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America’s Declaration of Independence was sent to King George III of England in 1776. 

There were 56 signatures on the document, representing all 13 original British colonies. 

Edward Rutledge, at age 26, was the youngest signer.  Benjamin Franklin, still humming along at age 70, was the oldest.  John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian pastor from New Jersey, was the only clergyman.  Two of the signers (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) would one day become president.  According to those who collect famous signatures, the autograph of Button Gwinnett of Georgia is considered the rarest and most valuable in American history – if only because someone actually named their little boy Button.     

Long after the signers were gone, a number of fanciful stories sprang up. 

One is that the Declaration was signed by the entire Continental Congress on July 4 , 1776.  That’s actually the publication date at the top of the document now preserved in the National Archives building in Washington D.C.  The official vote to separate from England took place on July 2 – a date which John Adams predicted (wrongly, as it turned out) would become our national birthday.  John Hancock, acting as president of the Second Continental Congress, was the one and only original signer of the Declaration.  The other delegates added their names on August 2.

Hancock’s signature, which dominates the middle of the parchment, is famous for its outrageous size and flamboyance.  “Here’s my John Hancock” has become synonymous for signing one’s name. 

A story circulated that Hancock wanted to ensure that the king could read his signature without having to put on his spectacles, but historians doubt its veracity. 

There’s also considerable doubt concerning a memorably witty exchange.  Hancock supposedly told his fellow signers that they would now all have to “hang together.”  To which Ben Franklin replied, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” That certainly sounds like Franklin, but the story didn’t see the light of day until a half century after his death. 

One thing we know for sure is that signing the Declaration of Independence was not for the faint of heart.

The British crown had every intention of rounding up its 56 signers and hanging them for treason.  To go public with pen and ink was putting one’s life on the line. 

Something like that happens every time we come to the end of the Lord’s Prayer. 

First-time Bible readers are surprised to discover that Jesus’ model prayer ends with the phrase “deliver us from the Evil One.”  Churchgoers customarily add a closing flourish: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Where did those words come from? 

That three-part phrase is part of a prayer offered by King David in I Chronicles 29:11.  It was added as a kind of trumpet blast early in Church history – a way to say “wow” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer.  Each worshipper was declaring, “Lord, may your kingdom succeed at the expense of my own crummy little kingdom.  May you get all the credit – because life, in the end, is not about me.  It’s all about you.”

The real kicker, of course, is the word Amen.

This is our way of saying, “Lord, I mean business.  Here’s my John Hancock.  I’m signing off on everything that I just prayed.” 

We must be cautious about saying amen. The Lord’s Prayer may last only 18 seconds, but there is a lifetime of responsibility and accountability embedded within it.

Every time we say amen we’re declaring, “This is how I want the world to be.  Starting with me.” 

As we come to the end of our look at the Lord’s Prayer, it’s worth noting that sometimes we become numb to its meaning because of over-familiarity with the traditional words – the ones we learned in Sunday School and have recited in sanctuaries for years.   

But every now and then we can choose to jumpstart our understanding by praying alternative renditions, such as this paraphrase written by philosopher and teacher Dallas Willard:

Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us –
may your will be done here on earth
in just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don’t put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge,
and you have all the power,
and the glory too is all yours – forever –
which is just the way we want it!