George Washington’s Call to Prayer

There are skeptics who believe our nation was founded by a group of athiests or, at best deists, who had no faith in [an active] God. These critics believe our nation was not founded on Christian principles, but solely as a political experiment. Without arguing specific points, let me offer the following words of President George Washington from January 1, 1795, in his National Thanksgiving Proclamation.

I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation; particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite and, by their union, establish liberty with order; for the preservation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the reasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection*, and generally for the prosperous condition of our affairs, public and private, and at the same time humbly and fervently beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits, to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a corresponding conduct as citizens and as men to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality and piety, and finally to impart all the blessings we possess or ask for ourselves to the whole family of mankind. In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia the first day of January, 1795.  (signed George Washington) **

*The insurrection referred to here is the Whiskey Insurrection (or Whiskey Rebellion) in Western Pennsylvania. It occurred during Washington’s presidency, and was the last time he personally led troops into battle.

John McRae's engraving of Washington's "Prayer at Valley Forge" was based on an 1866 painting by Henry Brueckner.

Celebrating another birthday of our nation on July 4th should cause us to consider these things Washington urged us to continue praying for our country. The topics remain as needed perspectives and pursuits just as much today as in the early days of these United States.

One more note on President Washington…
I’ve read several articles recently attacking the validity of the prayer life of our first president. Both a major newspaper article and article in a national magazine have questioned stories regarding Washington’s most famous prayers. Admittedly, stories and legends build over time about famous people, and possibly some of the stories about Washington’s prayers have become embellished. I found it easy to pull from books on my own shelves a half dozen letters written by contemporaries of the first president who mention interrupting George Washington and finding him on his knees in prayer. The references I have are from both his military service and during his presidency. Add to those references, other historical documents, like the one quoted above, and I find it hard to believe Washington was not a man of prayer who depended upon God for direction, wisdom, and power.

So, I got to spend my 4th of July this year freely at worship on Sunday morning with my Waterbrook family (and preaching on how allegiance to God and to my country do not have to be contradictory). I got to have a wonderful steak for lunch. (I know that’s not necessarily patriotic, but it does seem appropriate as a Texan.) I took a nap in the afternoon without fear of my home being invaded by foreign forces or even a local dictator. I spent the evening with family and friends lighting large explosive devices for our entertainment. All possible because I live in a wonderful country where men and women have fought and died for our freedom. I’m grateful to all who have sacrificed much so that I could enjoy much. I thank God for the United States of America.

“There ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.”

**Washington quote excerpted from Great American Statesmen and Heroes by Catherine Millard. (Horizon Books, 1995, p.83)

Posted: July 5, 2010 
Filed under: Jeff, Leadership, Patriotic, Spiritual, Texas
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