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God Bless America

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Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD . . . . — Psalm 33:12

It’s a song, a famous song, but did you know that it really is a prayer? A prayer that we’ve all heard sung at athletic events, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol by our congressmen on September 11th, at the reopening of the stock market the following Monday, at church services during war and peacetime, at Republican and Democratic national conventions, on radio and television programs, in movies, and at patriotic rallies throughout our country and on foreign shores. Its words burn in our hearts because the lyrics ring true. . . .and the musical score combined with those words bring goose-bumps each time we hear or sing this beautiful prayer.

I am speaking of “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and originally performed by the one-and-only Kate Smith in 1938. Irving Berlin wrote it for a camp show while serving in the Army in World War I stationed at Camp Upton on Long Island. The show’s producers decided not to use it in 1918, but twenty years later Berlin offered it as the answer to a request he received for a patriotic song which Kate Smith could sing to commemorate the anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I. It was an immediate sensation with her debut radio performance in 1938. . . . and has been a national favorite ever since.

Irving Berlin, born Israel Baline, was five years old when his family immigrated to the U.S. from Siberia in 1893. He had a great appreciation for his adopted homeland of America—his patriotism was authentic. After his military service in World War I Berlin went on to a successful career, known for composing such hits as “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “Cheek to Cheek.” When World War II began, Berlin considered it an honor to compose and perform patriotic songs for military stationed around the world (often close to battle zones). At war’s end, President Truman awarded Berlin the Medal of Merit for his courageous contribution to troop morale.

As you bravely serve our great country this 4th of July. . . .both at home and deployed, we pause to consider these lyrics, beginning with the original spoken introduction, as a prayer lifted to remind us of our personal and national need for God:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam.
God Bless America, my home sweet home.
God Bless America, my home sweet home.

On this national holiday week, thank you for your brave and sacrificial service to our dear country, which we love. Your duty is making an eternal difference in the lives of many, both at home and across the sea. May God bless you. May God bless America.


Work cited:

From Kate Smith, “God Bless America,” and Irving Berlin.

Larkin Spivey, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II (Chattanooga: God and Country Press, 2009), p. 216.

Questions to Share:

1. Take these lyrics and pray for our nation, especially during these times of war.

2. How has God blessed America? How can you pray for God to continue to bless America?

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