Praying For Our Country In 2016

Prayer in an integral part of our American history. From our earliest days as a country we have a heritage of turning to God in times of urgent need in humiliation, confession, and prayers for clemency and forgiveness.

By federal law the first Thursday in May is the annual observance for the National Day of Prayer. The presidential proclamation for today is frankly meaningless hypocrisy given Obama’s promotion of immorality, and his efforts to undo the First Amendment and impede Christians from freely exercising their beliefs. We don’t need feel-good generic pablum prayers, we need to to echo the words of Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation.

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

In National Days of Prayer: A Historical Comparison Dr. John S Uebersax points out a glaring omission in our modern Days of Prayer:

Since 1952, the President of the United States has, by law, annually issued a proclamation recommending a National Day of Prayer. This seeks to revive a similar practice that emerged in Revolutionary times, and again in the Civil War. The modern proclamations, however, differ in important ways from the earlier ones. The main difference is evident in the change of titles — from the earlier ‘Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer’ to the modern ‘National Day of Prayer.’ The earlier proclamations emphasized humiliation — understood as including a deep conviction of God’s Providential sovereignty in all things, recognition that calamities may express God’s chastisements, expression of guilt, sorrow for sins, and earnest pledge for reformation.

Via Dr. Uebersax, this was written by Benjamin Franklin Morris in Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. G. W. Childs, 1864. (pp. 526-7).

The fathers of the Republic, in the earliest period of the Revolution, adopted the custom of consecrating, by acts of legislation, days of thanksgiving and prayer for special religious worship; and thus the public mind received a higher religious culture through the civil authorities of the country.

Thomas JeffersonAt the beginning of the great conflict for liberty and an independent nationality and government, Mr. Jefferson, who, whatever were his peculiar views of the Christian system, always acknowledged the government and providence of God in national affairs—recommended in Virginia the appointment and observance of a day of public prayer and humiliation. In June, 1774, when the news of the Boston Port Bill reached Virginia, the Colonial Legislature, then in session, appointed such a fast-day for that colony. Mr. Jefferson’s account of it is as follows:—

We were under the conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events, and thought that the appointment of a day of general fasting and prayer would be most likely to call up and alarm their attention. No example of such solemnities had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of ’55,—since which a new generation had grown up. With the help, therefore, of Rushworth, whom we rummaged over for the resolutionary precedents and forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, we made up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing the 1st day of June, on which the Port Bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the king and Parliament to moderation and justice.

To give greater emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the next morning on Mr. Nicholas, whose grave and religious character was more in unison with the tone of our resolution, and solicit him to move it. We accordingly went to him in the morning. He moved it the same day. The 1st of June was proposed, and it passed without opposition. The Governor dissolved us. We returned home, and in our several counties invited the clergy to meet the assemblies of the people on the 1st of June, to perform the ceremonies of the day and to address them in discourses suited to the occasion. The people met generally, with anxiety and alarm in their countenances; and the effect of the day through the whole colony was like a shock of electricity, arousing every man and placing him erect and solidly on his centre.

Washington, then a member of the House of Burgesses, sent a special message to his family and constituents to observe this day; and Mason, a distinguished patriot, also a member, “charged his household to keep the day strictly, and to attend church clad in mourning.”

Dr. Uebersax adds:

According to Jared Sparks (The Life of George Washington, 1839, p. 520), on the appointed day, Washington “writes in his diary: ‘Went to church, and fasted all day,’ thus conforming not only to the spirit, but to the strict letter of the order.”

Virginia House of Burgesses

TUESDAY, 24th of May, 14th George III., 1774.

This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers to be derived to British America from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston, in our sister colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are on the 1st day of June next to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said 1st day of June be set apart by the members of this House as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights, and the evils of civil war, to give us one heart and one mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American rights, and that the minds of his Majesty and his Parliament may be inspired from above with wisdom, moderation, and justice, to remove from the loyal people of America all cause of danger from a continual pursuit of measures pregnant to their ruin.

Ordered, therefore, That the members of this House do attend in their places, at the hour of ten in the forenoon, on the said 1st day of June next, in order to proceed, with the Speaker and mace, to the church in the city, for the purpose aforesaid; and that the Reverend Mr. Price be appointed to read prayers and to preach a sermon suitable to the occasion.

Ordered, that this Order be forthwith printed and published.

By the House of Burgesses,

GEORGE WYTHE, C. H. B.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force emphasizes, “personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.” Without neglecting this, America needs prayers that include national acknowledgement of sin and repentance asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Yes, I’m serious about that. Our nation has a long history of turning to God in times of crisis with confession of sin and pleas for His help. Look at the Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day signed by Abraham Lincoln on March 30, 1863:

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. 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 the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

In the midst of the Civil War what does the proclamation declare to be the sins of a nation? Ingratitude and pride. And because of these sins of presumption, the Proclamation’s call for humility, confession, and prayer.

Those same sins are mentioned in Romans 1. As the long litany of sins unwinds, three times Paul says that the consequence of men not honoring God as God and giving thanks, is that God gave them over to their own evil desires. If, as I do, you see this played out in our nation and in the current state of the election, then please pray for our country. We desperately need God’s clemency and forgiveness.

Daniel of the Old Testament was a godly man, but in his prayer he yet identified with the sins of his people, and cried out, “O Lord, hear, O Lord, forgive!” His prayer is a model for us.

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

__________
Reconstructed Chamber of the Virginia House of Burgesses in the Capitol at Williamsburg, Virginia.

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