We have a fine high school football coach in North Georgia who is getting side-swiped by a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation and some others who are today in a twist because the Hamilton County Commissioners would like to have prayer for guidance before their meetings.
While it is not my intent to foist my religious beliefs on anyone involved in these arguments, I know what I believe and what the Founding Fathers of our nation believed. So let’s pretend I have called in a team of what might be called “experienced consultants” and have asked them to give a brief statement about prayer in America. You will recognize each of them and their credentials on the subject of prayer are considered to have been forged by fire in the Oval Office.
The first took office on April 30, 1789, and the last I have quoted left office in 2009. All but three are deceased but there is vast documentation that this is what each believed. We begin with the first:
GEORGE WASHINGTON: "It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes. . . " (Washington was our first president)
JOHN ADAMS: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof," (Our second president, Adams had no way of knowing that 130 years later, Franklin Roosevelt would have the words carefully carved into the mantle of the State Dining Room of the White House, where they can be seen today.)
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance and from every evil way."
Jefferson continued, “Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit wisdom those whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (Jefferson was our third president; wrote the Declaration of Independence.)
JAMES MADISON: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the commandments of God. The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded." (Madison, our fourth president is widely believed to be the author of The Constitution)
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: “The Highest glory of the American Revolution was this; that it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of self-government with the principles of Christianity." (He was our sixth president and the son of our second president.)
ANDREW JACKSON: “The Bible is the rock upon which this Republic rests!” In his second inaugural address he also said, “Finally, it is my most fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom I now stand, and who has kept us in His hands from the infancy of our Republic unto the present day, that He will so overrule all my intentions and actions and inspire the hearts of my fellow-citizens that we may be preserved from dangers of all kinds and continue forever a united and happy people." (Jackson was our seventh president)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: “I believe that the Bible is the greatest gift God ever gave to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is commuted to us through that book.” He also said, “I have been driven to my knees many times with the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go.” And, “It is the duty of nations as well as men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God 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." (Lincoln was our 16th president.)
TEDDY ROOSEVELT: "Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and intertwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally, I do not mean figuratively, but literally impossible for us to figure what the loss would be if these teachings were removed. We would lose all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards toward which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves." (Teddy was our 26th president.)
WOODROW WILSON: "America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness, which are derived from Holy Scripture. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very simple thing to ask of you. I ask of every man and woman in this audience that, from this night on, they will realize that part of the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great Book of revelations. (The Bible) That if they would see America free and pure they will make their own spirits free and pure by the baptism of Holy Scripture." (Wilson was our 28th president.)
CALVIN COOLIDGE: "No ambition, no temptations, lures her thought to foreign dominations. The legions, which she sends forth, are armed, not with sword, but with the Cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of Divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God." (Coolidge was our 30th president)
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: From a radio address on June 6, 1944 -- "My fellow Americans: Last night when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that the troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the (English) channel in another and greater operation. It (D-Day) has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join me in prayer:
"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization. . ." (FDR was our 32nd president.)
HARRY S. TRUMAN: "At this moment, I have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly pray, Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon: 'Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this thy so great people?' I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people." (Truman was our 33rd president)
DWIGHT EISENHOWER: "Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic expression of Americanism." (Ike was our 34th president.)
LYNDON JOHNSON: "We need to remember that the separation of church and state must never mean the separation of religious values from the lives of public servants. . . If we who serve free men today are to differ from the tyrants of this age, we must balance the powers in our hands with God in our hearts." Johnson was our 36th president)
JIMMY CARTER: "You can't divorce religious belief and public service. . . I've never detected any conflict between God's will and my political duty. If you violate one, you violate the other." (Carter was our 39th president.)
RONALD REAGAN: "Without God, there is no virtue, because there's no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we're mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what our senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."
Reagan also said, “Going around this country, I have found a great hunger in America for spiritual revival; for a belief that law must be based on a higher law; for a return to traditions and values that we once had. Our government, in its most sacred documents - the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and all - speak of man being created, of a Creator; that we're a nation under God."
And Reagan also said, “Our goal is to help revive America's traditional values; faith, family neighborhood, work, and freedom. Government has no business enforcing these values, but neither must it seek, as it did in the recent past, to suppress or replace them. That only robbed us of our tiller, and set us adrift. Helping to restore these values will bring new strength, direction, and dignity to our lives and to the life of our nation. It is on these values that we'll best build our future."
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: “When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed -- "We asked for God's help; and now, in this shining outcome, in this magnificent triumph of good over evil, we should thank God." (The elder Bush was our 41st president.)
GEORGE W. BUSH: “My relationship with God through Christ has given me meaning and direction. My faith has made a big difference in my personal life, and my public life as well. I make personal decisions every day. Some are easy, and some aren't so easy. I have worries just like you do. And I pray. I pray for guidance. I pray for patience. I firmly believe in the power of intercessory prayer; and I know that I could not do my job without it." (The younger Bush was our 43rd president.)
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To avoid present-day political harangue, I will stop with the younger Mr. Bush. But after reading what 18 different men who have served as the President of the United States have said about prayer and its place in America, I believe it would behoove every politician, either sitting or aspirant, and every judge and every citizen, to study America’s bedrock values and embrace the ideals easily proven by just these 18 examples found in a wonderful book written by historian Ed Moore. Copies of his book, “Prayer Force One: Across America,” can be obtained athttp://www.prayerforceone.com. Each story is fascinating and confirms how I feel about prayer anytime, anywhere.