Does America Have a Prayer?
As we survey the headlines, it seems like the bad news goes from bad to worse. Not to make light of the matter, but it’s like the story where the doctor tells his patience, “I’ve got bad news for you and really bad news.” The patient says, “Well, what’s the bad news?” “You only have 24 hours to live.” “Well, what’s the really bad news?” “I should have told you this yesterday.”
But all levity aside, the country seems to be falling apart by virtually every measure. Well did Isaiah say, “Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.” And surely we are seeing that today.
The shock troops of tolerance call for tolerating everybody but traditional believers. The economy is barely limping along. We have energy woes brought on by pursuing the chimerical concept that humanity can control the climate. Crime is skyrocketing. We hear reports of the church allegedly dying in the land.
If committed Christians were to get involved in all facets of society, we could make tremendous changes for good. For example, Christians should learn about the candidates and where they stand on the issues. And we should vote our biblical values. We could positively impact the nation, if we did that.
Meanwhile, when we consider the bad news, we wonder if there is any hope? Does America have a prayer?
Yes, amidst all the bad news, we are a nation that still has a remnant believes in prayer. We even a National Day of Prayer (the first Thursday of May each year). And, boy, do we need it.
America, it could be said, was born in prayer. We can even see an example in the rotunda of the
U.S. Capitol, where there are eight large paintings dedicated to aspects of our history.
One of them shows the Pilgrims having a prayer meeting with a large open Bible (a Geneva Bible). The Pilgrims experienced one setback after another. But they also experienced answers to prayer.
For example, when they were finally settled in the New World in 1621, after a disastrous winter where half their number died, they planted their crops. But then they experienced a great drought.
The parch conditions threatened their first crop of corn. Already, it looked like the year’s harvest of corn was all but dead. But the Pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer. By the end of the day, it was raining.
The rain saved the corn, which miraculously sprang to life. It was the harvesting of that corn that was part of what they celebrated in the first Thanksgiving.
A couple of paintings in the rotunda of the Capitol have George Washington as the central character. Although modern scholars like to discount the notion of Washington as a man of prayer, there were many contemporary witnesses who said otherwise. In a national bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, Dr. Peter Lillback and I document that Washington was a dedicated Christian, who read the Bible regularly and spent much time in prayer.
And Washington repeatedly said that as a nation we should be grateful for God’s repeated help. He said one time, in reference to God’s help during the War for Independence, “The hand of Providence has been conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” (Letter to Thomas Nelson, 8/20/1778).
Best-selling author and speaker Bill Federer have written (along with his wife, Susan) two books on miracles in American history, Miracles and Miracles II.
Federer describes a time—not unlike today as the coronavirus has caused so much havoc in the last several months. There was a plague of sorts ravishing the land in the mid-19th century. On July 3, 1849, President Zachary Taylor declared a National Day of Fasting and Prayer, July 3, 1849, during a cholera epidemic: “A fearful pestilence which is spreading itself throughout the land … it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been in His protection should humble themselves before His throne … acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy. It is earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.”
Bill Federer told me that soon after that day of prayer, the cholera epidemic in America tapered off.
Many of our presidents throughout our history have called on God and have called on Americans to set aside a time (usually a day) of prayer. For example, FDR called for 1/2/1942 to be, “a Day of Prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.”
President Truman even systematized the day of prayer as an annual event. Thus, the first Thursday of each May is the National Day of Prayer. Truman declared in his proclamation (6/17/1952): “from the earliest days of our history our people have been accustomed to turn to Almighty God for help and guidance.”
If ever America needed God’s help and guidance, this would be that time—as the nation seems to be falling apart. We need to pray and act for righteousness (including voting our biblical values). We also need to repent and seek His face. May He heal our land.
As the well-known passage of 2 Chronicles 7:14 says: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”