“Too proud to pray to the God that made us” was the scathing indictment of Abraham Lincoln on the American people in the midst of a devastating Civil War. This statement was part of his proclamation for a day of prayer and humiliation for April 30, 1863. They were his final words in the following stinging rebuke.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 185)!
Lincoln's words are also an indictment on the Administration of Joe Biden and the Democrat Party, for even with hundreds dead and missing in the terrible fires of Maui there has been no call or even mention of prayer. And why not? Such a statement from the White House would not be unusual. It would, in fact, be the American thing to do.
Biden did issue a proclamation for a day of prayer for May 4, 2023. It should be noted, however, that he was required to do so by an Act of Congress in Public Law 100-307, which requires the sitting president to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.” But no tragedy--neither the death of 12 Marines in the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the descent of American cities into chaos and crime, or the hundreds killed in Maui--have moved this president to call for a day of prayer.
Lincoln’s call for a day of prayer was very personal for he was known as a man of deep piety and prayer. It was also a part of American tradition going back to the Pilgrims, who often set aside special days for prayer and fasting in times of tragedy and need. During the seven-year Revolutionary War, no less than 15 calls for days of prayer, repentance, and fasting were issued by the Continental Congress.
The noted historian, the late Michael Novak, said, “In all moments of imminent danger, as in the first Act of the First Continental Congress, the founding generation turned to prayer” (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 109).
Could it be that this White House is too smug and proud to pray? Could it be that President Lincoln’s assessment of America at the time of the Civil War describes this White House? Is Joe Biden to proud to pray?
Interestingly, the nation responded en masse to Lincoln’s call for prayer with people gathering in churches, homes, and public buildings to ask God to intervene on behalf of America. Almost immediately there was a change in the direction of the War and it soon came to an end.
The prayerlessness of this Administration is indicative of how far removed it is from Lincoln and the founding generation. But even if this Administration will not pray, there is a praying remnant that can alter the course of America.
Both the Bible and America’s founding documents make it clear that the future of America is not tied to who is in the White House. For example, II Chronicles 7:14, which promises a national healing, begins with the words, If My people. It was not dependent on the king or the priesthood. God made it clear that the nation’s future could be secured by His people rising up and taking responsibility.
In a similar way, the U.S. Constitution begins with the words, We the people. In other words, America’s Founders saw themselves, not as God-appointed rulers of the people, but as representatives and servants of the people. It is from this form of government that we get the designation of government officials as “public servants.” For America’s founders it was not about a president or a Supreme Court. It was about “we the people.”
So, despite what is happening in Washington, D.C., there is a way forward for America. If a remnant of God’s people will take seriously both our history and God’s promises, there is no question in my mind that American freedom can be secured for another generation. If we will humble ourselves and pray, we can see another "Jesus Revolution" roll across the land like a giant tsunami wave.