The leaders of early America, including many presidents, often called for a day or period of fasting and prayer during crucial times of battle or when Godly wisdom was needed. John Adams, our second president, fearing an upcoming war with France, proclaimed May 9, 1798 a day of solemn fasting and prayer. Here is a portion of that proclamation.
“I have therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens of these states, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before GOD the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him, at the same time, of his infinite Grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his holy spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction.”
As with many other proclamations, John Adams used the words prayer, fasting, and humiliation. Prayer is simply talking to God and is taught hundreds of times throughout the Bible. Fasting is abstaining from food and other pleasures in an effort to focus on God. But what is “humiliation or humbling ourselves before God,” and why did so many of our early presidents and leaders use that term? Most of us think of humility as the opposite of pride, or “not being arrogant or assertive.” Those words define humility in a general sense, but the Biblical definition and application goes far beyond that. Biblical humility is “freedom from pride and arrogance, along with a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God; it is recognizing one’s inadequacy before a holy God.” The founding fathers of America recognized their inadequacy or inability to effectively fight a battle or to make major decisions in and of themselves. They recognized their need of God’s wisdom and intervention. As we continue to journey thru this season of “prayer and fasting,” is vitally important for us to humble ourselves before God. We can come before Him boldly but with an attitude of humility, recognizing who He is, and at the same time recognizing our own unworthiness. We need Him, we can do nothing of ourselves, we are completely dependent on Him. A vast majority of today’s leaders are unfortunately dependent on themselves and the political ideology that they identify with. We must not be like them; we must humble ourselves before God, praying for His wisdom and intervention during this critical time in our country.
“Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).