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When Prayer Moved our Nation

“Work as if you were to live a hundred years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow”
—Benjamin Franklin

 (pg. 130 – 40 DPC Book)

Can an Entire Nation Can Benefit from the Power of Prayer?

While trying to draft the US Constitution, the Founding Fathers were locked in an impossible logjam. They had been debating exhaustively for five weeks. The eleventh anniversary of America’s independence was only days away, and the leaders could find no way to break the perilous deadlock.

The same leaders who only a few years earlier had the temerity to declare independence from the most powerful nation on earth and succeeded, and who dared to engage Great Britain’s professional army in a war and won were now like disagreeable climbers mired at the foot of an unscalable mountain.

An eighty-one-year-old man with flowing grey hair and wire spectacles—quiet for much of the debate—rose slowly to his feet. His mythological stature as a statesman, as an ambassador, inventor, and writer commanded the attention of all. Perhaps only he, Benjamin Franklin, could have had the audacity, during that moment of boiling tempers, to suggest that what they must now do . . . was to pray.[1]

He reminded his colleagues that during the war they had beseeched God on a daily basis. “Our prayers were heard, sirs, and they were graciously answered,” he spoke confidently, turning his body to engage each and every member of his .

“Have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”

Certain that every eye and ear was attentive, the elder statesman delivered the spoken words that penetrated the heavy air of stalemate with grace and logic, enduring as one of the most quotable moments of the Constitutional Convention.

“I have lived, sirs, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Benjamin Franklin moved to begin every session with prayer, “imploring the assistance of Heaven.”

His motion did not carry. It was not even voted upon. Perhaps too many of the lawmakers were rigidly irascible or stubbornly proud to succumb to such a simple plan of grace. They did not honor him.

But God did.

Many devout statesmen present that day reported that shortly after Franklin’s speech, the deadlock mysteriously broke, and America had a Constitution.

Can we conclude that members of eight differing denominations prayed together in private, rather than praying together publicly?[2] And that God honored each of them, as well as Franklin?

David Barton, one of America’s most meticulous historians, has a personal collection of more than one hundred thousand documents—books, letters, and journals, many in the original handwriting of America’s founders. He provides persuasive evidence that Franklin’s call for his colleagues to pray together “is just one example of how answered prayer changed the course of the nation.”[3]

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[1] Steven Waldman, Founding Faith (New York: Random House, 2008), 127–28.

[2] David Barton, Bulletproof George Washington (Aledo, TX: WallBuilders, 1990), 12.

[3] David Barton, Founding Fathers on Prayer, May 1, 2013, http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=144096, accessed May 31, 2015.