The prayers of faithful men made perfect: A history of prayer of our Nation
Friday, April 27, 2012 10:29:01 PM
"Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep these United States in Thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens and the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilst most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion and without an humble imitation of Whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." ~ Gen. George Washington addressing the governors of the thirteen states upon his disbanding the army, June 8, 1783
"Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." ~ Thomas Jefferson, Washington D.C., March 4, 1801
"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. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has grown, but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand that preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. We have vainly imagined that all these blessings were produced by some superior virtue and wisdom of our own. It behooves us then to humble ourselves, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." ~ Abraham Lincoln, April 30, 1863
"Discrimination against the holder of one faith means retaliatory discrimination against men of other faiths. The inevitable result of entering upon such a practise would be an abandonment of our real freedom of conscience and a reversion to the dreadful conditions of religious dissensions which in so many lands have proved fatal to true liberty, to true religion, and to all advance in civilization. To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience, which is one of the foundations of American life." ~ Theodore Roosevelt, November 6, 1908
"No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the Spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man; these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause." ~ Calvin Coolidge, July 5, 1926
"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home, fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them, help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. Give us strength, too, strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt, D-Day, June 6, 1944
"Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth and the Universe: Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen; help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings, even as Thou understandest mine! Amen, Amen, Amen." ~ Harry S. Truman, daily prayer from his presidential papers, August 15, 1950
"Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere. Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race, or calling. May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower during his Inaugural Address, Washington D.C., January 21, 1953
In God We Trust
"No man who enters upon the office to which I have succeeded can fail to recognize how every president of the United States has placed special reliance upon his faith in God. While they came from a variety of religious backgrounds and held a wide variety of religious beliefs, each of our presidents in his own way has placed a special trust in God. Those who were the strongest intellectually were also the strongest spiritually. Today our nation is passing through another time of trial. In many ways, our dangers and our problems are far greater and certainly infinitely more complex. It is an ironic fact that in this nuclear age, when the horizon of human knowledge and human experience has passed far beyond any that any age has ever known, that we turn back at this time to the oldest source of wisdom and strength, to the words of the prophets and the saints, who tell us that faith is more powerful than doubt, that hope is more potent than despair, and that only through the love that is sometimes called charity can we conquer those forces within ourselves and throughout all the world that threaten the very existence of mankind. Keeping in mind that 'when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,' let us go forth to lead this land that we love, joining in the prayer of General George Washington in 1783, 'that God would have you in the His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to entertain a brotherly love and affection one for another and finally that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, without an humble invitation of whose example we can never hope to be a happy nation.' The guiding principle and prayer of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be 'In God We Trust.'" ~ Remarks given by John F. Kennedy at the 9th annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C., February 9, 1961
"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, 'My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.' And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' ~ Excerpts from a speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963
"To preserve our blessed land we must look to God. It is time to realize that we need God more than He needs us. We also have His promise that we could take to heart with regard to our country, that "If my people, which are called by my name shall 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 will heal their land.' Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step, in humble heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always. The time has come to turn to God and reassert our trust in Him for the healing of America. Our country is in need of and ready for a spiritual renewal. Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. If I had a prayer for you today, among those that have all been uttered, it is that one we're so familiar with: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace'.' And God bless you all." ~ Remarks given by Ronald W. Reagan at the 33rd annual National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C., February 6, 1986
Prayer for Presidential Leadership
"We pray, Lord Jesus, for our President. We are deeply concerned that he may know the will of God, and that he may have the spiritual courage and grace to follow it. Deliver him, we pray, from all selfish considerations. Lift him above the claims of politics. Fill him with the Spirit of God that shall make him fearless to seek, to know, to do the right. Save him from the friends who, in the name of politics or even friendship, would persuade him from that holy path. Strengthen and empower his advisers. Bring them, too, to their knees in prayer. May their example and their influence spread, that we, in these United States, may yet have a government of people who know Thee, the Almighty God, as their Friend, and who place Thy will first in their lives as well as in their prayers. Hear and answer, we pray Thee, forgiving us all our unworthiness; cleansing us from every ignoble thought and unworthy ambition that we may be renewed in spirit and mind and heart, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." ~ Rev. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate (1946-1948)
