President Trump, who is doing everything he can to fight the coronavirus, called for a Day of Prayer recently. He proclaimed, “We are a country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these.”
But David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor, tweeted: “Don’t let this administration address COVID-19 like our national gun violence. [Expletive] a National day of prayer, we need immediate comprehensive action.”
U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, famous for her declaration to “impeach the [expletive]” even retweeted Hogg’s message. Dr. William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, notes: Tlaib, as a U.S. Representative, should be censured for her “obscene assault on people of faith.”
Meanwhile, an honest survey of American history shows that Trump is much closer to America’s true history by calling for days of prayer than are Hogg and Tlaib.
David Barton, a walking encyclopedia on the spiritual heritage of America, once told me, “Between 1633 and 1812, there were over 1700 prayer proclamations issued in the colonies, where the governor would call the state to an annual day of prayer and fasting, annual day of prayer of and thanksgiving.”
Bill Federer’s book America’s God and Country documents such historic practices.
For example, on May 31, 1775, one American colonist, Samuel Langdon, spoke before the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, calling on them to pray because of the ongoing crisis with Great Britain.
He lamented, “We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected…the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy commands and institutions.”
Who was this Langdon? Some backwoods rube? No. This was the president of Harvard, where Hogg attends school now.
During the American War for Independence, on at least fifteen separate occasions, Congress called for national days of prayer, humiliation, and fasting. These were not namby-pamby “To Whom It May Concern”-type prayers.
Here are two examples of Days of Prayer called by the Continental Congress – which, by the way, opened in prayer on its first day ever (in 1774), and Congress has opened in prayer ever since.
Example One: On June 12, 1775, the Continental Congress called for “a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins; and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbly beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments, with which we are threatened…. And it is recommended to Christians, of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and to abstain from servile labour and recreations on said day.”
At the end of the day, God answered the spirit of the prayer – that the crisis would be resolved. They could assemble physically in those days. With the coronavirus, at best we can “assemble” “virtually” for the moment. Yet thank God for these modern tools in our internet age.
Example Two: On March 16, 1776, the Continental Congress proclaimed another day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer:” “that that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the further effusion of kindred blood.”
They continued to pray, recognizing that more suffering may yet come, as they worked toward their noble goal: “But if, continuing deaf to the voice of reason and humanity, and inflexibly bent, on desolation and war, they constrain us to repel their hostile invasions by open resistance, that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and success.”
This is quite an astounding prayer for an upstart, fledgling new “nation,” which for all practical purposes lacked a national army and navy.
But ultimately God answered their prayers – so much so that George Washington said that one would be “worse than an infidel” to not recognize the Lord’s help in our becoming an independent nation.
Earlier I quoted Harvard President Samuel Langdon in his 1775 speech, asking for God’s help. In that same speech, he made this petition – one that seems appropriate in our day, in our fight against the coronavirus: “May the Lord hear us in this day of trouble…. We will rejoice in His salvation.” Well, maybe not all of us.
© Jerry Newcombe