typically, invocations are given at the very beginning of an event as soon as all participants are settled in their seats/pews. Why were the Biden’s and Obama’s not present for the invocation? This, added to the lack of it being televised and the faulty sound system, causes me to have doubts about motive.

    How sad for us to have missed his brilliance and his powerful message of active nonviolence and inclusion.

  15. The Rev. Jim Littrell

    I am saddened and angered (God bless those tears, and that fury) by the “glitches” OF HBO, the event planners, and whatever else caused the failure of this prayer to be heard, yesterday on the Mall and around the world. It is a worthy,courageous prayer, and I hope HBO will find a way to broadcast it in the future, perhaps as a repeated part of one of their many many inter-program segues and lead-ins, perhaps as a miniature “HBO special.” I think the event planners, the Obama administration, and all of us should ask for that. Finally, perhaps this prayer could be offered again by Gene as the invocation or benediction at the Cathedral prayer service that closes the official Inauguration, supplementing or even replacing Bishop Chane’s or Jefferts Schori’s prayer. (Now there’s a thought–shades of Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt!) Above all, I ask God to bless all our tears and all our anger, and to help us learn from Gene about the magnificence of forbearance and forgiveness. He is a great grace from God to our broken world.

    The Rev. James H. Littrell

    Episcopal Chaplain at Penn

    Rector, St. Mary’s Church, Hamilton Village, Philadelphia

    and out queer Priest in this wilderness promised land of ours since 1977, without a single regret, ever!

    Blessings be

  16. I know Bishop Robinson from when I lived in Massachusetts, he did/does much with and for Province 1 of New England. The prayer he gave was and is simply amazing. However, just another day and prayer for a man who is an outward expression of the peace and love of God. The Peace of the Lord be with you Gene Robinson, thank you for all you do. And, HBO we forgive you, because Bishop Robinson already has.

    Blessings from the State of California!

  17. Harney Green

    Thank you for posting the text of the prayer. Also, many thanks to Sara Pulliam for recording and posting on YouTube the video of Bishop Robinson reading the prayer at the start of the “We Are One” Concert. I’ve been looking for a recording of this prayer (audio or video) for the last 24 hours.

    Finally, many thanks to Bishop Robinson for his continued leadership and presence in the LGBT Community.

  18. The Rev. Jim Littrell

    Udate from HO makes this look more like a planned PIC omission than an HBO glitch:

    Contacted Sunday night by AfterElton.com concerning the exclusion of Robinson’s prayer, HBO said via email, “The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”..

  19. Daniel Ham

    Is Gene Robinson a Christian? ‘God of many understanding’? It’s given me a confusion and doubt about his Christian confession. I always see a Buddhist monk calls his god “Buddah” with pride, an Imam respectfully invokes “Allah”, and so on and so forth, but this Bishop dares not to call his God “Jesus” or “Jehovah”. So why bother to conclude the shallow, meaningless prayer with “Amen” even though it is veneered with beautiful words and lofty concepts? Gene contradicts himself since he invoques god of many understanding but doesn’t stick to it. Why? because my god doesn’t use “Amen”, and a lot of gods don’t either. What an insult and laughing stock to other religions. I can’t help to think about a coward at best, and an obvious Judas in modern day Christianity. You need to have a backbone and identity. Unfortunately, this bishop has neither. Too much for honesty that a man in such a position shows. This has nothing to do with gay/lesbian issue, don’t quickly jump to attack me. I just want to raise a question. It seems funny lately to see Christians behave. Some of them, even on this site, quick to criticize/condemn Rick Warren since he says what he means and he is proud of being a Christian. At least, I respect him because of that. Out of curiosity, I check Christian bible and found out lots of verses clearly saying something about how Christian God considers homosexual as ‘abomination’, ‘shameful acts’ and ‘sin’ with severe consequences, having said that these lead me to questioning how Gene and the likes read their bibles, or do they have different bibles? how they deal with their own god that they proclaim every Sunday? do Christians have different Jesus? that’s unthinkable. As said, I respect Rick because he reflects and faithfully shares with other people what he is taught from his God. Why people readily put a big hat of ‘bigotry’,’intolerance’ on him? just FYI, Islam also condemns homosexual and Eastern religions don’t have even a faintest idea of support for it. I wonder if those people who condemns Rick and the likes as ‘intolerance’, can they show that they are ‘tolerant’? obviously not. They are even worse, since they don’t live up to what they preach. Back to this shallow, funny prayer, shame on you Gene, you reflects nothing, and I don’t know your god at all, at least I know and proud of my god, you have shown no clue of who and what you have boasted that you worship.

    Daniel Pham

  20. Daniel, Buddhists don’t consider Buddah to be God. That Gene chose to give a prayer that could speak to people who did not share his faith is not in any way a reflection of the depth of that faith.

  21. Ned

    Daniel writes:

    “Eastern religions don’t have even a faintest idea of support for it [homosexuality]”

    Absolute nonsense.

    First of all, most Eastern religions today have been reformed to the point that they are no longer “organized religions” in the Judeo-Christian or Islamic sense of the term but spiritual philosophies that tend to be universalistic and pluralistic, accepting all people. In addition, the Eastern religions simply aren’t moralistic and obsessed with sin the way the Abrahamic traditions are. In “Homosexuality and World Religions” Arvind Sharma points out that in early Vedic India, a “third sex” was legitimately recognized and tolerated, which basically maps to modern-day LGBT people.

    You will be surprised to know that most of the major Hindu spiritual teachers in the 20th century barely batted an eyelash when initiating gay devotees into their spiritual orders. Famous gay people like Edward Carpenter, Christopher Isherwood, E. M. Forster, and Alain Danielou were accepted by their Hindu spiritual teachers. For an account of Isherwood’s relationship with his guru (including frank discussions of his guru’s attitude to his homosexuality), read “My Guru and his Disciple” by Isherwood.

    Here is a Vaishnava Hindu perspective on LGBT issues:


    Daniel, please study the Eastern religions before claiming to know anything about them.

    (editor’s note: Ned, we need your full name next time.)

  22. tom0063

    Ref Peter MacInnis’ comment above.

    Peter may have taken his heart out of the safe.

    I volunteered hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to Obama.

    Only to be vilified by Warren. I let my heart have hope again with Bishop Robinson, and went to the Mall to take part in the joy, only to have his prayer censored.

    I think I’d best put my heart back in the safe.

    (editor’s note: Thanks, Tom. We need a full name next time.)

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