Prayer Proclamation of President George Washington

washington_prayer_procToday is the National Day of Prayer. In honor of this day set aside to pray for our nation, we want to share a call to prayer issued by President George Washington more than two centuries ago on October 3, 1789.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Congressional Prayer Resolution from 1856

The_U.S._Capitol_under_construction,_1860_-_NARA_-_530494It’s hard to imagine Congress these days voting to recognize the significant role “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” has played in American society, but in 1856 and 1857 that’s just what Congress did.

On January 23, 1856, Rep. James Dowdell (D-Alabama) successfully sponsored a Congressional resolution that read,

Whereas the people of these United States, from their earliest history to the present time, have been led by the hand of a kind Providence, and are indebted for the countless blessings of the past and present, and dependent for continued prosperity in the future upon Almighty God; and whereas the great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it eminently becomes the representatives of a people so highly favored, to acknowledge, in the most public manner, their reverence for God: Therefore,

Resolved, first, That the daily sessions of this body be opened with prayer.

Resolved, second, That the ministers of the gospel in this city are hereby requested to attend and alternately perform this solemn duty.

Nearly two years later on December 10, 1857, Congress approved a virtually identical resolution.

In browsing the journals of the Congress from 1857, it appears much of the debate and controversy over these resolutions did not surround their strong, religious language, but whether or not the ministers who opened the Congressional meetings with prayer would receive any compensation for their services.

We have written many times about Congressional and Presidential resolutions recognizing the providence of God and calling for prayer. They were a staple of American government from the days before the American Revolution to the first half of the Twentieth Century. While Congress still opens its meetings with prayer, pausing to recognize prayer’s power and importance the way past lawmakers did might be a good idea–especially given the troubles our nation is facing these days.

Never-Before-Seen Pro-Life Letter from Ronald Reagan

reaganletterOne of the items prominently displayed on the wall of my office is a letter I received in 1985 from President Ronald Reagan.

The letter was written regarding an effort at the time to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the public funding of abortion. It reads,

I was glad to learn of your dedication to the right to life of all Americans, born and unborn.

The tragic taking of human life by abortion is a matter close to my heart. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 15 million of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters–Americans all–have been killed by this practice.

What is at stake in the debate over abortion is dramatically evident with the release this year of a videotape which, using the technique of real-time ultrasound, shows the brutality of this violent act. No longer can advocates of abortion deny reality: Abortion is not merely a matter between a woman and her doctor. For when they say that, surely they are forgetting the unborn child whose very life hangs in the balance.

I have often said that this issue will not be finally resolved until the facts and arguments are clearly framed and presented. Today, this is coming to pass. As more and more Americans become aware of the true nature of abortion, I am convinced that the policy of abortion on demand will be reversed and that everyone’s right to life will once again be fully protected.

You have my best wishes. God bless you.

Ronald Reagan

Nearly thirty years have passed since President Reagan wrote that letter. In that time, the Arkansas Constitution has been amended to prevent public funding of abortion. We have seen abortion in Arkansas decline to some of the lowest levels since the 1970s. We have seen record numbers of Americans self-identify as “pro-life.” We have seen waves of new legislation written on the basis that human life has inherent value and dignity.

If the past three decades are any indicator, I believe Ronald Reagan was right: Americans have become more aware of the true nature of abortion, the policy of abortion on demand is being reversed, and everyone’s right to life will once again be fully protected.