The 63rd annual National Day of Prayer is only days away. So, why does the United States have a day of prayer, designated by Congress, signed into law by the President of the United States, recognized by all 50 Governors and observed by millions of people? The reason is clear. It is etched on buildings, monuments and memorials, defined in law and recited by students each and every day. Like it or not, this great nation is still Under God – a God who is active in the affairs of men and their governing authorities (Proverbs 8:15; 21:1, Daniel 4:25). Groups like Planned Parenthood and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, among others, oppose the idea that people are accountable to an Almighty God. But this is “nothing new under the sun,” as the author of Ecclesiastes once said (Eccl 1:9). Generation after generation, people seek to tear down the institutions that uphold what remaining moral layers prevail within a civilized society, offering nothing in return. After all, it is easier to tear down than to build up.
Consider this letter from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Paine in response to Paine’s controversial book, Age of Reason:
I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence, that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion, that, though your reasonings are subtle and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.
But, were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it. I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it.
Despite Franklin’s objections, Paine published his Age of Reason, infuriating many of the Founding Fathers. John Adams wrote, “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard [meaning “scoundrel,” “rogue”] Paine say what he will.” The idea of a people being united as one nation under God is like nails on a chalkboard to those who seek to run the streets of America with the fruit that brought Eden to ruin.
We cannot ignore the irony regarding those who seek to argue the case for atheism when they state that they have the truth to open the minds of people. The fact remains that it was God Himself who came to liberate the minds of men; He stated this clearly in the Gospel of John: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). It is absolutely essential that we know the truth.
Let’s take a gander through history for a moment. On February 7, 1954, Rev. George M. Docherty, a pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. preached a sermon titled “A New Birth of Freedom,” while none other than President Dwight D. Eisenhower sat in the audience. In the message, Rev. Docherty suggested that we are a nation “under God” and should be reminded of it daily as our children recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Docherty delivered this message on Lincoln Day, and it had a great impact on those listening—including President Eisenhower, who happened to be seated in the same pew that President Abraham Lincoln had occupied regularly.
A bill was presented to Congress, and on June 14, 1954, just four months later, President Eisenhower signed it into law, officially adding the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. The president was quoted as saying, “In this way, we are affirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” The president then challenged the citizens of this great nation to remember the God of our fathers, for those two words captured “the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life.” Being a nation “under God” is deeply rooted in our history.
After President Eisenhower signed the bill, some who challenged the modification suggested that Francis Bellamy, the man who wrote the original pledge, would never have agreed to such a change. Yet it was Mr. Bellamy himself who used the phrase many times in 1892. Documents show that Ferdinand used the phrase when writing to Queen Isabella. Captain John Smith used the phrase when writing to Queen Anne. William Bradford, author of the Mayflower Compact, also used the phrase frequently when he dedicated America to the “advancement of the Christian faith.” More than 21 of the Founding Fathers—including John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson—used the term “under God” when addressing affairs in America.
The term “under God” dates back to the 13th century when Sir Henry Bracton (ca. 1210–1268), the father of modern law, wrote that the king was “sub Deo, et Lege” (“under God and Law”)—the phrase etched above the doors at Harvard Law School. This core philosophy of leadership was the basis of contention between Sir Edward Cokes and King James (1620) when the king was reminded that leaders must be accountable to God or nations will fall back into tyranny and justice cannot prevail. This historic dialog is etched on the door of the Supreme Court.
Ultimately, we are a nation that is spiritually, morally, and legally “under God”—and being so is healthy for this generation and the many to come. Those who desire to remove our accountability before Almighty God are the very same people who naïvely believe that a society without religion is a society of free thinkers—a world without restricting boundaries.
Jean Jacque Rousseau (1742) stated that humans are born “inherently good.” If this is the case, wouldn’t society be better if we could all just explore the potential of humanity in its raw, natural condition and remove the influences of culture and the chains that abound? Ultimately, it always comes back to the idea of removing God from the equation. Well, a nation did remove God, and as a result, 6 million people were murdered with cold and callused resolve from 1933–1945. The Jewish people were slaughtered—men, women and children—at the hands of the Nazi regime.
It was the Nazi perspectives of life that led to the formation of eugenics, a purposeful plan to remove the inferior aspects of humankind and produce the next evolutionary level in humanity. That philosophy still prevails today and was the core worldview of Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), who pioneered reproductive activism and wrote an eight-page monthly newsletter, which circulated throughout greater New York, called “The Rebel Woman—No Gods, No Masters.” She founded Planned Parenthood in 1946. Her efforts are directly responsible for the 1.3 million babies murdered every single year. That number is equal to 114,500 monthly; 26,400 weekly; 3,800 daily; roughly 158 per hour; 2.6 babies every second of every day. How is this any different from the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Germany?
