From the Preface of Pilgrims and Patriots

Will the America of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln survive? The answer to that question depends on whether a nucleus of her citizens will recover and reconnect with the nation’s history. A nation derives its sense of identity from its history. If you want to fundamentally change a nation, tamper with its history, for as George Orwell said in his classic, 1984, “Whoever controls the past, controls the future.” Or as Karl Marx is said to have put it, “People without a heritage are easily persuaded.”
This gives understanding to the statement by Barack Obama shortly after taking office, “America is not a Christian nation.” This was not a statement based on the facts of history, but was, instead, a statement based on an ideology and tied to his stated goal to “fundamentally change” America. He was tampering with our history.
American history, of course, had already been tampered with before Barak Obama. Historians tamper with history, not always by changing it, but by excluding what they find objectionable. There is, for example, a noticeable void and absence when one reads modern textbook accounts of America’s origins and compares that with the letters, journals and autobiographies of those same people and events. The common references to faith in God, the Bible and Jesus Christ in the original accounts are glaringly missing in the modern renditions.
Modern historians seem to be embarrassed by America’s overt Christian origins. They, therefore, tamper with her history by deleting or downplaying that aspect of her story. So what is being taught in public schools and universities today is a secularist revision of America’s history.
The purpose of this book is not to give a detailed account of America’s beginnings, but to highlight that aspect of her history that has been ignored or diminished. This is necessary, for as the Catholic scholar, Michael Novak, says, “In one key respect, the way the story of the United States has been told for the past one hundred years is wrong.”
What is “wrong,” according to Novak, is the elimination of faith from the story of America’s history. He points out that to read most historians today, one would think that America’s Founders were the embodiment of “secular philosophy,” when the truth is that “their faith is an ‘indispensable’ part of their story.”
A unique contribution of this book is documenting how the Christianity that gave birth to America was the Christianity of the “Radical Reformers.” “Radical Reformers” is a term coined by George H. Williams, the late Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University, in referring to the Anabaptists, but would also include groups such as the Separatist Puritans, the English Baptists and the Quakers. In some regards, it can also be a designation for Puritans in general and the early Presbyterians.
It was these “Radical Reformers” who articulated doctrines of freedom of conscience, religious liberty and the freedom of the church from the state. They brought these “radical” ideals to America where they were further tried and forged in the furnace of practical experience in building a new life in the New World.
This is their story. This is America’s story. This is the story that must be recovered if we are to see America's Reawakening.

In 2010, Dr. Eddie Hyatt experienced a seven-hour visitation of God in which his hope for America was restored and he saw, for the first time, that there was a direct bearing of the Great Awakening on the founding of this nation. Several books, including Pilgrims and Patriots, have come out of that visitation as well as "America's Reawakening," a PowerPoint presentation documenting America's birth out of a Christian vision and spiritual awakening. His website is www.eddiehyatt.com.



America today seems hopelessly divided along political, cultural, religious and moral fault lines. The hatred and animosity is at a level unseen in my lifetime, and I lived through the 1960s with its assassinations, race riots, and a very unpopular war that provoked widespread protests.
Only two times in history has America been as divided as it is today: (1) At the time of the Civil War and (2) the early 1700s before the Great Awakening in the thirteen colonies. The answer for both situations was the same.
In this essay, I will address how the Thirteen Divided Colonies became the United States of America.
The Deep Divisions of Colonial America
Most do not realize the deep divisions that existed in colonial America between the Anglicans who settled Virginia, the Puritans who settled New England, the Baptists who settled Rhode Island, the Quakers who settled Pennsylvania, and so on.
In the Old World, Anglicans (as the state church) had imprisoned Puritans, even putting some to death. They had also persecuted Baptists and Quakers. In the New World, Puritans had persecuted Quakers and Baptists, banning them from their colony and even putting some to death. Anglicans in Virginia jailed Baptists preachers who came into their colony to preach the gospel. Baptists and Quakers did not get along and considered Puritans and Anglicans to be part of the false, harlot church of Revelation.
It seemed that these groups could never reconcile. Their history was too long and their pain too deep. God, however, had an answer. His answer was a great, spiritual awakening based on the preaching of the gospel wherein Jesus was presented as the central object of faith.
