A prayerful inauguration

The verb inaugurate means literally “to practice augury.” Happy to clear that up for you.

Augury, for those of you who aren’t students of classical literature, was the ancient practice of foretelling the future, divining what will come by reading various signs and omens. In Roman times, an augur was a priest who served the Roman imperial court, offering advice on the will of the gods by looking for signs in nature.

In other words, an augur was the ancient equivalent of modern political soothsayers, men and women whose skill is reading the shifting political winds, often with the help of polls and focus groups.

An inauguration, therefore, marks the start of a new thing, the first step on a journey into an unknown future, the first of many. And since we moderns don’t read entrails these days to discern future trends, this will be a journey built on faith and hope, and the prayers of a nation.

We never know what the future holds, of course. God does. He once warned Israel against depending on the pseudo-wisdom of the diviners and political analysts rather than coming to Him:

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in My name. I have not sent them,” says the LORD.

… “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.” — Jeremiah 29:8-13, NLT

President Barack Obama will take the oath of office tomorrow and embark on a journey into the unknown. He’ll be stepping out in faith and looking for lots of advice. He’ll get plenty — there is no shortage of grasping opportunists in Washington, D.C. — but much of it will be about as helpful as the reading of entrails.

What President Obama will really need is prayer, and lots of it. In fact, it’s what we all need. God knows the future. Augury, whether of omens or polls, is no substitute for prayer.

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  1. Yes, our son’s aide at school, who is African American, has said that several times. She’s right.