May 2nd, was our country’s National Day of Prayer, where we as Christians paused and prayed for this great nation of ours.
Praying for our country affords us an opportunity to pray for America’s return to a righteous path to God and for our leaders in government to lead with virtue.
It was President Andrew Jackson who said, “(The Bible) is the rock on which our Republic rests.”
Who would know the binding ties between Christianity and American government better than David Barton of Wallbuilders, an organization described on its website as “Dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built – a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined.”
Mr. Barton, who travels the country regularly on speaking engagements, took time out of his schedule to do a Question and Answer session on the importance of prayer in America. As you will read later on, Mr. Barton’s prayer concerns are not only for our leaders, but for American Christians as well.
Question: Why is it important that we pray for our country and its peoples?
David Barton: First, because God tells us to (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and it is important that we obey Him (John 14:15, Acts 5:32).
Second, because God answers prayer (Matthew 21:22, John 14:13-14).
Third, God honors prayer and turns His attention to those who pray. He takes note of people who pray and His ear remains open to them (such as in 2 Chronicles 7:14).
Fourth, prayer not only gives God a vehicle by which He can respond and answer prayers, but prayer also changes those who pray, for praying helps us to be God-conscious, and when we are God-conscious as individuals, our behavior is different than if we rarely think about God (Romans 1:28).
I think that George Washington incorporated many of these elements when he explained why he called the nation’s first federal day of prayer. According to President Washington:
“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.”
David Barton: There are numerous moments, but I’ll choose the answered prayers attested to by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
About five weeks into the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when they were attempting to draft the U.S. Constitution, their efforts were a striking failure. As things were beginning to break up and delegates (were to) return home to their states, Franklin challenged them and called them to prayer.
He told them: “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the 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 that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? . . . I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
Notice that Franklin openly acknowledged that their frequent prayers throughout the Revolution had been answered.
After five weeks of failure, following a recess and time of prayer, they reconvened and in only ten weeks produced the document that has become the longest on-going constitution in the history of the world.
Franklin definitely saw a difference after the recess and prayer … and believed it was the product of God’s direct intervention.
James Madison agreed, and reported:
“It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.”
Question: In your estimation, what happens to a country when it drifts away from God?
When God drifts away from the country, His blessings also leave.
Founding Father Samuel Adams (“The Father of the American Revolution”) fully understood this and reminded citizens:
“May every citizen in the army and in the country have a proper sense of the Deity upon his mind and an impression of that declaration recorded in the Bible: ‘Him that honoreth Me I will honor, but he that despiseth Me shall be lightly esteemed’ “ (1 Samuel 2:30).
Numerous other Founding Fathers understood this truth and clearly expressed it. In fact, political leaders for generations embraced this belief. For this reason, President Abraham Lincoln reminded the nation in the midst of the Civil War:
“It is the duty of nations as well . . . and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12)
“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.”
So, there is much consequence when a nation turns from God. After all, Psalm 9:17 warns, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
Question: If you could lead the country in prayer this National Day of Prayer, what would you pray for? What should our collective prayer be for this country?
David Barton: I would definitely pray for our leaders and those in authority, as we are commanded to do (1 Timothy 2:1-4). However, I would probably pray even more for America’s Christians.
Most Christians today no longer know, recognize, or even agree with what our political leaders (much less our ministers) used to openly declare about the Bible and its influence.
So, while I would pray for our leaders, I would especially pray for Christian citizens — that they would again begin to read, study, know, and understand the Bible.
America can be no stronger than its citizens, and whether the citizens will be strong (and virtuous) depends on whether they know the Bible (see Matthew 22:29).
“(The Bible) is the best gift God has given to men. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong.” — President Abraham Lincoln
God expects individuals to remember and acknowledge Him, but He also expects nations to do the same. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us that in all our ways (public as well as private) we are to acknowledge Him.