Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I was taught in school that America’s Founders were Deists. But as I continued to study American history throughout my life, I’ve come to a very different conclusion. Let’s start out with the definition of Deism.
Deism is the belief in a supreme being who is a creator who does not intervene in the universe. Deists believe in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe.
Deism was an intellectual movement that took place during the 17th and 18th centuries. It accepted the existence of a creator but rejected the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. This is the same period of the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, a philosophical movement primarily in Europe and, later, in America. It exalted human intellect and questioned traditional authority.
But back to our founders and their prayers. I could include many more of our founder’s prayers, but it would take too many pages, so here are just a few.
Please note: Many obviously believed in, and were supplicating to, the God who cares and intervene in the lives of people.
George Washington’s Journals detail his morning and evening prayers. Here’s a couple:
Sunday Morning Prayer:
"Almighty God, and most merciful father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise thee for thy protection both night and day, receive, O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee; I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou has preserved me from the danger of the night past, and brought me to the light of the day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated ot thine own service and for thine own honor. Let my heart, therefore, Gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works, but wait on thee, and discharge those weighty duties thou requirest of me, and since thou art a God of pure eyes, and wilt be sanctified in all who draw near unto thee, who doest not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in thy courts, pardon, I beseech thee, my sins, remove them from thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of thy son Jesus Christ, that when I come into thy temple, and compass thine altar, my prayers may come before thee as incense; and as thou wouldst hear me calling upon thee in my prayers, so give me grace to hear thee calling on me in thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me, Gracious God, the good work for which thou has sent it. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God & guide this day and for ever for his sake, who lay down in the Grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Monday Morning Prayer:
“O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.
Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever lasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.
|George Washington praying at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg|
Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life.Bless my family, friends & kindred unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father.”
Patrick Henry ~ March 23, 1775
“There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free…we must fight! -I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us! Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty…are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and He will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Gentlemen may cry, Peace! peace! -but there is no peace…Is life so dear, and peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Around five weeks into the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin recognized the members were in the midst of a number of divisive issues, at a stalemate while drafting the U. S. Constitution. Soon the delegates would return home to their states. He rose to speak to the assembled delegates and appealed for reconciliation and for God’s intervention. He challenged them to pray. Franklin’s appeal is recorded here:
“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.”