God’s Instrument for Change
God’s instrument to ignite this Awakening and carry the revival flame from Georgia to New Hampshire was a 23 years old Oxford graduate who had just been ordained with the Anglican Church. At Oxford, George Whitefield had been part of the Holy Club (Methodists) and had experienced a radical conversion to Jesus Christ. After his ordination, he ignited great revival in England while John and Charles Wesley were away on a mission to Georgia.
Although ordained with the Anglican Church, Whitefield did not have a denominational bone in his body. He freely fellowshipped with all true believers, including Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and any who honored God and confessed Jesus Christ as the true Lord of the Church.
Whitefield came to America on his first of seven visits in 1738. He came with a burden for the colonists and a prayer that they would not live as thirteen scattered colonies, but as “one nation under God.” (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 27).
His impact on America was astounding. Most of his meetings were in the open air because there were no buildings large enough to accommodate the thousands that came to hear him. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin tells of the incredible change that came over his hometown of Philadelphia when Whitefield came there on his second of seven visits to America. He wrote,
In 1739 there arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitfield who made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 32).
Although accounts of his meetings often describe the multitudes as standing and listening in rapt silence, accounts also reveal intense emotional responses at times, as things eternal were made real to their hearts and minds. On one occasion, after preaching to a huge throng gathered outdoors, Whitfield surveyed the crowd and noted the amazing response. He wrote in his Journal,
Look where I would, most were drowned in tears. Some were struck pale as death, others wringing their hands, others lying on the ground, others sinking into the arms of their friends and most lifting up their eyes to heaven and crying out to God (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 35).
Whitefield Confronts the Divisions
Whitefield addressed the divisions of the colonists head-on. In one of his sermons, for example, as he was preaching in the open air to several thousand, representing various sects and denominations, he pretended to converse with Father Abraham, whom he pictured as looking over the banister of heaven at the gathered multitude.
Whitefield cried out, “Father Abraham, are there any Anglicans in heaven?”
The answer came back, “No, there are no Anglicans in heaven.”
“Father Abraham, are there any Puritans in heaven?”
“No, there are no Puritans in heaven.”
“Are there any Methodists in heaven?”
“No, there are no Methodists here either.”
“What about Baptists or Quakers?” 
“No, there are none of those here either.”
“Father Abraham,” cried Whitefield, “What kind of people are in heaven?”
The answer came back, “There are only Christians in heaven, only those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb.”
Whitefield then cried out, “Oh, is that the case? Then God help me, God help us all, to forget having names and to become Christians in deed and in truth!” (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 34).
Sectarian Walls are Broken Down
In Boston, when the population was around 17,000, an estimated crowd of 20,000 gathered on the Boston Common to hear Whitfield preach. Differences were melted, denominational walls were broken down, and for the first time, the colonists began to see themselves as a single people with one Divine destiny, “One Nation Under God,” as Whitfield had prayed.
By his incessant travels, Whitefield made the Great Awakening America’s first national event. It was the first time the scattered colonists of various denominational and theological persuasions had participated together as one people in a single event.
Historian, Benjamin Hart, points out that when Whitefield visited America for the final time in 1770, even the Episcopal (Anglican) churches, which had initially rejected him, opened their doors to him. He goes on to say,
The true Spirit of Christ had dissolved sectarian differences. America considered itself to be a nation of Christians, pure and simple, as Whitefield noted with satisfaction. “Pulpits, hearts and affections,” he said, were opened to him and any preacher of whatever denomination who had a true Christian message to share (Hyatt, GeorgeWhitefield, 59).
The late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, surely had Whitefield in mind when he wrote, “The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” Through Whitefield’s ministry the Divided Colonies of America became the United States of America.
We Hold the Key
In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says of Jesus, For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one and broken down the middle wall of separation. For Paul, the greatest gulf in first century humanity was the one between Jew and Gentile. He was convinced, however, that Jesus, and only Him, could span that gulf and bring the two together.
This is what brought the divided thirteen colonies together--the Christ-centered preaching of Whitefield and others of the Great Awakening. This happened to such an extent that a British-appointed governor in Connecticut wrote to his superiors in England, “If you ask an American who is his master, he will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 119).
We, as the church, hold the only message that can restore civility and harmony to this nation. We, therefore, must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the anti-Christian rhetoric of the modern world.
