Monday, April 30, 2012

National Day of Prayer, 1775

Shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord which marked the beginning of the War for Independence, the Second Continental Congress assembled in June of 1775. Part of their deliberation included issuing a proclamation establishing July 20, 1775 as a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer. Their proclamation reads as follows:
As the great Governor of the World, by His supreme and universal Providence, not only conducts the course of nature with unerring wisdom and rectitude, but frequently influences the minds of men to serve the wise and gracious purposes of His providential government; and it being, at all times, our indispensible duty devoutly to acknowledge His superintending providence, especially in times of impending danger and public calamity, to reverence and adore His immutable justice as well as to implore His merciful interposition for our deliverance: This Congress, therefore, considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state of these colonies, do earnestly recommend that Thursday, the 20th day of July next, be observed, by the inhabitants of all the English colonies on this continent, as 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 to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third, and [to] inspire him with wisdom to discern and pursue the true interest of all his subjects, that a speedy end may be put to the civil discord between Great Britain and the American colonies, without farther effusion of blood: And that the British nation may be influenced to regard the things that belong to her peace, before they are hid from her eyes: That these colonies may be ever under the care and protection of a kind Providence, and be prospered in all their interests; That the divine blessing may descend and rest upon all our civil rulers, and upon the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions, that they may be directed to wise and effectual measures for preserving the union, and securing the just rights and privileges of the colonies; That virtue and true religion may revive and flourish throughout our land; And that all America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven, for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of her invaded rights, a reconciliation with the parent state, on terms constitutional and honorable to both; And that her civil and religious privileges may be secured to the latest posterity. 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.
This was the first call to prayer on a national level. Cities and colonies had issued such proclamations. For example, Boston issued a city wide call for fasting and prayer and September 8, 1670. Ten years later, the colony of New Hampshire was calling for a statewide “day of humiliation”. But the 1775 proclamation marks the beginning of a legacy of calling on God for His aid in national affairs. While this particular proclamation shows deference to England (unlike the harsher proclamation of the following year in 1776), it does draw the readers’ attention to its address toward “Christians”. Unlike the contemporary call to “persons of all faith”, the founders rightly understood the “Christian” heritage of this country. This Thursday, May 3, marks the 61st Annual National Day of Prayer, which, although it was practiced for hundreds of years, was enshrined into law in May, 1952. I hope you’ll plan to spend much of the day in prayer.

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