Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, led our nation through the War Between the States. He was one of few Presidents to resist church membership and yet he was profoundly a man of faith, perhaps the most deeply Christian President in all our history. He had planned to join the church he regularly attended in Washington on Easter Sunday, 1865, having worked through a sense of unworthiness and a feeling that he did not have to subscribe wholeheartedly to Presbyterian dogma – but two days before that planned event, he was assassinated.
He was regular in church attendance and his pastor was often summoned to the White House in the middle of the night to join the President in prayer over some news about the twists and turns of the war effort. On Wednesday evenings, he often slipped unnoticed into the pastor’s dark office and opened, but only slightly the door to the sanctuary to listen in on the mid-week prayer service. He felt his open attendance might be too intrusive, so his attendance was stealth, unnoticed, unrecorded. In the dark and the quiet of the adjoining office he prayed for himself and the nation.
On March 30, 1863, he issued a Proclamation for a Day of Prayer and Fasting, the last call for a Solemn Assembly sounded by a President. He called the nation to find spiritual strength through prayer:
Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history; that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
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!
It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
This teaching will be included in the upcoming The Praying Church Handbook – Volume IV – Intercessory Prayer and Missions. Purchase the 4 volume set at: www.alivepublications.org.
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 Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address – http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/fast.htm