Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, voiced the prayer at the opening of Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony. He did a wonderful job. His was a prayer that promoted peace, unity, repentance, and acknowledgment of God's sovereignty.
Many were concerned with Obama's selection of Warren to deliver the prayer. Some on the left were shocked by his (traditional and mainstream evangelical) opposition to homosexuality. From the right, he has been accused of selling out and watering down the gospel. I say that Pastor Rick is obediently using his influence (in the vein of Esther, Daniel, Nathan, Joseph, etc.) to speak God's truth into the leaders of a nation.
Key parts to Warren's prayer:
He included the Shema Yisrael "...the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–21, also Mark 12:29). This is a daily prayer for Judaism. It is also similar to the first part of Islam's Shahada "there is no god but God..." By reciting this brief line, Warren appeals to the monotheistic aspect of these faiths.
In an apparent reference to the controversy surrounding the evangelical disapproval of homosexuality, Warren prayed for "civility when differing."
He noted the significance of the day (and the long line of faithful men and women who prepared the way) by quoting Hebrews 12:1-2 ; "We know today that Dr. King and a great crowd of witnesses are shouting in heaven."
He acknowledged that America is not a "Christian" nation, saying: "We are united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice to all."
He devoted a large and particularly poetic portion of the prayer to confession: "When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect they deserve, forgive us."
He seemed careful to include a personal declaration of faith in Jesus, saying His name in English, Hebrew (Yeshua), Arabic ('Isa), and Spanish (Jesús). Here, Warren makes a bold assertion about the universality of Jesus as savior for people from all religions.
Warren concluded the prayer by reciting the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Known to Catholics as the "Our Father," or Pater Noster. This, again, was a unifying approach to what might otherwise have only divided the American people.
I'm proud of Rick Warren for the boldness and gentleness he demonstrated today. I will continue to pray for him as he uses the influence of favor with our new president to speak truth into the leadership of our country.