Category Archives: Lost Episodes
After the defeat of the Union Army at the Battle of Bull Run, Congress asked for and President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation on Monday, August 12, 1861, calling for a National Day of Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting, which states in part:
“Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission to His chastisement; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action; and
“Whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessings of God, united, prosperous and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy – to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved; that our arms may be blessed and made effectual for the reestablishment of law, order, and peace throughout the wide extent of our country; and that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored in its original excellence:
“Therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday in September next as a day of humiliation, prayer, and fasting for all the people of the nation. And I do earnestly recommend to all the people, and especially to all ministers and teachers of religion of all denominations and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day according to their several creeds and modes of worship in all humility and with all religious solemnity, to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace and bring down plentiful blessings upon our country.”*
Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation and his special call for the assistance of the pastors to call the people to united prayer for the nation is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 111:10 and reflect on Lincoln’s conviction that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” especially in a time of national crisis.
Prayer: All wise God, we are awed at your might and power. May we fear you, humble ourselves before you, and pray for your mercy, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Abraham Lincoln in an August 12, 1861 Proclamation as found in James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1897, 1899), 6:36-37.
“It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum, to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meeting.”
The vote was overwhelmingly in the affirmative. It passed by 88-11 in the Senate and 337-77 in the House and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. At Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas on August 23, 1984, Reagan remarked: “We even had to pass a special law in the Congress just a few weeks ago to allow student prayer groups the same access to school rooms after classes that a Young Marxist Society…would already enjoy.”*
The new law was challenged, but The Supreme Court upheld the Equal Access Act by a vote of 8-1 in Westside Community Schools v. Mergens on June 4, 1990:
“If a State refused to let religious groups use facilities open to others, then it would demonstrate not neutrality but hostility toward religion. The Establishment Clause does not license government to treat religion and those who teach or practice it…as subversive of American ideals.”
The fact that all three branches of government concurred that religious groups ought to have equal access to public facilities is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Acts 19:8-10 about how Paul preached the Gospel in the “school of Tyrannus” and compare that with the intent of the law in opening schools for use by religious groups.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, though our faith is increasingly under fire, we thank you for the freedoms we have in America that many other nations do not enjoy, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: “Remarks by President at Prayer Breakfast,” New York Times, August 24, 1984, A11.
Born on August 10, 1753, Edmund Jennings Randolph was born on August 10, 1753. He was a member of the Continental Congress and delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Virginia. On June 28, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, following the historic appeal for prayer by the venerable Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Randolph proposed:
“[T]that a sermon be preached at the request of the Convention on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of Independence; and thenceforward prayers, &c., to be read in the Convention every morning.”*
According to the Journal kept by James Madison on the proceedings: “Doctor FRANKLIN seconded this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing this matter by adjourning, the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.”*
However, both propositions became a reality. The first Federal Congress voted in 1789 to have paid Chaplains to pray for their proceedings and do so to this day. More immediately, the entire Constitutional Convention assembled on July 4th in the Reformed Calvinistic Church to hear a sermon and be led in prayer by Rev. William Rogers.
Rev. Rogers prayer, printed in a Philadelphia newspaper, was a reflection of the hearts of all the delegates:
“We fervently recommend…our federal convention….Favor them, from day to day, with thy inspiring presence; be their wisdom and strength; enable them to devise such measures as may prove happy instruments in healing all divisions and prove the good of the great whole…that the United States of America may form one example of a free and virtuous government…. May we…continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and Christian society…”*
Edmund Randoph’s motion to convene the Constitutional Convention in church for an anniversary sermon on July 4th and daily prayer in Congress is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Job 12:13 and reflect on God’s qualities and compare them with the Pastor’s prayer.
Prayer: Father, we join our voices with Job: With You are wisdom and strength, You have counsel and understanding. Impress on our elected officials their need, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1966, 1985), 209-10. Also for the prayer of Rev. William Rogers, see, Benjamin Franklin Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), 253-254.
Once bitter political rivals, but now reconciled as friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were prolific in their correspondence later in life. Not surprisingly, the subject turned to matters of faith. On August 9, 1816, John Adams wrote his former sparring partner about a renowned Dutch pastor, and then turned to the sufferings of this life and the hope of eternity:
“Promise me eternal life free from pain… [W]ithout the supposition of a future state, mankind and this globe appear to me the most sublime and beautiful bubble and bauble that imagination can conceive.
“Let us then wish for immortality at all hazards, and trust the Ruler with His skies. I do; and earnestly wish for His commands, which to the utmost of my power shall be implicitly and piously obeyed.”*
John Adams testified that there was more than suffering and superficiality of this life, that there is a God who reigns, that He is our hope of eternal life free of pain, and that we are accountable to obey His commands. That is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Rev. 21:1-4 and reflect on the promise of an eternal state where there will be no more pain and compare that with Adams’ letter to Jefferson.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the promise of life forever with you, life in your presence and in your blessing. May we be found faithful in this life so that we enjoy your affirmation and reward in the next, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on August 9, 1816 as found in Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 vols., (Wash¬ington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1907), 15:64.
With the British continuing their build-up for a massive campaign in New York, General George Washington had to bow out of a speaking engagement before Officers and Soldiers of the Pennsylvania Associators [militia]. On August 8, 1776, General Washington communicated his regrets and a word of encouragement:
“[T]there can be no doubt that success will Crown our Efforts, if we firmly and resolutely determine, to conquer or die…to be enslaved or free…
If we make Freedom our choice, we must obtain it, by the Blessing of Heaven on our united and vigorous efforts….
I trust that Providence will smile upon our Efforts, and establish us once more, the Inhabitants of a free and happy Country.”*
George Washington’s encouragement to the Pennsylvania militia to trust God’s Providence at this critical moment is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 1 Chronicles 19:1-14 and reflect on the speech made by Joab and compare it with what Washington wrote.
Prayer: Father, like Washington of old, we realize that freedom is a blessing from you but that it also demands “our united and vigorous efforts.” Help us to live such lives individually and collectively that we receive the smiles of your approval and the blessing of your hand, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, 39 vols., (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-44), 5:397-98.