A Little Lesson in our Historic Roots: On Thanksgiving and Prayer in a Nation of Christians

I grow tired of the ignorant that claim that our nation was never built upon the Christian faith. The false proposition that our nations laws did not originally reflect the Law of our God as recorded in the Bible and upheld by Jesus Christ. So, I wanted to share with you what our forefathers had to say at a time of war and suffering. A time when Christian men, along with other men influenced by the Christian worldview, waged war against tyrants; not as aggressors, but as defenders of the civil liberties afforded to us by divine right. Laws that were codified in England but ignored by king and parliament. Please note that their concern was not a worry over their woes, but a praise of thanksgiving for the Lord God of Heaven and earth and the gospel that He sent forth to the world at large.

Continental Congress

Wednesday, October 18, 1780 (In the midst of our War with England)

“Congress took into consideration the resolution reported for setting apart a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and agreed to the following draft—

‘Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these States, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence in rescuing the person of our commander-in-chief and the army from imminent danger at a moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandman, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the gospel of peace:

‘It is, therefore, recommended to the several States to set apart Thursday, the 7th day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor, to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts in the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are anywise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

‘Done in Congress, this 15th day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.’”1

Here is one other…

A report prepared and provided by Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. Montgomery, and Mr. Williamson (all government representatives) to Congress about setting a day aside for Thanksgiving and Prayer; of which Congress agreed. (At a time of the closing of the War for Independence.) Here is what they wrote,

“It being the indispensable duty of all nations not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the Giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in times of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf; therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into consideration the many instance of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged, the happy and promising state of public affairs, and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close, particularly the harmony of the public councils, which is so necessary to the success of time public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the armies of the United States and those of their allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European Power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States; do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of, Thursday, the 28th of November next, as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all his mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience to his laws, and by promoting, each in his station and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

‘Done in Congress, &c. &c. Saturday, October 18, 1783.”2

ENDNOTES:

1Benjamin F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Reprint 1864 (Powder Springs, GA: America Vision, [2007], 2021), 668. Under the 22nd chapter heading, “Fast and Thanksgiving Days,” (651).

2Ibid, 673.

**Note to reader: The above picture of George Washington is from his 1789 Proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer. A wonderfully written article from where I borrowed this picture may be visited here.

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