On the night before the 2018 midterm elections, Vice President Mike Pence advised that “prayers are a pathway to heal” a divided country.
CBN News political reporter David Brody asked Pence on the campaign trail, traveling through Montana and South Dakota, what he felt God is providentially accomplishing through the presidency of Donald Trump; how “God is using imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will?”
“I believe as every president from George Washington forward believed in the role of Providence in the life of this nation,” he replied.
“I really do believe the prayers of the American people have made a difference. And even in these divided times, I do believe those prayers are a pathway to heal our country and continue to move our nation forward.” –@VP pic.twitter.com/QxsDtANLHf
— CBN News (@CBNNews) November 6, 2018
Pence continued, “I really do believe the prayers of the American people have made a difference. And even in these divided times, I really do believe those prayers are a pathway to heal our country and continue to move our nation forward.”
The vice president recounted, “I gotta tell you the sweetest words the president and I ever hear is when people reach across the rope line and grab your hand and say, ‘I’m praying for you.’ And we hear it all of the time.”
Washington often referred to God’s providence — governance over the affairs of this world — and the need for prayer to instill faith and bring the American people together during the trying and tumultuous times of the Revolutionary War and the founding of the republic.
Upon taking command of the Continental Army in 1775, the general ordered his soldiers and officers “not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance of divine services to implore the blessings of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.”
At the conclusion of the war in 1783, Washington wrote in his Farewell Orders to the Army, “The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten.”
He observed, “The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.”
Washington hit the note of God’s providence again after being unanimously chosen by the Electoral College vote to serve as the nation’s first president.
In light of the great task before him and the realization that he alone was not up to the task, Washington, during his Inaugural Address, offered a prayer and encouraged the American people to do the same.
“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge,” the commander-in-chief said.
Washington further noted, “No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
Washington also started the tradition that every president has followed since of placing his hand on a Bible while being sworn in and adding the words, “So help me God,” at the end of the oath of office.
Pence is correct that presidents throughout U.S. history called on the nation to pray, including Abraham Lincoln, who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, established to give thanks to God.
During the height of the Civil War in fall 1863, Lincoln exhorted his fellow Americans in his Thanksgiving proclamation, in light of the “watchful providence of Almighty God” to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
During his first Inaugural Address in 1981, President Ronald Reagan said, “I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.”
Reagan would go on to formalize the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.
When Reagan took the oath of office, both in 1981 and 1985, he placed his hand on his mother’s Bible, which was opened to 2 Chronicles 7:14.
The passage promises, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Randy DeSoto is the author of “We Hold These Truths,” which chronicles how leaders have appealed to God’s providence throughout American history.
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