Graduate Theological Union LibraryGraduate Theological Union Library

Doug Adams: His Life and Work

Doug Adams, Teaching


During the Bicentennial, Adams wrote a series of articles and pamphlets on worship practices in 1776. He was also inspired to submit an "Inaugural Prayer" for the A.D. Inaugural Prayer Contest. An excerpt from his entry appeared prominently in the December 1976 -January 1977 issue of the United Church of Christ Magazine

The following article appeared in the Occasional Papers series published by Pacific School of Religion in October 1976.

Understanding the Agenda in Christian Worship

This article opens with prayers drawn from historic worship services of the United States' first hundred years. I combine these to provide "An Inaugural Prayer To Put Our Rulers In Their Places" which is suitable regardless of which candidates win the November election.


spacer God, Judge of all nations,
We offer prayers from our tradition to put rulers in their places and exorcise our idolatrous expectations.

In words of Lyman Beecher, Presbyterian minister serving nineteenth century Congregational churches, we pray:
"Lord, Grant that we may not despise our rulers; and grant, Lord, that they may not act, so we can't help it."

In words of Samuel Eaton, Congregational minister opposed to President Madison (as many have opposed this president), we pray:
"Lord, Thou hast commanded us to pray for our enemies; we would therefore pray for the President and Vice-President of these United States."

God, we remember recent presidents departed from this high office. In words of Henry Ward Beecher on President Buchanan's departure, we pray:
"Thank you Lord for removing rulers imbecile in all but corruption." And in Beecher's words on Andrew Johnson's departure, we pray: "Lord, accept our thanks that he that now is the President hath done so little mischief."

Finally, God, we pray for all our leaders in words of the patriotic Boston minister forced by the British to pray for King George in early 1776:
"0 Lord, bless thy servant, King George, and grant unto him wisdom; for thou knowest, 0 Lord, he needs it." Amen.

Those last words we may pray also for all of us who lead Christian worship; for we need wisdom. A major problem for Christian worship is revealed when we note that many of our ministers and laity would think it inappropriate to use the foregoing prayer in Sunday worship on January 18 or other services before the Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 1977. The problem is that most of the historic patterns of worship and preaching common in our own early American denominations (and in Reformation Europe and the Early Church) are unknown to most clergy and laity. This is understandable, for most seminaries offered no courses on the history of worship until very recent years; and published research on this subject is often of recent date.

Thus, the present day standard Sunday morning form of worship and preaching is all most Christians know to call "traditional" worship. When alternative patterns allow personal lay participation in shaping the preaching and prayers, expression of the word through arts, and more frequent and full bodied communions, these are often called "new forms" of worship.

To read the full article, see document below. If you have a problem viewing the document, go here.

Reproduction of this article courtesy of Pacific School of Religion.