If My People Will Pray
Yesterday our country observed its fiftieth National Day of Prayer since President Harry Truman approved the annual observance in 1952. Of course, as NDOP literature mentions frequently, the tradition is much older—the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom way back in 1775. And while it's unfair to overstate the connection by idealizing the "faith of our fathers," it's also unfair to deny any continuity between then and now.
The religion of the founding fathers is notoriously difficult to pin down, but their written records offer many insights. For example, when the Continental Congress met for the first time, in September 1774, John Adams described in a letter to his wife a remarkably familiar religious atmosphere:
"When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments—some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists—that we could not join in the same act of worship.
"Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia but had heard that Dr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress tomorrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative. … "
In this case, unlike many others in history, conflict apparently ended with the selection of a spiritual spokesman. Adams continues:
"Accordingly next morning he appeared with his ...