There have been great revivals without great preaching. There have been great revivals without great singing. But there has never been a great revival without great praying.
Jonathan Edwards, the pastor and theologian of the Great Awakening in New England, was not a great preacher. In fact, most people reading this essay would not cross the street to hear him preach.
The Key to the Great Awakening
Edwards would write out his sermons word for word and then stand stationary behind the pulpit and read them without moving or making any physical gestures. Being nearsighted, he held the manuscript close to his face and read in a monotone voice, never raising or lowering his voice.
When he read his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” at the Congregational Church in Enfield, Connecticut, there was no praise band, gospel choir or worship team to stir the crowd. Yet, as he began reading his sermon, the Holy Spirit was poured out in great power. Hell was made so real that Edwards’ voice was drowned out as the people cried out to God for mercy and salvation (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 82-83).
Some were so stricken with the reality of hell that they gripped the back of the bench in front of them as if to keep from dropping into hell at any moment. Others, leaping from their seats, wrapped their arms around the pillars in the church as they cried out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.
The impact of this message, which was printed and spread throughout the Colonies, was not in the preaching but in the praying that preceded it. Before going to the pulpit and presenting this message, Edwards had spent eighteen hours in prayer, pleading with God, “Give me New England or let me die.”

New England was transformed without great preaching. Entire towns repented and turned to God without great singing. There was, however, great praying. Edwards and others prayed the price necessary for genuine, authentic revival.
A Big Charismatic Mistake
Edward’s example demonstrates how too often in the modern charismatic movement we have mistakenly associated revival with religious hype or a certain style of ministry. We have tended to measure the anointing by the decibel count, rather than by changed lives. And this is the point where the modern charismatic movement is vulnerable to fake revival.

R.A. Torrey was an associate of D.L. Moody, the first president of Moody Bible Institute and a successful revivalist in his own right. He was addressing this issue when he wrote,
The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day, so called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God sent. They are worked up (I almost said faked up) by man’s cunningly devised machinery—not prayed down (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 114-15).
You Can Fake It
Several years ago, Sue and I were ministering in Florida and from there we drove up the east coast to Sue’s home province of New Brunswick in eastern Canada. Since we would be passing through many of the towns impacted by the First Great Awakening, I decided to make it a prayer drive in which I would seek the Lord concerning another Great Awakening in our land.
We were three days making this 1800-mile journey, and when it was complete there was one clear message lodged in my heart. “REVIVAL IS FROM THE LORD; YOU CAN FAKE IT, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE IT.”
In other words, true revival cannot be worked up; it can only be prayed down.
The Key to Authentic Revival
To avoid fake revival, we must allow God to purify our motives. We must seek the Lord, as God said in Amos 5:4, Seek the LORD and you shall live. This means that we seek Him for who He is, not just for what we think we can get from Him.
To “seek the Lord” means that we put His interests ahead of our own. We realize that He is the center of the universe, not us. We seek to know His heart and plan, not just tell Him about ours.
I believe that God is even now calling for a remnant in America, and every nation, that will lay aside selfish pursuits and truly seek Him. He is looking for a people who are no longer seeking importance, prominence or dominance, but only desire to see His kingdom come and His will done on earth as it is in heaven. Such people God will use to change the course of American and world history.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt has a commission to call the church to seek the LORD and pray for another great Spiritual awakening. His book, Pilgrims and Patriots, which documents how America was birthed out of the First Great Awakening, is available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