Be bold. Preach Jesus. And pray for the rain of the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon this nation.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, George Whitefield, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. Eddie is the creator of the "America's Reawakening," a PowerPoint presentation in which he has documented America's birth out of prayer and spiritual awakening. For information on bringing this informative, inspiring presentation to your city, contact him at dreddiehyatt@gmail.com.



Twenty-three-year-old George Whitefield sat on a ship ready to sail for America from the port of Deal, located approximately 70 miles southeast of London. For some time, he had experienced a compelling call to preach the gospel to Colonial America and now the day for his departure had finally arrived. His heart was filled with gratitude, excitement and expectation.
As he waited for the ship's crew to hoist anchor and sail, a letter was delivered to him from John Wesley who had just returned from Georgia. He opened the letter and was stunned by what he read.
Wesley had written, “When I saw God, by the wind which was carrying you out, brought me in, I asked counsel of God. His answer you have enclosed.” The message Wesley had enclosed was, “Let him return to London.”
Whitefield was shocked and momentarily confused. Wesley was ten years his senior and had been a mentor to him. He held the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, in very high esteem. However, this word from John contradicted everything he believed about his call to America.
He Finds the Answer in Prayer and God’s Word
Whitefield went to prayer with a friend, and as they prayed, there there came to his mind a story from the Old Testament where a prophet lost his life because he listened to the words of another prophet instead of diligently adhering to what God had told him.
I Kings 13 contains the story of an unnamed prophet to whom God spoke and instructed to go to Bethel and prophesy against the idolatrous altars that had been established there by King Jeroboam. God instructed him not to stop to eat or drink but to return directly home to Judah when he had completed his assignment.
Based on this directive from the Lord, the prophet went to Bethel. As he prophesied against the idolatrous altars as instructed, they miraculously split apart and the ashes were poured out on the ground. As a result of that miracle and a miracle of healing for King Jeroboam, the king invited the prophet to his home. He refused and recounted to the king what the Lord had told him.
But as he departed Bethel, an old prophet, who heard of what had happened, saddled his donkey and caught up with the prophet and invited him to his home to eat and drink. When the first prophet recounted to him what the Lord had instructed him, the old prophet said, I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house that he may eat bread and drink water.” The old prophet, however, was lying.
Contrary to the instructions given him by the Lord, the prophet went back with the old prophet. While they were eating, the Spirit of the Lord came upon the old prophet and he prophesied to him that because of his disobedience he would not be buried in the tombs of his ancestors. Sure enough, upon leaving the old prophet’s home, he was met by a lion in the road, which killed him, fulfilling the old lying prophet’s prediction of his demise because of his disobedience.
Three Powerful Lessons

As Whitefield prayed about Wesley’s letter, this story was powerfully impressed on his mind and heart. He knew that God was highlighting to him the importance of obeying the directions he had received from the Lord and to not listen to this word from another party, even such a respected one as John Wesley.
It turns out that Wesley had “cast a lot” concerning whether Whitefield should go to America. This was something Wesley and others practiced, if after diligent prayer they were unable to discern the will of God.
Exactly how he cast the lot is not clear, but it may have been as simple as putting two sheets of paper in a bowl on which was written, “Proceed to America” and “Let him return to London” and then drawing the one that said, “Let him return to London.”
Hindsight is 20/20 and it is abundantly clear that Whitefield made the right decision in ignoring Wesley’s prophecy and sailing for America. He ignited the Great Awakening that transformed Colonial America and prepared her for statehood. Through his incessant travels he became the most recognizable figure in America and earned for himself the title, “America’s Spiritual Founding Father.”
Here are three powerful lessons to be derived from Whitefield’s experience:
1.  We are not to be led by lots, omens or prophecies. We are to be led by the indwelling Holy Spirit as Paul tells us in Romans 8:14.
2.  Prophetic utterances are to be tested, even when they come from the most esteemed among us.
3.  We should be more confident in our own ability to hear God's voice, than in someone else's ability to hear Him for us. 

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book entitled, George Whitefield, with the subtitle, From Poor English Inn-Keeper to the Revivalist Who Became America’s Spiritual Founding Father. This book and oters are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



He first gave the bad news so that
people would appreciate the Good News

Much has been said of George Whitefield’s oratorical abilities. Benjamin Franklin said that even if you did not agree with the substance of his message, it was a pleasant experience to listen to him, in the same way one enjoys listening to good music.
