Can anyone think of any larger and more frequent gatherings of citizens of the United States than when we attend sporting events in local gymnasiums and large stadiums and hear the singing of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”? Our anthem expresses our nation’s devotion to who we are as Americans and our sacred respect for all those who gave their lives on our battlefields, for our flag, for our veterans and for the great privilege we all have in living in a democratic society.

The singing of the anthem should never be used as a forum for protest over any perceived injustices. It is time that we as citizens come together and stand up for the ideas in our Pledge of Allegiance, which proudly says that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I believe we all can justifiably find fault with the way many things are handled in our country, but it is incumbent on us as citizens of a democracy to address these injustices, if they truly exist, by subjecting them to our laws, our courts and the principles of justice available to all of us.

This is what we all seek, and it is obtainable not through protest but through petition — prayer petition. I don’t believe there is anyone who has a belief in God who would deny that prayer is desperately needed by our nation. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke sternly of our nation’s need for prayer.

“We have forgotten God,” he wrote. “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us.”

We all come together so often and in such great numbers for our sporting events that the opportunity for united prayer for all of the injustices in our country that need healing and solutions could be achieved.

Prayer is needed for an end to bigotry, hate, violence and all forms of racism. We need prayer for our government to work together on bipartisan solutions for our nation’s needs. We need a fair and affordable health care plan, more and better-paying jobs for all our citizens, laws that protect all our people equally and respect for life in all its stages. I believe all of our goals for America could be realized, and all our flaws and injustices could be healed, if we as a nation become united in our prayers.

Our First Amendment gives us the right to disrespectfully sit down during our national anthem. Would the same right be given to anyone who wanted with the utmost respect to pray for our nation during the national anthem? What would be paramount here is to demonstrate true respect. Our proper stance during the anthem would be to look straight forward with our right hand over our heart and to maintain this stance as the anthem is sung.

When we are led, we should close our eyes and bring our hands together in a prayer posture and maintain this posture until the end of the anthem. This would be a united prayer to God to intercede for us as a nation for wisdom, guidance and healing. The prayer would be done in silence, for our prayer is symbolized by our joined hands.

Just think of the number of sporting events that are held throughout the United States. Then, if our imaginations could carry us, what if, when we opened our eyes, half the stadium had joined us in prayer?

When I recall the patriotic song “America the Beautiful,” the lyrics say it all regarding the intent of our prayers: “America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. … God mend thy every flaw … May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.”

Peter Pinette is a resident of Woodland.