The Historical Roots of Our National Day of Prayer

Thursday May 4 is The National Day of Prayer. This National Prayer Day, that was once proclaimed by presidents and the U.S. Congress, has its roots in America’s founding when national days of prayer and fasting were a part of the American culture.
The Praying Pilgrims
When the Pilgrims, who landed at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in November 1620, decided to relocate to the New World, they set aside “a day of solemn humiliation” to seek the Lord’s blessing and guidance before their departure on July 22, 1620.
They began the day with their pastor, John Robinson, exhorting them from Ezra 8:21, which reads, “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones.”
After this exhortation, the rest of the day was spent, in the words of William Bradford, “In pouring our prayers to the Lord with great fervency, mixed with abundance of tears” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 24).
The Pilgrims were a praying people and they met the challenges of their new wilderness home with constant prayer and by also setting aside special days for prayer and seeking God. Their practice of setting aside special days for prayer and fasting was carried on by their descendants who carried it throughout the Colonies.
Spreads to Pennsylvania
The power of this prayer tradition was demonstrated in 1741 when Benjamin Franklin proposed a day of prayer and fasting to pray for God’s protection over Pennsylvania during a time of crisis when Britain was at war with Spain and Philadelphia sat unprotected.
Franklin, who claimed to be a Deist in his early years, admitted that he had learned about such prayer as a result of being brought up in a Puritan home in New England where they had annual days of prayer and fasting. His proposal was approved and on the appointed day all of Pennsylvania, including government officials, filled the churches and spent the day in prayer and seeking God.
Prayer and a Great Awakening
Following on the heels of a spiritual decline, a new emphasis on prayer emerged in the early 18th century with many churches setting aside days for prayer and seeking the Lord. One pastor pointed out, that in addition to these special times of prayer set by the churches, “There were annual fast days appointed by the government” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 75).
Out of this prayer awakening came the First Great Awakening, with entire towns repenting and turning to God. Prayer was once again heard in churches, homes and places of business. Benjamin Franklin described Philadelphia in 1739 as a place where the voice of prayer could be heard coming from houses on every street (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 102).
This meant that at the time of the American Revolution, the people of Colonial America were a praying people. The Continental Congress was a praying congress; the American Army was a praying army and its commander-in-chief was a praying man.
A Praying Congress and a Praying Army
When the First Continental Congress convened on September 5, 1774, its first order of business was an extended time of Bible reading and prayer. This was no formal prayer but a sincere time of lifting their hearts to God with many on their knees and many tears being shed. John Adams wrote, “Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine interposition and aid” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 122).
This praying Congress asked George Washington to become commander-in-chief of the American army. Upon accepting this call, Washington issued a directive forbidding all profanity and drunkenness and ordering that each day begin with prayer led by the commander of each unit.
Washington also ordered that, unless their duties required them to be elsewhere, every soldier was to observe, “a punctual attendance of Divine services, to implore the blessing of heaven upon the means used for our safety and public defense” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 128).
A Nation Prays
During the seven years of war, Congress issued no less than fifteen calls for prayer, repentance and fasting. The Proclamation of 1779 urged the nation “humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God” to ask “that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion [Christianity] and virtue.”
They saw answers to their prayers. In fact, the Congress also issued a proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving in 1779, “because it hath pleased Almighty God . . . remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in her struggle for liberty.” The Congress then listed seven different accomplishments of God on behalf of the nation (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 124).
A Nation Birthed in Prayer Must be Sustained by Prayer
At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Benjamin Franklin reminded the delegates how that during the war they had engaged in daily prayer in that same room. Addressing the convention president, George Washington, he then said, “Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 144).
After the surrender of the British General Howe, Washington issued a letter of resignation as Commander-In-Chief to the Continental Congress. He then wrote what could be described as a pastoral letter, dated June 14, 1783, to the governors of the various states. This letter included his “earnest prayer” that is here quoted in part. He wrote,
I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens . . . to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another . . . and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of His example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 133-34).
Yes, America was birthed in prayer! And a nation birthed in prayer cannot be sustained by government bureaucrats, slick politicians and an ego-centered Christianity.
America and the world are facing dire consequences and the only thing that will save us is a true turning to God and our roots of fervent, sincere prayer that is rooted in a deep and sincere faith in God.

This article was derived from Eddie Hyatt’s groundbreaking book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com,



