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Why is it important that we pray for our country and its peoples?

First, because God tells us to (1 Tim. 2:1-4), and it is important that we obey Him (John 14:15, Acts 5:32). Second, because God answers prayer (Matt. 21:22, John 14:13-14). Third, God honors prayer and turns His attention to those who pray. He takes note of people who pray and His ear remains open to them (such as in 2 Chron. 7:14). Fourth, prayer not only gives God a vehicle by which He can respond and answer prayers but prayer also changes those who pray, for praying helps us to be God-conscious, and when we are God-conscious as individuals, our behavior is different than if we rarely think about God (Rom. 1:28).

I think that George Washington incorporated many of these elements when he explained why he called the nation's first federal day of prayer. According to President Washington, "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” 1

How has prayer changed the course of the United States or accomplished a monumental goal?

There are numerous moments, but I'll choose the answered prayers attested to by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. About five weeks into the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when they were attempting to draft the U. S. Constitution, their efforts were a signal failure. As things were beginning to break up and delegates return home to their states, Franklin challenged them and called them to prayer. He told them:
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. . . . And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? 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 labor 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. 2
Notice that Franklin openly acknowledged that their frequent prayers throughout the Revolution had been answered. Hence, America became an independent nation rather than remain a subjugated British colony. That is just one example of how answered prayer changed the course of the nation. But to return to the Constitutional Convention, Washington recorded that they went to church to hear an address. 3 At the church, the Rev. William Rogers had a special prayer for the Constitutional Convention:
[W]e fervently recommend to thy fatherly notice . . . our federal convention. . . . [F]avor them, from day to day, with thy immediate presence; be Thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions and promoting the good of the great whole; . . . that the United States of America may furnish the world with one example of a free and permanent government. . . . May we . . . continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized society. 4
Franklin believed their prayers over the Convention had been answered. After five weeks of failure, following the recess and time of prayer, they reconvened and in only ten weeks produced the document that has become the longest on-going constitution in the history of the world.

Franklin definitely saw a difference after the recess and prayer. While he was not willing to say that the finished Constitution was inspired in the same sense as the Bible, he nevertheless believed that it was the product of God's direct intervention, explaining:
[I] beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal Constitution . . . [yet] I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits “live and move and have their being” (Acts 17:28). 5
Other delegates agreed. Alexander Hamilton is reported to have declared:
For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. 6
James Madison agreed, and reported:
It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution. 7
As far as these delegates were concerned, the finger of God – that is, His Divine power – had guided their writing of the Constitution. George Washington (president of the Convention) similarly attested:
As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new Constitution, I will disclose them without reserve. . . . It appears to me then little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states . . . should unite in forming a system of national government. 8
Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration from Philadelphia who closely monitored the proceedings, concurred, openly testifying:
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power. 9
So, I would point to the independence of America and the creation of its unique Constitution and government as direct answers to prayer.

1Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (London: Henry Colburn, 1839), Vol. II, p. 302, proclamation for a National Thanksgiving on October 3, 1789.

2 Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, from James Madison’s Notes on the Convention for June 28, 1787.

3 George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), Vol. XI, p. 148, diary entry for July 4, 1787. Washington says: “[A]nd (the Convention having adjourned for the purpose) went to hear an Oration on the anniversary of Independence…”

4 The Massachusetts Centinel, August 15, 1787, p. 1.

5 Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1837), Vol. V, p. 162, from “A Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and of the Anti-Federalists in the United States of America,” no date.

6 Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison and Other Men of Their Time, The Federalist and Other Contemporary Papers on the Constitution of the United States, E.H. Scott, editor (New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1894), p. 646, Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Childs, Wednesday, October 17, 1787.

7 Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 194, James Madison, Federalist #37.

8 George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, 1835), Vol. IX, p. 317, to Marquis de Lafayette on February 7, 1788.

9 Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788.

WallBuilders (www.wallbuilders.com)
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Author Biography

David Barton
Web site: WallBuilders
 
David Barton heads WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage.
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