O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain.
Those stunningly beautiful words are rich with meaning to most Americans. For across the wide expanse of the America we love there truly are majestic mountains standing proudly against spacious skies and towering above fruited plains that feed the world.
They seem at all times to testify to America being a choice land above all others. Not merely for the mountains or the fruited plains, but also for the spirit of the Lord that can be found in such abundance within the souls of its citizens as they take strength from the land as well as its Creator, even Jesus Christ. It is he who has proclaimed that the Constitution that binds this land and its people in a covenant relationship with him was ordained and written according to just and holy principles, and that he established that Constitution by the hands of wise men whom he raised up unto this very purpose.
So within the poetic words of that sacred hymn we may see anew the wonders of our nation, as well as a sacred calling to remember the sacrifices that so many made that America might rise to the symbol of liberty that has always been its divine destiny. But the words we sing are not to be sung once a year and forgotten, for within them can be found an almost perfect example of a prayer of faith and gratitude.
First, it is a prayer of gratitude for the blessings that are ours. One cannot be grateful for purple mountains majesty unless we first turn our eyes from the mundane and ugly to look for the beauties that are always around us. Nor can we appreciate the dreams of patriots unless we come to understand the miracles that comprised the founding of this wondrous land, including the drafting of the Constitution, for a miracle it was. In speaking of this Benjamin Franklin said, “When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage over their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views … It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.”
After each expression of gratitude there follows pleadings that God might shed his grace on this nation and crown her citizens with brotherhood as he mends our every flaw. As we read and ponder the words of this magnificent hymn we take away a model for our own prayers as we first learn to express gratitude for the wonders around us, then ask for His blessings not only on our family, but our communities and nation as well that he might shed his grace on us from sea to shining sea. May he always bless America and her citizens as we in turn seek to follow him.
• Craig Lindquist is a Lihue business owner and regular contributor to TGI.