As a nation, prayer has become a catchword, an easy offering to those suffering after a calamity.
We can say we’ll pray, but do we? In 1863, as our nation fiercely battled North versus South, President Abraham Lincoln issued a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.
He declared that it was our nation’s duty to pray as we recognized the “overruling power of God”. He implored the citizens, embroiled in the “awful calamity of civil war” to confess sins with the “assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy.”
Lincoln stated that as our nation had grown in “numbers, wealth and power” unlike any nation ever had, we had also forgotten God.
“We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, 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.”
Perhaps our 21st Century nation has strayed too far from God to be called back into allegiance through our nation’s leaders—or even our local pastors. Will it take a debilitating war or a calamity beyond our imagination to draw us down to our knees to recognize what Lincoln knew so well?
In Lincoln's view, the divided nation he was leading had become “intoxicated with unbroken success…too self-sufficient …too proud to pray to the God that made us!" He went on to declare, "It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins…and to pray for forgiveness.”
Over 150 years ago, God did indeed hear and answer the prayers of the repentant citizens. He healed our broken nation.
Have we once again become so intoxicated with success that we refuse to honor the One who has made it possible?
As a nation, it appears that we have.