When Neal Gorsuch was sworn in as the 113th justice of the United States Supreme Court, he became part of an august judicial body with an overt Christian history—a history the secularists would like to obliterate.
Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic and attends an Episcopalian church, has indicated that his faith in God is very important to him. In this he stands in harmony with Antonin Scalia, whom he has replaced, and a long tradition of the Court going back to the Founders.
The First Chief Justice
The first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay, was a devout Christian. He was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and also served as president of the Continental Congress from 1778-79. In 1789, George Washington appointed him as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a post he held until 1795 when he resigned to serve as Governor of New York.
Jay, like the entire founding generation, saw no conflict between his faith and his duties as Chief Justice. He once publicly declared,
Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son. Blessed be His holy name.
The Second Chief Justice
John Marshall (1755-1835) succeeded John Jay as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Many consider him to be the greatest Chief Justice the Court has known. He served in this capacity for 34 years, and during that time, he heard cases and offered groundbreaking opinions that continue to guide the Supreme Court and the United States government today.
In one of his writings, Marshall clearly states what every Founder assumed—that the founding documents and institutions on which the nation was formed presuppose a commitment to Christian principles and values. He wrote,
No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion in the happiness of man even during his existence in this world. . . . The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not refer to it, and exhibit relations with it (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 166).
That Marshall saw no problem with expressions of faith in government is demonstrated by the fact that he ordered the Supreme Court facilities to be made available to a congregation for their Sunday gatherings. So each Sunday, the singing of Christian hymns and the preaching of God’s Word could be heard ringing through the chambers of the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Joseph Story
Joseph Story (1779-1845) served as a Supreme Court justice for thirty-four years from 1811-1845. He is particularly remembered for his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. This work is considered a cornerstone of early American jurisprudence and remains a critical source of historical information about the forming of the American republic and the early struggles to define its law.
Like the Founders, Story believed that Christianity provided the values and philosophical presuppositions necessary for a stable and prosperous nation. He pointed out that the First Amendment was not a ban on faith in government, nor did it indicate an indifference to Christianity by the Founders. He wrote,
We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference in religion, and especially to Christianity, which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 152-53).
America Declared a Christian Nation
In the 1892 case of “Church of the Holy Trinity vs The United States,” the United States Supreme Court declared America to be a Christian nation. This ruling came after examining thousands of documents related to America’s origins and history. In its ruling the Court declared,
Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian . . . From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation . . . we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth that this is a Christian nation (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 167).
This clear statement, made by the nation’s highest Court, was based on historical precedent going all the way back to the nation’s founding. Precedent is on our side.
Antonin Scalia
The justice Gorsuch has replaced, the late Anonin Scalia, understood this. Because he knew American history, Scalia saw no conflict between his faith and his duties as a Supreme Court justice.
Scalia made it clear that he was guided in life and on the bench by his Christian faith and he encouraged others to be bold in their faith. Speaking to a Christian conference, he exhorted those present to be willing to be “fools for Christ.” He said,
God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would consider Christians as fools . . . and he has not been disappointed. If I have brought any message today, it is this. Have the courage to have your wisdom considered as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.
The Key to a Happy Nation
Let us, therefore, pray that Neal Gorsuch and other Christians on the Court will not be intimidated concerning their faith in God. Let us also pray that the nation’s highest Court will be filled with devout followers of Christ, for only when the righteous are in authority can we have any hope of being a happy nation.
This is what George Washington had in mind when he wrote in 1783 to the governors of the young nation and exhorted them, saying,
Let us demean ourselves with that charity, humility and temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of His example in these things, we cannot hope to be a happy nation (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 134).

This article is derived in part from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, Pilgrims and Patriots, which documents how America was birthed out of a great spiritual awakening. From this book, he has developed a power point presentation that documents the radical Christian roots of America's origins and inspires faith for another Great Awakening. For bookings and more information, visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



Donald Trump's theme is "Make America Great Again." By using the word "again" he acknowledges that America achieved a past greatness that has since been lost. In this article, on George Washington's birthday, I seek to point out that the same fundamental principles that made America great in the first place, are the same fundamental principles necessary to make her great again. 

