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A Labor Day prayer for brotherhood, in America the Beautiful

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AP Photo/Allen Breed

(Read caption) Carillon sheet music for "America the Beautiful" sits on a sill in the bell tower of historic Arlington Street Church in Boston, April 18, 2013.

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At church, on Labor Day weekend, things often end with a patriotic hymn such as "America the Beautiful". It's a simple prayer but a great moment, as the purposeful expansiveness of the song matches the hopefulness and promise of fall. With the church doors flung open and worshippers pouring out, people at the shops and outdoor cafes nearby take note, and the swell seems to embrace everyone, churchgoer or not.

“America, America, God shed His grace on thee..."

A 2007 Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape survey found that about 60 percent of adults say they pray at least once every day. On Labor Day, the prayer in recent history has often come under memorable circumstances – the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example, the memory of 9/11 on its first anniversary, the issues and people in upcoming national elections. Sometimes the prayer is an appreciation of momentous gifts of the summer past, sometimes a recognition of mercies as simple a new rain on a dry lawn. Labor Day being the de facto start of a new year in many circles, there's the prayer that the new teacher will be nice, the new business will be profitable, the new city will be friendly.

The American Psychological Association in 2007 reported that half of people pray about health issues. And a 2008 Brandeis University report says that three-quarters of people pray for friends and family members as well as themselves. But America the Beautiful – a perennial contender to unseat "The Star-Spangled Banner" as national anthem – seems to call for prayer for the nation as a whole.  


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