Although his preaching style was certainly attractive, that alone cannot account for the transformation of America that took place under his ministry. Neither can it be attributed to great singing for there were no choirs, praise bands or worship teams that travelled with him. Neither can it be attributed to organizational skills, for he had no business manager setting up meetings for him.
The Message Itself
The answer lies, instead, in the Message itself—the gospel message backed by prayer and consecration. This understanding is critical, for in Romans 1:16, Paul speaks of the inherent power of the gospel message, and in I Corinthians 1:17, warns that if we go too far in attempting to make the gospel message “cool, hip and acceptable” to contemporary culture, we run the risk of preaching a message that has been emptied of its power. (NIV).
Whitefield was concentrated on the message. He lived and breathed God’s word. Concerning the early days of His ministry, he wrote,
My mind now being more open and enlarged, I began to read the Holy Scriptures on my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and every word (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 12).
He did not rely on testimonies or feel-good anecdotal stories for his sermons. His preaching was Biblical and Christ-centered. He would take a passage of Scripture, such as the healing of blind Bartimaeus, the faith of Abraham in offering up Isaac, or the parable of the ten virgins, and expound on it.
No matter which passage he used, he always made application to mankind’s lost condition and Jesus Christ as the only remedy for sin and the only way to be reconciled to God.
Recognizing the risk of oversimplifying the matter, Whitefield’s message can, I believe, be divided into three distinct categories.
1.  The dire condition of fallen, sinful humanity, separated from God and deserving of eternal damnation.
2.  The wondrous mercy and grace of God shown toward sinful humanity in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
3.  The necessity of a new birth, and the inadequacy of baptism, church membership, and all religious externals in which people have placed their hope.
Humanity’s Fallen Condition
Whitefield emphasized the truth of humanity’s sinfulness and lostness outside of Christ. Benjamin Franklin mentioned this in his Autobiography, telling how he was surprised that the people so admired and respected Whitefield despite the fact that, in Franklin's words, “he commonly abused them, assuring them they were no more than half-devils and half-beasts” (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 51).
When this author first read this statement of Franklin, I assumed he was using hyperbole in speaking of Whitefield’s preaching on the sinful condition of fallen humanity. However, in a later reading of Whitefield’s sermons, I discovered that Franklin was accurately describing Whitefield’s message.
Preaching from the steps of the Philadelphia courthouse to a massive crowd that included Franklin and the leading citizens of that city, Whitfield did not hold back, but in stark terms, and a bit of hyperbole, painted a very unflattering picture of the fallen state of humanity. As the huge crowd stood and listened in rapt silence, Whitefield’s passionate and melodious voice pierced the atmosphere.
But let these modern, polite gentlemen, and my letter-learned brethren, paint man [humanity] in as lovely colors as they please; I will not do it; I dare not make him less than the word of God does. If I was to paint man in his proper colors, I must go to the kingdom of hell for a copy; for man is by nature full of pride, subtlety, malice, envy, revenge and all un-charitableness; and what are these but the temper of the devil? And lust, sensuality, pleasure, these are the tempers of the beast. Thus, my brethren, man is half a beast and half a devil (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 51-52).
Whitefield understood that humanity had been created a noble creature in the image and likeness of God. He also understood that the image had been marred by the fall and sin as described in Genesis 3. He is here describing, with some hyperbole, the awful condition of mankind in his fallen state, separated from God.
It has been said that the gospel is not really “good news” until we hear and understand the “bad news.” Whitefield was a master at painting the bad news for his audiences, but he was just as adept at presenting the good news of God’s love and grace for humanity. The contrast had a powerful effect on his audiences.
God’s Wondrous Love Revealed in Jesus Christ
After showing their lost, natural state, Whitefield always proceeded to point his audience to Jesus Christ alone as God’s answer for mankind’s dilemma. He made much of the wonderous grace and mercy shown to mankind through Jesus Christ. The contrast with mankind’s rebellious and sinful state provided a stunning comparison, and Whitefield often wept as he talked of the stupendous love and grace of God in coming to this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
In preaching to one large outdoor audience on Abraham’s offering up of Isaac, Whitefield had the crowd in tears as he described the love of Abraham for his son, and the emotions he must have experienced in binding his son and laying him on the altar. He then exhorted,
I see your hearts affected; I see your eyes weep. But behold I show you a mystery, hid under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardened, must cause you to weep tears of love. How much more ought you to extol, magnify, and adore the love of God, who so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. May we not well cry out, “Now know we, O Lord, that you have loved us, since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son from us.