George Washington had a blueprint for making America great. Born February 22, 1732, this most beloved of America’s Founders and her first president, laid out this blueprint in his many speeches and writings.
Washington’s blueprint was tied to his faith in God and his deep respect for the Bible. He believed that if America honored God and did what was right, she would be blessed. If, however, she followed falsehood and vanity she would suffer calamity and defeat by her enemies.
Make Jesus Christ Your Standard
Washington expressed components of this blueprint in a meeting with Delaware Indian chiefs in 1779. The chiefs had requested that their youth be trained in American schools and Washington commended them for their request. He assured them that Congress would look upon their youth “as their own children” and then said,
"You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."
Washington’s words reveal his commitment to Jesus Christ and his deep conviction that only Christianity provides a belief system that can serve as a basis for social stability and individual happiness. It also shows that he saw no conflict with Congress assisting in the promotion of Christianity among this American Indian tribe.
His words also reveal that he was not a multiculturalist in the modern sense, nor would he promote a religious pluralism. While tolerant and respectful of those of differing beliefs, he was firm in his belief that only Biblical Christianity—the religion of Jesus Christ--provided the moral and philosophical underpinnings for a prosperous and happy nation.
Early Influences
This Christian way of thinking was instilled in him from the time he was a child by his mother who was a devout believer. Just before he left home as a young soldier, she admonished him, “Remember that God is our only sure trust.” She also exhorted, “My son, neglect not the duty of secret prayer” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 136).
Washington would also have been impacted by the Great Awakening, which was at its peak while he was a lad. That the Awakening had a particular impact on his home state of Virginia was confirmed by Charles Hodge who wrote, “In no part of our country was the revival more interesting, and in very few was it so pure as in Virginia” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 136).
Guided by Faith
There is no question that Washington’s faith guided him throughout his life and career. It provided the blueprint that he followed in his journey from a wilderness surveyor to commander-in-chief of the colonial army to the first president of the new nation.
For example, as commander-in-chief of the colonial army, Washington issued an order that each day was to begin with prayer led by the officers of each unit. He also ordered that, unless their duties required them to be elsewhere, every soldier was to observe, “a punctual attendance of Divine services, to implore the blessing of heaven upon the means used for our safety and public defense” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 128). He also issued an order forbidding drunkenness and all forms of profanity.
This was not a matter of imposing his beliefs on others; it was a matter of being consistent with his own beliefs and doing what he knew was right in the sight of God and good for the people. It was a matter of following his blueprint for victory and peace in the new nation.
After the surrender of General Cornwallis and the end of the War for Independence, Washington submitted his resignation to Congress and then penned a letter to governors of the various states. This letter expressed his blueprint for American greatness, which included an exhortation that they model their lives after Jesus Christ. He wrote,
"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens . . . to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another . . . and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of His example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 134).
The Necessary Moral Underpinnings
Washington began the tradition of presidents taking the oath of office with their hand placed on a Bible. For Washington, this was no mere political formality, for he had once declared, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 137).
By placing his hand on the Bible alone, and not some other religious text, Washington was affirming his belief that Christianity alone offers a belief system of truth necessary for national stability and individual happiness. This was an important part of his blueprint for America’s greatness.
He affirmed this in his Farewell Address after serving two terms as America’s first president. In this address, Washington warned the young nation to guard the blueprint for America’s greatness. He said,
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 169-70).
When the Founders use the word “religion” they are referring to Christianity. Note that Washington says that religion [Christianity] and morality are “indispensable supports” for political prosperity and the “great pillars of human happiness.” Without these, America could never be great.
Washington and the other Founders have been accused of having a utilitarian approach to Christianity, i.e., that they embraced Christianity because it works in life. Indeed, Washington believed the Bible to contain the blueprint for national prosperity and individual happiness, and this is why he exhorted the new nation,
“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the external rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained "(Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 174).
Trust God. Make Jesus Christ your role model. Respect the Bible. Follow Christian morality. This was George Washington’s blueprint for making America great. This is the blueprint that will make her great again.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com



