A remarkable answer to prayer in the summer of 1623 led to the second Thanksgiving celebration on American soil.
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. Alone in the New England wilderness, it looked as though hunger would be their lot in the days ahead, and maybe starvation. It was a very critical moment in time.
Facing such drought and bleak conditions, Bradford called the Plymouth community to a day of “humiliation and prayer” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 34-35). By “humiliation” he did not mean a groveling or self-flagellation, but recognition of 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” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 35). 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, Pilgrims and Patriots, 35).
The Pilgrims’ habit of setting aside special days for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving 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 where their influence in this regard is still seen today.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.