"If my people, who are called by my name, will 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."
The above sentence is not my work. I copied it from Second Chronicles. I've stolen material from worse sources.
It's really a pretty good passage and contains a promise from God Almighty, who is known for being good about keeping promises. The first word of the passage is pretty key. "If."
The rest of the passage is pretty pertinent, too, because our land is, indeed, becoming more and more wicked. We do, indeed, need to be forgiven our sins and our land certainly does need to be healed. These are just my opinions, of course, but as I have said on multiple occasions, mine is the only opinion I have.
If my people will pray ... That's the gist of the message, the way I read it. What a novel idea. We used to be a praying nation, you know.
No, really. We were. Read your history.
When the first English colony in America was established in Jamestown, Va., the first official act of the newly arriving colonists was a corporate prayer. The settlers were led in prayer by their chaplain twice a day for years to come, according to the official records of the colony.
It was the same with the pilgrims who immigrated to Plymouth Plantation aboard the Mayflower and the first New England colony, Massachusetts, was actually a theocracy -- which didn't really work out so well -- but the point is the same. The people who carved a home out of the American frontier were God-fearing people who devoted a good portion of their time to praising God and asking that their ventures be blessed.
Once our forefathers determined that the time had come to sever ties with Great Britain, our mother country, they acknowledged that their endeavors could not succeed without the blessings of the Most High God.
I know what you've heard. You have heard that many of the founding fathers -- like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, in particular, were products of the Enlightenment and as such did not believe in God. On the contrary.
Take a look at our nation's birth certificate sometime -- the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote most of it himself. In the spectacular first sentence Jefferson speaks of "the laws of nature and of Nature's God ... " God was capitalized. I looked closely at the document the last time I was at the National Archive in Washington, D.C., just to make sure. Jefferson went on to write that our inalienable rights were bestowed upon us by our "Creator." That would be with a capital C. He also asked for the protection of Divine Providence.
The father of our country, George Washington, kept a detailed prayer journal. From those pages:
"Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit." Doesn't sound like the words of a religiously ambiguous person to me.
At the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin addressed his fellow statesmen thusly: "I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
"I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business."
The Congress of the United States has opened each day of each session with prayer ever since.
We could go on and on and on with examples of Godly leaders asking for God's intervention in the affairs of our nation. That's good and it is important, but it is more important, I believe, for the people of our nation to honor God through prayer on a regular basis. Something tells me that common prayers sent up by common citizens are not nearly as common as they once were -- or ought to be.
In 1952 -- which happens to be the year I was born -- Congress proclaimed that the first Thursday in May would be set aside as a National Day of Prayer and citizens are asked to "turn to God in prayer and meditation."
I don't think we've ever needed a day of prayer more. I hope everyone will participate. A fellow can pray wherever he finds himself, of course, but there will be a lot of formal sessions around, too. One such service will be held at the Conyers First United Methodist Church Thursday from 11:30 to 12:15. The speaker will be yours truly and I would love to see you there. Lunch will follow.
I know I can use a few extra prayers this year and so can our nation.
We really can be one nation under God.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.