"Our rifles were leveled—rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss. Twas all in vain; a power far mightier than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies. He will become chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him the founder of a mighty nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 128)
These were the words of a Native American chief as he reminisced with George Washington and others about a battle 15 years previous when they were on opposite sides during the French and Indian Wars.
Washington Miraculously Spared
It was the Battle of Fort Duquesne in July 1755 when 1,459 British soldiers were ambushed by a large contingent of Native American warriors who had joined the French in their fight with the British for control of the North American continent.
It proved to be one of the bloodiest days in Anglo American history with 977 British soldiers killed or wounded. It was a day, however, when Washington's reputation for bravery began to spread throughout the land.
Washington, in his early 20s, had been recruited by the British because of his knowledge of the ways of the wilderness and the American Indians. He had acquired this knowledge in his work as a surveyor of wilderness territory.
Assigned to travel with the British General Braddock to take Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh), Washington found his advice for traveling through the wilderness and dealing with the Indians ignored by Braddock who considered him a young, upstart colonist.
But when the ambush occurred and Braddock himself was wounded, Washington took charge and organized an orderly retreat while at the same time putting his own life at risk, rescuing the many wounded and placing them in wagons. During this time, two horses were shot out from under him and his clothes were shredded with bullets.
He emerged unscathed and gave glory to God, saying, "I was saved by the miraculous care of Providence that saved me beyond human expectation." His reputation for bravery spread among both the English and the Native Americans.
Years later, according to historian George Bancroft, Washington and a friend were exploring an area along the Ohio River when they encountered a group of Native Americans. Recognizing Washington, the natives invited the men back to their camp to meet with their chief, whom it turned out had fought on the side of the French in the Battle of Duquesne. They had a cordial visit and then the old chief, pointing to Washington, spoke these amazing words.
"I am chief and ruler over all my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the Great Lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man's blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief. I called to my young men and said, 'Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the redcoat tribe—he hath an Indian's wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do—himself alone is exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies.' Our rifles were leveled—rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss. Twas all in vain; a power far mightier than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies. He will become chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him the founder of a mighty nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 127-28).
The prophecy came to pass. Washington was later appointed commander in chief of the colonial army, and at great sacrifice, led his outnumbered, outgunned troops to an amazing victory over the British through numerous providential events. He later presided over the Constitutional Convention, was unanimously elected the first president of the United States and known as “the father of his country.”
Washington the Devout Christian
Washington was very devout in his Christian faith and respectful toward the Native people and culture, but he never allowed the two to be in conflict. He clearly expressed this in a 1779 meeting with chiefs from the Delaware tribe who had expressed a desire for their children to be trained in American schools.
Washington responded by assuring them that the new nation would look upon their children as their own. He then commended the chiefs for their decision and said,
“You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.”
Washington was not a multiculturalist and did not promote religious pluralism. He was tolerant of those who held differing views but was uncompromising in his belief that only Jesus Christ and Christianity offered a belief system that would serve as a basis for national stability and individual happiness.
This was expressed in many ways, including his Farewell Address in which he warned the nation to guard Christianity and morality, which he described as “indispensable supports” for political prosperity and human happiness. This utilitarian view of Christianity was why he once prayed in public, “Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ” (Hyatt, Pilgrims andPatriots, 138).
Concluding Prayer
Just as we remember George Washington on his birthday (Feb. 22), let us not forget that we, as a nation, owe our very existence to the Providential mercies of Almighty God. And let us not suppose that we can continue as a nation without His Providential care, as Washington warned in his Farewell Address.
Let us, therefore, pray for America as the Psalmist prayed for the people of Israel in Psalm 85:6-7. He prayed, "Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in you? Show us Your mercy LORD, and grant us Your salvation."

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s book, Pilgrims and Patriots, in which he documents the radical Christian roots of American democracy and freedom. This book, and others, are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



