Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln’s son Robert, introduced a resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The resolution was adopted on March 3rd, and signed by Lincoln on March 30th, one month before the fast day was observed:
“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.
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! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.” ~Abraham Lincoln, 1863.
When I see and hear a politician call the nation to repentance in the same kind of plain and confrontational words that this resolution uses, when I see that politician commit himself personally to repentance and prayer, then I will vote for that man or that woman with a clear conscience, Democrat or Republican or any other party. I am so tired of crooked, hypocritical, predator politicians who cover their own sins and ask us to join them in prayer that God will bless America. And I am tired of the people who make excuses and cover up sin and ridicule the prayers of broken and hurting people and tell us that “nobody is perfect” when the phrase suits their agenda, but point judgmental fingers at the sins of those who don’t agree with their particular political slant.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our only hope is the mercy and grace of God that is mediated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the sooner we get on our knees and pray for God’s mercy on this nation and on this world, the sooner we will be truly blessed and forgiven and preserved as a light and a “city on a hill” and a broken but redeemed blessing to others.
It’s not our health care system or our tax structure or our education system that is broken, although all of these may need repair. It’s we the people of the United States who have grown, as Lincoln said, “in numbers wealth and power”, but have forgotten grace, and humility and prayer. It’s me; I am more broken than the schools or the hospitals or the taxing authorities or anything else in this country. We are a broken people, and we see and experience things that are evil and we call them good so that we won’t feel badly about ourselves.
This Thanksgiving, Lord, have mercy on us. Give us clemency and forgiveness. Forgive us for treating the sojourner (the immigrant) as an enemy and an alien instead of extending hospitality and kindness. Forgive us for making excuses for those who would prey on children and on defenseless women and make them the objects of their sexual appetites and lust for power. Forgive us for believing lies when those lies suit our political ends and for disbelieving truth for the same reasons. Forgive us for murdering our own children in the womb before they even have an opportunity to breathe. Forgive us for watching violence and sexual perversion on screens as if it is acceptable as long as it is just pretend and done in the name of entertainment. Forgive us for taking Your holy name in vain, for ridiculing prayer and worship, and for thinking we are little gods ourselves, strong enough and wise enough and righteous enough to put the world to rights and make this nation “great again.”
God is Great. God is Good.
Let us thank Him for our food.
I learned that prayer about sixty years ago, and God help me if I have grown too wise in my own eyes to pray the same humble prayer now.
God, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Holy Spirit, forgive us and make us whole.