When you remove God from the conversation and our accountability to Him, you remove the definitions of morality and the fact that all men were created equal with certain unalienable rights—endowed by a creator. Rather, we become a bio machine to be pruned and prodded until the next cycle in the evolutionary chain takes shape. Having worked at the United Nations, I can tell you that many world leaders share this view. They do not see people as beings created in the image of God. In their minds, we are simply populations of consumers – consuming the limited natural resources of the planet—contributors to their gross domestic product. Contrary to Jean Jacque Rousseau, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We want to believe that deep down inside, people are good, but I am reminded of the wickedness of humankind—the animalistic nature within us—every time I turn on the news. On February 10, 2013, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph experienced a fire in the engine room, resulting in the electrical generators breaking down. The ship was left stranded at sea, floating directionless until help could arrive. The systems that provided running water and sewage filtration were limited. Other ships nearby provided food and supplies, but it wasn’t long before chaos ensued. The people on board transformed a beautiful cruise into Lord of the Flies. Despite the abundance of shelter, food, and supplies, patrons of the floating 4-star resort turned to crime and vandalism. Interior damage to the ship escalated out of control, putting lives in real danger—all due to the lawlessness of those on board. There was no order or accountability. This may be the best social experiment conducted on the human condition in decades. The ship’s patrons were stranded for only four days. All was well while the toilets were working, but in 48 hours, there was a total collapse of moral rationale and defining law.
Stories like this remind us once again that people are inherently wicked. In the words of the psalmist, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psa 51:5). We must heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah who said that people’s hearts are “deceitful … and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9).
I love my children, but had they been born, fed, and left with no direction and then tossed into a room with other children and a box full of toys, you would have witnessed the ugly, sinful nature that flourishes within us all. It is only by God’s grace and mercy to teach and instruct us—to set up wise people in positions of authority to establish boundaries—that we have a civilized society at all.
When confronting the evils of the Nazi regime, it was the principles of being a nation “under God” that enabled the prosecution to define right and wrong and the crimes against humanity. At the Nuremberg Trials, Justice Robert H. Jackson set the record straight when he said, “We do not accept the paradox that legal responsibility should be the least where power is the greatest. We stand on the principle of responsible government declared some three centuries ago to King James by Lord Chief Justice Coke, who proclaimed that even a King is still, ‘under God and the law.’ ”
I praise God that our Founding Fathers were devout men of faith. If not for their wisdom and reverence for God, we would have had no laws allowing us to bring justice to those murderers. It was their vision that generations to come would honor God in this way. You need only to pick up the original text of the New England Primer, written in 1687, to see that it was our leaders who wanted all men to read and write, knowing the Scriptures, so they could keep the future leaders of this land accountable to God.
We are one nation under God, and a nation that is under God must stand under His virtues and give Him the praise and recognition for his bountiful blessings that He so rightfully deserves. Accumulative wisdom is not sufficient to navigate the challenges of the day. Therefore, “it is the duty of all nations to recognize the providence of Almighty God” – George Washington, October 1789. Remembering the God of Fathers is what prompted Thomas Jefferson to share these powerful words on March 4, 1801:
“Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.”
The National Day of Prayer - a tradition of honoring God that began in 1774 at the First Congress when a minister was asked to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of four chapters of the Bible - is a call to all of God's people to unite in prayer in one voice and one mind (Romans 15:6). It is a concept that was birthed in Scripture when the prophets Ezra and Joel (Ezra 9, Nehemiah 8-9, and Joel 1-3) called for the people to unite in humility and reverence before Almighty God. In fact 2 Chronicles 6:13-42 records that all of Israel gathered together to worship and pray unto God. Although the calendar dates have changed, the need for prayer has not. Let us unite on the largest Solemn Assembly in U.S. History and glorify the Lord, remembering that we are one nation, UNDER GOD.
Vice Chairman, National Day of Prayer Task Force
Facts About the National Day of Prayer:
1) There have been 142 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789-2013).
2) There have been 65 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952-2013). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989-91) and Barack H. Obama (2012) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.
3) Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
4) 34 of the 44 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Three of the Presidents who did not sign a proclamation died while serving in office. Two Presidents, not included in the count – William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer.
5) Records indicate there have been 1,259 state and federal calls for national prayer since 1775 and counting.
Special Thanks to Phil Williams (Historian)
 Jared Sparks, The Works of Benjamin Franklin (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1840), 10:281–282.
 John Adams, The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Charles Little and James Brown, 1841), 3:421.
 These took place from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946.
 He spoke these words June 10, 1945.