Oh, stupendous love! While we were His enemies, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might become a curse for us. Oh, the freeness, as well as the infinity of the love of God our Father! It is unserachable; I am lost contemplating it; it is past finding out! (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 53).
The Necessity of a New Birth
Whitefield emphasized that many professing Christians had built their faith on faulty foundations, such as church membership, good deeds, family pedigree, social status, and cultural refinement. He emphasized that these old foundations must be overturned and faith in Jesus Christ alone must be laid as the only foundation for acceptance with God.
He brought this vividly to the minds of a large audience as he preached on the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25:1-13. He pointed out that all ten were virgins, and all had lamps, which he said symbolized their outward profession. Only the five wise virgins, however, had oil in their lamps, which Whitfield said symbolized a new heart brought about by a living faith in Christ alone. He told of the five foolish virgins knocking at the door of the wedding but being turned away by the Lord.
“Lord, Lord,” say they, as though they were intimately acquainted with the holy Jesus. Like numbers among us who, because they go to church, repeat their creeds, and receive the blessed sacrament, think they have a right to call Jesus their Savior and dare call God their Father, when they put up the Lord’s Prayer. But Jesus is not your Savior. The devil, not God, is your father, unless your hearts are purified by faith and you are born again from above. It is not merely being baptized with water, but being born again of the Holy Ghost that must qualify you for salvation; and it will do you no service at that great day, to say unto Christ, “Lord, my name is in the register of such and such parish.” I am persuaded the foolish virgins could say this and more (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 54-55).
The Message Impacted America’s Founding
Whitefield’s preaching had an astounding impact on Colonial America. Everywhere he travelled, farmers left their plows, merchants closed their shops and mechanics threw down their tools and rushed to the place where he would preach. At a time when the population of Boston was around 17,000, Whitefield preached to an estimated crowd of 20,000 on the Boston Common.
Benjamin Franklin told of the transformation that came over Philadelphia when Whitefield preached to massive crowds from the steps of the courthouse, He wrote,
The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 32).
Although accounts of his meetings often describe the multitudes as standing and listening in rapt silence, accounts also reveal intense emotional responses at times, as the gospel message he preached gripped their hears. On one occasion, after preaching to a huge throng gathered outdoors, Whitfield surveyed the crowd and noted the amazing response. He wrote in his Journal,
Look where I would, most were drowned in tears. Some were struck pale as death, others wringing their hands, others lying on the ground, others sinking into the arms of their friends and most lifting up their eyes to heaven and crying out to God (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 35).
In Delaware he preached to a crowd of twelve thousand. As he preached, there was such an outpouring of God’s Spirit that Whitefield himself was overcome along with his audience. He wrote,
I had not spoken long before I perceived a melting. As I proceeded, thousands cried out so that they almost drowned my voice. Never did I see a more glorious sight. Oh what tears were shed and poured forth after the Lord Jesus. Some fainted; and when they had got a little strength, they would hear and faint again. After I had finished my last discourse, I was so pierced, as it were, and overpowered with a sense of God’s love, that some thought, I believe, I was about to give up the ghost. How sweetly did I lie at the feet of Jesus (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 35).
Benjamin Franklin and Colonial America were never the same after George Whitefield. Because of his profound impact, Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, has called Whitfield, “America’s Spiritual Founding Father.”
What was Whitefield’s secret? Was it his personality? Was it his style? No! I am convinced that it was his message! I am here reminded of Romans 1:16 where Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . ..
What We Can Learn from Whitefield
Our modern mega churches, award winning worship music, new apostles, and high-level spiritual warfare have not produced an Awakening such as came forth through the preaching of Whitefield. Why is this?
Is it possible we have gone too far in attempting to make the gospel message pleasing to contemporary culture? Is it thus possible that we are preaching a gospel message emptied of its power, as Paul warned in I Corinthians 1:17?