"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury let me sow pardon, where there is doubt let me sow faith, where there is despair let me give hope, where there is darkness let me give light, Where there is sadness let me give joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort, not try to be understood but to understand, not try to be loved but to love. Because it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." ~ Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi prayed by Mother Teresa of Calcutta at the 42nd annual National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., February 3, 1994
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:14-21 [NASB]
Prayer for Civic Leadership
"Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen." ~ Excerpt from the first prayer of the Continental Congress by Rev. Jacob Duch, September 7, 1774
"O Thou Eternal God, may our minds and hearts be stirred with a deepening sense of patriotism and gratitude as we continue to think of that day of high and holy memory in our national history when a company of God-fearing men were guided by Thy divine wisdom to sign the Declaration of Independence. Grant that the blessings of freedom, which were purchased at a tremendous cost and which we prize so highly and are privileged to enjoy in such an abundant measure, may always be coordinated with the spirit of self-discipline. Help us to cling with increasing tenacity of faith and fortitude to the great truth proclaimed by George Washington in his Farewell Address that religion and morality are indispensable and our national greatness if we allow them to be subverted and obliterated by secularism. Hear us in the name of our blessed Lord. Amen." ~ Rev. Bernard Braskamp, Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, July 5, 1962
"Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; They are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever." - Psalm 111:1-10 [NASB]
One Nation, under God
All Presidents of the United States of America, invoked prayer at pivotal moments during their administrations whether doing so during their inaugural addresses or when the nation was facing a particular crisis. By tradition Congress convenes its sessions with opening prayers, one each for the House and Senate. Most prayers are spiritual, reflective, and tend to focus on the need for guidance for the work Congress is about to tackle. This formal prayer before each legislative session (National & State), casts a light on the day that awakens faith and calls forth a nation to stand with its leaders and affirm: "In God We Trust.' In 1954, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," to The Pledge of Allegiance. Every major patriotic anthem, including the 'Star Spangled Banner,' invokes God in prayer in some way. ''Lest we forget.''
Dr. Richard Halverson, a former U.S. Senate chaplain wrote: "By prayer man consents to the rule of God in his life. By prayer man seeks God's will and yields to it. By prayer man asks God for that which he knows he needs and can receive only from God. Prayer is that contact man has with the Heavenly Father to satisfy the deepest needs of his life." Rev. Dr. William F. (Billy) Graham, who has been a friend and counselor to the last ten presidents, prayed this prayer for the nation: "Our Father and Our God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know that all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace. We pray for our nation's leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it. You have said, 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.' May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord. Amen."
"I am proud and I am grateful to have been a part of the campaign which proved forever that in America no man shall be denied the opportunity to serve his countrymen because of the region in which he lives or the religion which he has. When William Penn founded this city almost 300 years ago, he wrote out a prayer for Philadelphia. And in that prayer, as most of you, I know, remember, there are these words: 'What love, what care, what service, what travail has there been to bring thee forth and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee. My soul prays to God for thee that thou may stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blessed of the Lord, and thy people may be saved by His power.' Those words express the prayer in my heart tonight for the people of Philadelphia and for the people of America. So many have given so much to win for us what we have tonight together. We must not and we shall not lose all of this in one moment of passion or frustration or recklessness with the peace, or a moment of irresponsibility with our unity. Thirty-five men before me have held the office that is entrusted to me tonight. All of those men, from George Washington to John Kennedy, have worked and prayed and hoped for peace, for unity, for progress and prosperity for their people. And so long as the trust of this office is mine to uphold that will be my work, that will be my prayer, that will be my hope for all Americans." ~ Lyndon B. Johnson, Convention Hall, Philadelphia, October 29, 1964
Prayer for Our Country & States
"Almighty God, you have given us this great land as our heritage. We humbly pray that we may always remember your generoisty and faithfully do your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education and an honorable way of life. Defend our liberties and strengthen the resolve of the people who have come from throughout the world to make America their home. Lend us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. Help us to appreciate the opportunities that are ours as we struggle to bring harmony to an unsettled world. May we balance our concern for justice with a willingness to display mercy, and may our concern for security be tempered with a willingness to take risks which will produce worthwhile change for the good of all people. O Lord, we pray for your guidance as we work togehter for the best interest of our communities, our nation, our world, and the ultimate goal of peace. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful and in troubled times may our deepest trust be in you. Amen." ~ A Prayer from the Chaplins' Service Book of Prayers
