Foolish Hearts

In his article, National Days of Prayer: A Historical Comparison, Dr. John S. Uebersax made a significant observation:

“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.”

Look for a minute 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 this Proclamation declare to be the sins of the nation? The country had forgotten God in its ingratitude and pride. The Proclamation’s call for humility, confession, and prayer is because of these sins of presumption.

Giving thanks calls us to humility and to understand and recognize that which we do not have except by God’s mercy and grace. We so easily succumb to presumptuous sins. Giving thanks is the antithesis of Romans 1:21. It’s intriguing to me that the long litany of sins in that chapter has its root in these words:

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Romans 1:21

We are a nation of foolish hearts. We do not honor God as God or give thanks. Remember our nation in prayer. As never before we are rife with ingratitude and pride. We need humility, confession of sin, and prayer for forgiveness.

Dr. Uebersax opened his article with Jonah 3:5. Jonah went to Nineveh and told them of the impending judgment of God. This was their response:

“Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast.”
Jonah 3:5

The Ninevites humbled themselves, confessed their sins, and implored God for mercy. If you’re familiar with the book of Jonah, you know what happened:

“When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.”
Jonah 3:10

May we turn to God in humiliation, fasting, and prayer. May He, in His compassion and kindness, have mercy on us.
__________
The Lincoln’s Prayer video was done by the John 10:10 Project. I’m unfamiliar with the ministry, however, I thought the video was excellent, putting Lincoln’s Proclamation into its historic context when the nation was suffering through the horror of the Civil War.

Copyright ©2020–2021 I. N. Carpenter

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