Whitefield’s life and ministry stand in sharp contrast to such compromise. He lived and preached in the light of eternity and often spoke of the time he and his hearers would stand before the Lord and give an account for how they had handled the gospel message. In one sermon, he declared,
Remember, we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ where ministers must give a strict account of the doctrine they have delivered, and you as strict a one, how you have improved under it. Will you then allege that you went to hear out of curiosity, to pass away an idle hour, to admire the oratory, or to ridicule the preacher? No, God will then let you know that you ought to have come out of better principles (Hyatt, George Whitefield, 57).
In this era when style too often preempts substance, and popularity takes precedence over purity, it is time that we prayerfully evaluate the message we are presenting to our generation. Is it the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ? Or, is it a watered-down version designed not to offend contemporary culture? In this task of purifying our message, Whitefield can help lighten our path.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, George Whitefield, available from Amazon in both paperback and kindle. To learn more about his vision for America and the world, visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



This Thursday is the National Day of Prayer when thousands will gather in churches, homes and other venues to pray for America. Although instituted by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1952, the National Day of Prayer has a long and stunning history going back to the first immigrants to this land.
Jamestown - 1607
Upon their arrival off the coast of Virginia, Rev. Robert Hunt led the Jamestown settlers in three days of prayer and repentance to prepare their hearts for dedicating the land of their new home to God. When they finally disembarked on April 29, 1607, their first act was to erect a seven-foot oak cross they had brought from England. They then gathered around the cross for a prayer service in which they dedicated the land of their new home to God.
The Pilgrims and Puritans – 1600s
Before the Pilgrims departed Holland in July 1620 for the New World, they set apart an entire day to pray and ask God’s blessing on their venture of faith. William Bradford said that after their pastor, John Robinson, brought an exhortation from Scripture, “The rest of the time was spent in pouring our prayers to the Lord with great fervency, mixed with abundance of tears” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 23-24).
The summer of 1623 was a long, hot summer for the Pilgrims, with no rain. As the crops began to wither and die, it looked as though hunger and even starvation could be their lot. Governor William Bradford, therefore, set aside a day for “prayer and humiliation” to seek the Lord’s help in their time of need.
That day of prayer began like others before it, very hot and not a cloud in the sky. However, before the day was over it clouded over and began to rain—a gentle rain without wind, lightning or thunder. The Lord gave them “a gracious and speedy answer,” Bradford said, “both to their own and the Indian’s admiration that lived among them” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 35).
The Pilgrims, and the Puritans who followed them, often set aside special days for prayer, fasting and thanksgiving. This prayer habit became a part of the cultural experience of New England and was practiced by succeeding generations. From there, it found its way into the American culture.
Philadelphia 1741
For example, in 1741 Philadelphia became concerned about their safety since Britain was at war with Spain at the time. Although they were a British colony, there were no British soldiers to protect them from marauding Spanish ships that could well pass their way.
Benjamin Franklin, a leading citizen of the city, proposed that the Assembly and civic leaders issue a call for a day of prayer and fasting, “to implore the blessing of Heaven on our undertaking.” He wrote,
They embraced the motion; but as it was the first fast ever thought of in the province, the secretary had no precedent from which to draw the proclamation. My education in New England, where a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of some advantage. I drew it in the accustomed style, it was translated into German, printed in both languages, and divulged through the province (Hyatt, The Faith & Vision of Benjamin Franklin, 39).
Franklin and all of Pennsylvania, including government officials, thus participated in a day of prayer and fasting, imploring God’s blessing and protection on their colony.
The Colonists Pray for Spiritual Awakening – 1700s
The Great Awakening that erupted in 1726 was preceded by special days set aside for prayer and fasting by both churches and regional governments. William Cooper, a pastor from New England, recalled that the churches had “set apart days, wherein to seek the Lord by prayer and fasting." In addition to the prayer of the churches, Cooper said there were “annual fast days appointed by the government” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 75).
God answered these prayers and a Great Awakening swept across Colonial America. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin tells of the change that came over his hometown of Philadelphia when George Whitefield preached there in 1739. He wrote,
The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 102).
Similar reports emerged from Georgia to New England of entire communities being transformed by the Awakening. In New England, Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, MA, reported that “the entire town seemed to full of the presence of God.” Prayer could be heard, not just at church, but in homes and everywhere one went in the town. A spirit of prayer seemed to be unleashed throughout Colonial America.