America’s national “Thanksgiving” holiday is rooted in the nation’s radical Christian origins and the custom of its first immigrants to set aside special days for giving thanks to God for His goodness and blessings. This custom was carried on by succeeding generations and eventually found its way into the national consciousness and calendar.
The Pilgrims Were Not Whiners and Complainers
The Pilgrims who landed on Cape Cod in November of 1620 were devout followers of Christ who had left the comforts of home, family and friends to pursue their vision of a renewed and reformed Christianity. Although facing insurmountable challenges and much suffering, they maintained an attitude of gratitude through every trial.
They were a thankful people. They never wavered in their faith even during their first winter in the New World (1620-21) when sickness ravaged their community and half of them, about fifty in number, were taken away in death.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims the following fall of 1621 after they had gathered in their fall harvest. Although their hearts were still heavy from the losses suffered the previous winter, there were at least three areas for which they felt particularly grateful to God.
1) With the arrival of spring the sickness that had immobilized the community and taken many of them in death had lifted. Their health returned, and although sad from their losses, they were able to apply themselves to carving out a home in the New England wilderness.
2) With the arrival of spring God providentially sent to them an English speaking Native American, Squanto, who became their interpreter and guide, helping them establish friendly relations with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, the nearest and most powerful tribe in the region. In March of 1621 they had signed an agreement of peace and mutual aid with Massasoit, which resulted in both peoples moving freely back and forth in friendship and trade.
3) Through hard work and Squanto’s advice about farming and fishing (they were mostly townspeople and craftsmen) they experienced abundant harvests during the summer and fall of 1621.
After gathering in their fall harvest, which was abundant, Governor William Bradford designated a Day of Thanksgiving during which they would pause to offer up thanks to God for his mercy and blessings. They were not whiners. They were not complainers. They were the ultimate optimists because of their faith in God and their firm belief that He had called them to this New World.
Pilgrims and Native Americans Celebrate Together
The first Thanksgiving was attended by an approximate equal number of English Pilgrims and Native Americans. After Bradford announced the Day of Thanksgiving, word of the event soon spread to their Native American friends. So when the day arrived, not only were there individual natives on hand, but Massasoit arrived with ninety of his people, and five dressed deer to add to the meals the Pilgrims had prepared.
The Pilgrims did not seek to force their faith on the Indians but neither did they hide their faith. After all, in the Mayflower Compact they had stated that they had come to the New World “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” Their approach was what some modern missiologists would call “friendship evangelism.”
One can only imagine the emotions that filled their hearts as, in the presence of their new Native American friends, they joined Elder William Brewster in lifting their hearts in praise and thanksgiving to God.
The day turned out to be more than they could have imagined. Not only did they enjoy meals together with thankful hearts, but they engaged in shooting matches and other friendly forms of competition. It was such an enjoyable time that the one Day of Thanksgiving was extended for three full days.
And yes, it is almost certain that there was turkey at the first Thanksgiving for Governor Bradford had sent out four men to hunt for “fowl” who returned with enough “fowl” to last them an entire week (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 34).
Thanksgiving for a Remarkable Answer to Prayer
The next recorded Thanksgiving Day among the Pilgrims was celebrated in the fall of 1623 after a remarkable answer to prayer that saved their harvests, and probably their lives.
Bradford tells how the summer of 1623 was unusually hot with no rain whatsoever. As the blazing sun beat down day after day the land became parched and the corn, their primary staple, began to dry up along with other vegetables they had planted. It was a very critical moment in time.
Facing such bleak conditions, Bradford called the Plymouth settlement to a day of “humiliation and prayer.” By “humiliation” he did not mean a groveling or self-flagellation, but a recognition and repentance for the human tendency to trust in one’s own human strength and ability rather than in God.
Their day of humiliation and prayer began like the many preceding days, very hot with not a single cloud in the sky. But before the day was over, God gave them, Bradford said, “a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them.” Bradford goes on to say;
For all the morning and the greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked . . . which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving (Hyatt, Pilgrimsand Patriots, 35).
The Nationalizing of a Day of Thanksgiving
Special days of Thanksgiving continued to be observed by the Pilgrims and new immigrants, especially those who settled in New England.  As the colonies began to form themselves into a nation, these days of Thanksgiving began to be nationalized and made part of the national consciousness and calendar.
For example, during the fall of 1776, when the morale of the Revolutionary Army and American populace had sunk to an all-time low because of poor harvests and hardship on the battlefield, Congress proclaimed December 11, 1776, as a Day of Prayer, Fasting and Repentance.
After this National Day of Prayer, there was an amazing change of circumstances with successes on the battlefield and the reaping of abundant harvests. There was, in fact, such a turnaround that in 1779 Congress issued a proclamation setting aside a Day of Thanksgiving because “it hath pleased Almighty God, the father of mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 124).
The Congress then listed seven different accomplishments of God on the behalf of the nation, including “many instances of prowess and success in our armies” and “so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only to enable us to easily to supply the wants of the army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 124).
This Day of Thanksgiving was observed throughout the newly formed nation with people gathering in churches and other public venues to give thanks to God for His mercy and help in their time of need.
George Washington Continues the Tradition
Shortly after being sworn in as president, George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26, 1789 as a Day of Thanksgiving wherein all citizens should offer gratitude to God for His protection, care and many blessings. It was the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the new national government of the United States. The proclamation reads in part;
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Abraham Lincoln Proclaims a Day of Thanksgiving
A Day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday in November was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. In spite of the fact that the nation was at war, Lincoln enumerated the many reasons the inhabitants of America had for being thankful to God. He wrote,
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that these blessings should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
The final Thursday in November, set by President Lincoln, continued to be the observed “Thanksgiving” until December 26, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.
Concluding Thoughts
This national holiday that we know as "Thanksgiving" was brought forth by people of great faith who knew the importance of nurturing a thankful heart in every situation. They were not whiners and complainers. It was their faith in God that enabled them to be thankful even during the greatest of trials.
This Thanksgiving let’s remember our heritage and determine that we too will be a thankful people, as were the spiritual foremothers and forefathers who brought this nation into existence. Let’s follow them and the words of the old hymn that says,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website bookstore. To read about his vision for another Great Awakening in America and the world, visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.