I spoke twice during my high school graduation. I was the class president, so I delivered an address to my peers and their families, in which they involuntarily indulged me for the five minutes of what felt like the most glorious and righteous moment of my life.
I had reached the pinnacle of importance, I was sure of it.
The second speaking role I had during my high school graduation was the benediction — the closing prayer for the ceremony.
I do not recall much from either, but in preparing for the benediction, I swore I would not write anything down or rehearse because I did not want my prayer to feel forced. So, I probably choked.
While I will not have any speaking roles in my nearing graduation — a humble reminder that I am a small fish in a really big pond — if I had the opportunity to do it over again, I think I would be a bit more rehearsed.
I think I would take the opportunity to be more thorough and conscious of the words I spoke and the prayers I lifted to God. I would be more reflective of the time God has given me at this place and be more hopeful for the time moving forward.
I think my benediction this time around would go a little something like this:
God, today and every day, I am thankful for this place and for these people. I am thankful for how you brought us to this point and for how you will guide us past it.
I am thankful for this column space and the responsibility you give with it. I am thankful for the freedoms you grant us to speak truth and wisdom and for the privileges you grant every day — that I have the opportunity to write a prayer in a public forum for all to read. I pray you humble our hearts to practice freedom with responsibility according to your will.
Reflecting on this year, I point all the glory of success and triumph to you, and I ask your forgiveness and grace in the mistakes and lessons we learned along the way.
As we move forward from this day, I pray you remind us of what we have learned at Harding. I pray you grant us the knowledge, recollection and application to serve others and serve your kingdom.
I pray you remind us daily of the people who made our time here so special. I am thankful for the innumerable memories I made with these people whom I cherish so much, and I am already thankful for the days in which you will make those memories come to life when we need them most.
Humble us, God, as we move into tomorrow and this new chapter of our stories that will unfold in the coming weeks, months and years. Grant us open hearts, eyes and ears to find your guidance and understand your plan for where our stories will take us.
Develop within us the means and courage to speak for those we encounter who are the least among us. Soften our hearts to the needs of the world, and embolden our faith and witness to be critical of the spaces, near and far, that need to know truth and wisdom.
Remind us during each minute of each day, God, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Remind us of the greatest commands for our lives: love God and love our neighbors.
In this command, may we find the peace, understanding and courage to leave this place and see our faith take action where it is needed most.
We pray this in humility and with deep gratitude —