The First Continental Congress Begins With Prayer - 1774
It is, therefore, no great surprise that the First Continental Congress, that met for the first time on September 5, 1774, opened with an extended time of Bible reading and prayer. They began with a reading of the entire 35th Psalm, which powerfully impacted everyone present.
As the Psalm was read, a unique sense of God’s presence filled the room and tears flowed from many eyes. John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, of the impact of the Bible reading and prayer on the delegates. He said,
Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine interposition and aid. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seems as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read that day. I saw tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave pacific Quakers of Philadelphia. I must beg you to read that Psalm (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 122).
The Congress and the Nation Pray
Prayer continued to be a daily part of the proceedings of the Continental Congresses. When, years later, Benjamin Franklin called the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to prayer, he reminded them, “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 144).
During the Revolutionary War, the Congress issued no less than fifteen separate calls for special days of prayer and fasting. For example, during the fall of 1776, when the morale of the army and populace had sunk to an all-time low because of a poor harvest and hardship on the battlefield, Congress proclaimed December 11, 1776, as a Day of Fasting and Repentance.
Jonathan Witherspoon, a Presbyterian Reformer and member of the Congress, was deputized to write the proclamation, which was then approved by the rest of the Congress. It reads, in part,
WHEREAS, the war in which the United States are engaged with Great Britain, has not only been prolonged, but is likely to be carried to the greatest extremity; and whence it becomes all public bodies, as well as private persons, to reverence the Providence of God, and look up to him as the supreme disposer of all events, and the arbiter of the fate of nations; therefore; RESOLVED, That it be recommended to all the United States, as soon as possible, to appoint a day of solemn fasting and humiliation; to implore of Almighty God the forgiveness of the many sins prevailing among all ranks, and to beg the assistance of his Providence in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war.
There was an amazing change of circumstances after this 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.”
Yes, the founding generation saw answers to their prayers. Indeed, when Franklin called the Constitutional Convention to prayer in 1787, he not only reminded them of the daily prayer during the War, but also that the prayers were answered. Addressing the Convention president, George Washington, he said, “Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 144).
Washington Makes Prayer a Vital Part of the Colonial Army
The Second Continental Congress, which convened on May 10, 1775, asked George Washington to become commander-in-chief of the ragtag Colonial militias and to transform them into an army that could face the mighty British war machine.
Almost immediately, 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.”
Washington also issued an order forbidding profanity and drunkenness; and in a general letter to his troops, he said, “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier.”
That Washington himself was a devout person of prayer was confirmed by Isaac Potts, a Quaker who lived near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, when the Continental Army, led by Washington, was wintering there under much duress in 1777-78. Potts was a pacifist who opposed the war until he had a life-changing experience while riding through the woods one day during, perhaps, the bleakest period of the war. He said,
I heard a plaintive sound as of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, and the cause of the country, of humanity and of the world. Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home and told my wife I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen and heard and observed. We never thought a man could be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 129).
Washington’s Earnest Prayer for America
The many prayers were heard and the unthinkable happened: The American Colonists defeated the mighty British army. The War officially ended on October 19, 1781 when General Cornwallis surrendered his entire force to Washington. In customary fashion, Cornwallis turned his sword over to Washington, and the weaponry of his troops was stacked in neat piles. As this occurred the British band played, “The World Turned Upside Down.” For freedom-loving people everywhere, however, the world had been turned right side up.
Having completed his call, Washington issued a letter of resignation as Commander-In-Chief to the Continental Congress. Then, he 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, 129).
After being sworn in as president, George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26, 1789 as a Day of Thanksgiving. The proclamation assumes the obligation of all citizens to honor God and to pray for His protection and favor. It opened with the following statement.
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 . . ..
Prayer is American
Yes, prayer played a vital role in the founding of America. William Novak is correct when he says, “In all moments of imminent danger, as in the first Act of the First Continental Congress, the founding generation turned to prayer” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 120).
Seeing the vital role of prayer in the founding of this nation, let us not be intimidated by the assertion that prayer is somehow inappropriate for public or political venues. Let us be bold in our faith. Let us be salt and light in this generation. Let us pray. It is the godly thing to do! IT IS THE AMERICAN THING TO DO!
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. Dr. Hyatt believes this is the time for "America's Reawakening" and he has created a PowerPoint presentation with that title in which he documents America's birth out of prayer and spiritual awakening. To schedule him for your church, group or event, send an email to dreddiehyatt@gmail.com.