Many may not realize that Congress had prayer today before they deliberated. In a typical workweek, Monday through Friday, prayer is said every morning in the U. S. Senate and in the U. S. House of Representatives. Each House invites and pays a Christian minister to pray each day for a week that they are in session.
Ministers apply for this privilege and they come from every sector of the country. This has been so since the 1st Congress in 1789 some 225 years ago and will continue as long as we are a Christian nation. Such affirms our nation’s faith in God as Sovereign Lord of this nation. This honors the historic separation of Church and State as outlined in the 1st Amendment, but not the separation of God and State, which the Founders strongly opposed.
The prayer giver this past week was Rev. Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., representing a congregation of more than 8,000 followers. Prayers are similar requesting wisdom and courage. Spradlin prayed, “We acknowledge that our country is facing serious challenges, and that our world is in crisis. Give this body the courage that is necessary to lead” (Bakersfield Californian, August 1, 2014, p. 5).
The tradition of prayer in government assemblies is long standing. The first recorded national prayer was given by Reverend Jacob Duche,’ Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the First Continental Congress Sept. 7, 1774, even before the creation of the Articles of Confederation our first constitution and government. Notice the intensity of his appeal to God to help them obtain their freedom from British rule.
“O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!
“Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”
Even during the Constitutional Convention, prayer was referenced as a solution to the tension in the room on June 28, 1787, when the patriarch of that assembly, Benjamin Franklin, stood and said, addressing the Chair: “I have lived, Sir, 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?
“We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel … I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”
Both House and Senate prayers are recorded daily in the Congressional Record. Some prayers give council and particulars, most are fairly generic and short. All ask for the assistance of Heaven.
So Congress asked God for help in their deliberations, this time through the prayer of Reverend Roger Spradin. Good! May we never forget to do so!! It is the essence of our strength!
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.