by David Sisler

I did not hear the sermon. I do not know what was said. But the title was intriguing: "America, Bless God." So I did some research of my own. One of my editors would call this a "Sunday School Piece," and I would plead, "Guilty."

The King James Version of the Bible uses the phrase, "Bless the LORD" 16 times. Thirteen of those references are in Psalms, so already we have a clue to the meaning of the word "bless." With such a prominent place in the Bible's Hymnal, it must be a worship word. Strong's Concordance defines the Hebrew word, barak, as "to kneel; by implication to bless God as an act of adoration."

Barak also means - when it is addressed to humankind - "to provide a benefit" - as in our national prayer since September 11, "God, bless America, Land that I love! Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with the light from above!"

Now, the second day since President George W. Bush directed our armed forces to begin the just cause of destroying the terrorist forces of Osama bin Laden and all of his allies, it might be a good time to change the prayer from a very justifiable request - God, bless America - to a much needed act of worship - America, bless God.

For the past 27 days, prayer has been a national preoccupation, but for the previous 27 years (and longer) it was something we nodded our heads at in appreciation, but generally without any great national passion. Oh, to be sure, we called curses down on the name of Madelyn Murray O'Hare and the collective members of the Supreme Court, but we did not do much praying. It was just that now our right to pray had been infringed, and our outrage was high.

Even though we could still pray, just not an officially mandated prayer, we wrung our hands in despair. We did mount a campaign or two - one of the most inefficient being a bumper sticker campaign: "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school."

Please forgive my sarcasm, but we frequently occupy ourselves with closing the barn door after the animals have escaped. If we had concentrated on repair and upkeep of the structure before hand, there would have been no missing animals.

But since terrorists toppled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and knocked out a section of the Pentagon, and plowed an airplane into the fields of Western Pennsylvania, killing themselves and 6,000 innocent people, we have become, once again, a people of prayer. Television has broadcast prayer meetings. Newspapers have reported on prayer meetings. Churches have been filled with people who instinctively knew that we need help and only Divine help will suffice.

And even though attendance in churches across America has been high since we were attacked, the numbers have steadily declined since September 16. How quickly we forget!

America, bless God!

I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1).

Yesterday the retaliation began. B-1s, B-2s, B-52s, and Tomahawk Cruise missiles began pounding the Taliban's air defense installations, its defense ministry, airport-based command centers, airfields, electrical grids and other energy production facilities. As the allied attack continues, al Qaeda's training camps and fortresses across Afghanistan will be targeted. And almost certainly Osama bin Laden's operatives will attempt to strike America again.

American, bless God!

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Psalm 103, selected verses).

We have found our knees once again. Now is not the time to stand up. America, bless God!


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