“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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” –2 Chronicles, 7:14 (Holy Bible, KJV) At times, it seems hard to fathom that the nation that we live in today is the same nation established by the Founding Fathers, perhaps the greatest group of political minds ever assembled. These were men who changed the course of history by acknowledging, for the first time, the truth that man’s rights come not from government, but from God, unalienable by virtue of their birth. They founded this nation on Judeo-Christian principles, proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution and, though they did not all share the same religion, they all revered the teachings of Jesus Christ, and almost all accepted his divinity.
It was George Washington who taught us that religion and morality are the “indispensable supports” of our republic, without which our Constitution, said John Adams, was “wholly inadequate” to govern the people. Some have claimed our Founders were not religious men, and some even claim they rejected religion, and religious influence on government, altogether. This is absolutely false. Even those famous founders that we can point to as being arguably non-religious, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, understood the dire need for the power of religious influence in perpetuating liberty and governing a free people.
Franklin, in a letter to the French ministry, attested that “Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principals of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.” And Jefferson, whom atheists love to claim as their own, once wrote, in a letter to Benjamin Rush, that “To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others.”
Indeed, until recent decades, most Americans acknowledged, whether religious or not, that we are a Christian nation, founded upon those principles, with allegiance to them above all others. Though we did not establish through force of government a particular religious sect above any other, we embraced Christianity as inseparably intertwined with our national character.
For those that worship Christ as their Lord and Savior, few practices are more integral to our faith than the act of kneeling in solemn prayer before our Creator, expressing gratitude for Him from which all blessings flow, appealing to His mercy for forgiveness of our sins through the atoning blood of His son, pleading for His favor in granting us those things we have need of, and imploring His patience as we seek to become more like Him in word and deed. It is an act of humility and reverence, acknowledging the debt owed for His grace.
Prayer was once seen by our leaders as vital in both public and private worship. Washington’s writings reveal a man of immense faith and prayer, who believed the hand of God had intervened many times, as an answer to fervent prayer, in securing liberty and independence for this country against a far superior British foe. The tales of miraculous and divine intervention on behalf of American forces are abundant, and though modern history books have largely stripped God and religion from the tales of yore, no scholar of history can doubt the Founders saw the guidance of Divine Providence at work in establishing this fledgling nation.
So why do we now see such hostility towards religion in general, and Christianity in particular? Why is it that prayer, once considered essential to receiving the blessings of prosperity, now evoke lawsuits, and mockery by the media and many of a certain political ideology? What happened to this nation to get us to a point where the delegates of a major political party would actually boo God at their convention? Do we no longer believe in God, or just believe that He is no longer relevant to our lives?
Some claim that religion is by its nature oppressive and judgmental, establishing strict rules of moral conduct which, by necessity, declare certain actions and behaviors as immoral, or evil. They claim that every culture and ideology is just as worthy of approbation as every other. Yet is that true? As we’ve moved farther away from abiding by, however imperfectly, the precepts of Christianity, we have paid the price in a most painful fashion. Haven forsaken Christianity in public practice, we now put armed guards in our schools to protect our children. We now have more abortions, more unwed births, more broken homes, more suffering, and more sorrow. Is this what we want for our posterity? Are we better off abandoning the Judeo-Christian ethic and embracing a multi-culturalist worldview?
Yet why is religion, and especially Christianity, so vital to our survival as a republic, one where individual liberty is cherished? British statesman Edmund Burke summarized that reason brilliantly, explaining that “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
In other words, Christianity teaches us to be good through obedience to God’s will, not out of fear of government. And the more we control our passions, the less government needs to control us through external force, which in turn promotes freedom. And what greater force has mankind seen for the refinement of man’s character, for the dispensation of the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, than the teachings of Jesus Christ? Ezra T. Benson, a tireless defender of the Constitution, who served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower, explained the unbreakable bond between religion and liberty, saying “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
So religion and morality are indispensable to maintaining a republic, and prayer is our greatest instrument in seeking the will, the wisdom, and the mercy of the Almighty. Through prayer we can receive a change of heart, which in turn refines our character, which culminates in a nation of citizens who respect and honor God, and each other.
We were once a deeply Christian nation, a nation that called on a merciful God in humble prayer to seek His blessings for us and our posterity. As a result, a benevolent empire arose, becoming the greatest force for the spread of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known. Yet in our prosperity, we became arrogant and forgetful, believing that what we have, we achieved through our own genius and power. It is a dangerous folly, and one that if not corrected will lead to the fall of this empire, to be relegated to the list of former great empires which reveled in their decadence and pride, up until the day they fell.
On Thursday, many Americans will honor and celebrate our National Day of Prayer, honoring, as our forefathers did, the Almighty God which established this nation and preserved it for more than two centuries. It is my humble prayer that each American, living in this land of promise and bounty, will once again seek the favor of God, imploring His forgiveness for our neglect, and once again place Him at the pinnacle of our thoughts, our words, and our every deed.