"We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service." ~ Benjamin Franklin addressing the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787
"No person can work against the immutable laws of God. Sooner or later every lawbreaker finds he cannot successfully oppose God. And yet we have many who are still attempting to get away with it, and they can't do it. In the shadow of World War II that as the servicemen return home they will need more than just a theoretical religion. They have already experienced faith on the fighting front and what they will be looking for is a dynamic daily demonstration of religion in action." ~ Governor Arthur B. Langlie, August 1946
"A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority will always cast their ballots for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public purse with the result that a democracy always collapses from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship. [Gov. Ray then quotes Thomas B. Macaulay, May 23, 1857] 'The average age of the world's greatest Democratic Nations has been 200 years. Each has been through the following sequence: From Bondage to Spiritual Faith, From Faith to Great Courage, From Courage to Liberty, From Liberty to Abundance, From Abundance To Complacency, From Complacency To Selfishness, From Selfishness To Apathy, From Apathy To Dependency, And From Dependency, Back Again Into Bondage.' Can We Escape This Fate?" ~ Dr. Dixie Lee Ray, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission and Governor of the State of Washington, in her speech at the 29th Annual NMMO Meeting, June 27, 1988
"Let us pray. Lord, eternal God, we give you thanks for the bounty of this great state, for its beauty, and for its people. You have called us to be servants of your servants. We pray that you continue to help us to faithfully represent them. May the vital and true needs of our state and the common good of all, always, be our direction and our common purpose. The problems we face are many and the solutions seldom easy. We seek your divine assistance in representing the many and diverse needs of this state. Grace us with your wisdom and your vision; always keeping us mindful of the wise use of our abundant though limited resources. And today we ask your special blessings upon the grieving families and friends of our citizens lost this week in the crash of Alaska Flight No. 261. Give them comfort and guidance during their time of need. And Lord, guide us and keep us as we continue doing and bringing to closure the important work of this session; the work of representing the people of this great state who sent us. Amen." ~ Leland F. Edtl, Deacon at St. Rose Church, Longview, WA in his Invocation at the opening Session of the Washington State House of Representatives in Olympia, February 3, 2000
Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of freedom of religion to a stable and lasting Union. The First Amendment to the American Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for each of its citizen. To find out more on these freedoms under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, please click here. To research the history of faith & prayer in the life of our country we encourage you to visit the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Millions of items and digital files relating to faith & prayer can be found in presidential and congressional recordings from 1789 to today. To learn more, please click here. The State of Washington has also had a long history of faith & prayer. In 1854 prayer opened the Washington Territory's first legislative session. And all of the State Constitutions, including Washington's, specifically reference God. The Washington State Constitution, Preamble, November 11, 1889 begins with, "We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution." To study the Washington State Constitution, or to research faith & prayer in our state history we encourage you to visit the Washington State Archives in Olympia. To learn more, please click here.
At the 49th Annual National Prayer Breakfast held on February 1, 2001, the Honorable Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, calling for unity delivered the following remarks and this passage from the Old Testament: "I am honored to be able to read from the Scriptures this morning. I read from Micah 4. There is a plaque in front of the United Nations in my home city of New York City with part of this, Micah 4. 'In the days to come, the mount of the Lord's house shall stand firm above the mountains, and it shall tower above the hills. The people shall gaze on it with joy, and the many nations shall go and shall say, come, let us go up to the mount of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For instructions shall come forth from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Thus he will judge among the many peoples and arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not take up sword against nation. They shall never again know war. But every man shall sit under his grape vine or fig tree with no one to disturb him, for it was the Lord of Hosts who spoke. Though all the peoples walk each in the names of its gods, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.' Seven months later the United States, like many nations of the world, was attacked. An act meant to destroy became a symbol for a time when our country, faced with the unthinkable, gathered together in prayer.
The Jewish scriptures tell us that, "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Jesus of Nazareth once said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Through our country's history we have sent leaders to seats of power in national, state and local service to govern fairly. Often they are confronted with overwhelming challenges. During those times they have sought a higher power in great times of troubles. None was so clearly described then in the below official record from a commemorative joint meeting of the Congress of the United States on September 6, 2002. This document provides insight into the faith and prayers of our leaders, regardless of race, creed or party. Their private determination on behalf of our nation warrants our courage and support. This support and prayer for the leadership of the country in Washington has become a support and a unifying movement for the peoples of the whole world. God has bound us together with that cord of three strands; and nothing, not politics or ideology, nor cultural or religious practice, can pull us apart. "Lest We Forget.''