The First Prayer of Congress: 1774
“Lord our Heavenly Father, High and Mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these our American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent on Thee, to Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle! Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst Thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. all this we ask In the Name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”
Quickly, We Lost Our Way
1787, eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, the representatives were struggling to put in writing the Constitution of the United States making little or no progress. This congress was beginning to consider that their attempt to form a lasting union had failed. Prior to adjourning one day, eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin stood up and addressed the confused, distressed and contradictory conference. He said…
“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor….And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?”
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of man.’ And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this.”
“I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial local interest; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war or conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
Benjamin Franklin then proposed that Congress suspend proceedings for two days in order to seek God’s will. When they returned two days later, they commenced in opening each congressional session with prayer. Franklin’s speech marked a turning point in the writing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the decision to put God first in all things concerning this country.
A Call to Knees
As a country we may have (once again) gone spiritually astray. Perhaps there is little we can do for those of this nation who are determined to ignore Jesus Christ, the blessings He provides and continues to provide, and the work He has finished on the cross, but as individual Christians and corporately as His church we are still called to prayer. Quite honestly, ol Ben Franklin, I believe influenced by the Holy Spirit, nailed it and we would be wise to heed his prudent counsel.