This Saturday, and the weeks that follow, could be a special season in American history.
There is no greater need in our country than that the Church return to God and do His will in this generation.
Are you all in on returning to God?
All In on Returning to God
As I have said for many months, we stand in a precarious time in American and Western civilization history.
Because our culture has turned away from its biblical heritage and the followers of Jesus desperately need a revitalizing revival, the forces of evil have amassed at the gates to alter our world beyond recognition.
Victor Davis Hanson shares a warning in a recent Heritage Foundation forum on our modern-day cultural civil war and how it compares to the 60s and 70s.
The American response to these realities in the past has been to return to God.
Here is some of the history.
During the Pilgrims first years in the New World, they suffered a drought and set aside a day to return to God with fasting and prayer. God brought such drenching rains that “the Indians were astonished.” Because of the miracle, William Bradford said “they set aside a day of thanksgiving.”
That’s the true origin of “Turkey Day.”
During the mid-1700’s, disputes over taxes between the colonists and England ignited both the Revolutionary War and prompted some American colonies to prayerfully return to God. For example, the people of Boston declared a day of fasting and prayer in September 1768 to protest a British edict to station troops in the city. The Boston Massacre would take place less than a decade later.
Virginia’s House of Burgesses proclaimed a special day for prayer on June 1, 1774, to protest the British blockade of Boston Harbor. Local pastors led the colonists and Thomas Jefferson wrote that “the effect of the day through the whole colony was like a shock of electricity.” The South Carolina, Maryland and Georgia colonies all observed official days of “returning to God” during the lead-up to the “Glorious Cause” of the American Revolution.
Another season of returning to God was announced by the Continental Congress in 1775. Congress issued a proclamation for “a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer” to be held on Thursday, July 20, 1775 due to the British invasion of Boston harbor. On behalf of the Continental Congress, John Witherspoon and John Hancock instructed the colonists to pray for an honoring of “the just rights and privileges of the Colonies” in “civil and religious” matters.
The proclamation was sent on horseback to every town. John Adams wrote that the people responded enthusiastically to the call to seek God, and more people attended than normally went to church.
After these nation-changing precedents, the United States Congress called for a day of fasting and prayer each spring and a day of thanksgiving and praise every fall. Thanksgiving became fixed on the fourth Thursday of November–and days of prayer continued to mark the American heritage.
George Washington acknowledged a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” proclaimed by the Continental Congress on Thursday, May 6, 1779—at a crucial time in the war for independence. To enable his soldiers to participate, Washington ordered a one-day stoppage of work and recreation. In March 1780, Congress proclaimed another day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” to be held on April 26, 1780.
National days for seeking God’s stopped briefly after the war during the forming of the U.S. Constitution. They resumed on October 3, 1789, when President George Washington called for a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789—a renewal of the Thanksgiving tradition that took place in New England.
President Adams continued the practice of announcing days of prayer in the spring and fall. However, after James Madison, none of the next eleven presidents issued prayer proclamations–a period of 47 years, from 1815 to 1862,
America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, would change all that during our nation’s costliest war. President Lincoln called the nation to return to God on three separate occasions.
His first proclamation, focusing on national peace and unity, took place in September in 1861.
“Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisements, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action.”
Lincoln’s second proclamation, issued March 30, 1863, stated that we needed to repent as a nation through prayer and fasting. These are some of his sobering words during the dark days of the Civil War:
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
No one said it like Lincoln–to all Americans—black and white, slave and free.
His final proclamation of a day to return to God took place on August 4, 1864—just eight months before he was assassinated. He made a special plea to government leaders and all those in authority to seek God with fasting and prayer.
Special days to seek God continued sporadically through the first half of the 20th century, especially during World War I & II—with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even leading the nation in prayer over the radio on June 6, 1944 just prior to D-Day.
On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended it in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year.
On a personal note I had the privilege of serving the Washington For Jesus event which brought 700,000 people to the capital city on April 29, 1980 to call us back to God. Six months later, the Reagan Revolution brought “Morning in America” to our nation which launched an economic renewal which lasted a generation.
Promisekeepers called over a million men to Washington, D.C. to return to God on October 4, 1997. The Call mobilized hundreds of thousands of youth to the nation’s capital to seek God in both 2000 and 2008.
Returning to God is a part of our unique American heritage (though it is tragic that we ever turn away from Him). But we are human–we sin, forget, get complacent and take our blessings for granted.
This week–on September 26–God is calling us to return to Him once again.
From 9 am to 5 pm The Return: Sacred Assembly will take place on the Washington Mall. If you live in the area, please make every effort to join this day of repentance and renewal. The event will be simulcasted everywhere so that millions of people can participate.
Simultaneously, Franklin Graham will lead a seven-station prayer march from 10 am to 2 pm (also live-streamed) beginning at the Lincoln Memorial and ending at the U.S. Capitol.
And on September 26 President Trump will announce his new choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.
No. It’s the gracious call of God for America to return to Him.
I’m all in on September 26–and for the weeks and months that follow.