April 23: Praying with James Garfield

In 1858 James Garfield debated the liberal John Denton, an Englishman who denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the inspiration of the Bible, and the Genesis account of Creation. One thousand people gathered for the five day long debate! What was the driving force behind this future President?

“I have not read enough today. I hope not to let another Lord’s Day pass without doing more and learning more of the Holy Word.”

James A Garfield

Garfield was not always close to the Lord. But a dramatic conversion changed his destiny.

“Two years ago today I was taken with the ague in Cleveland. When I consider the sequel of my history thus far, I can see the providence of God in a striking manner. Two years ago I…. [was] ripe for ruin. On the canal…. ready to drink in every species of vice-and with the ultimate design of going on to the ocean. See the facts. I was taken sick, unable to labor, went to school two terms, thus cultivating my moral and intellectual faculties, took a school in the winter, and greatest of all, obeyed the gospel…. Thus by the providence of God I am what I am, and not a sailor. I thank Him.”

James A Garfield

Garfield was reputed by many as brilliant, and did well in college. However, he was not best known for his scholarly readings in college:

He read Xenophon, Cæsar, and Virgil with appreciation; but his superiority was more easily recognized in the prayer-meetings and debating societies of the college, where he was assiduous and conspicuous

-William Walter Phelps

God’s Word and Prayer are two essentials for every Christian. Let’s seek to make that a hallmark of our lives.

April 22: Praying with William McKinley

At twelve years old, William McKinley realized his condition in a Methodist revival meeting.

William McKinley
William McKinley

“I have not done my duty, I have sinned. I want to be a Christian. . . . I give myself to the Savior who has done so much for me.”

William McKinley, in The Chatauquan

Unlike some who make a “profession”, but perhaps the Holy Spirit does not take possession, McKinley was a committed Christian. During the Civil War, McKinley was a leader in the prayer meetings among the troops:

The prayer meetings which we have been holding semi-weekly seem to have a good effect upon our brother soldiers, and are exerting a salutary influence, not only among our own company, but upon adjoining companies.

William McKinley

But can someone maintain his faith in the political system?
Can Christianity and Politics mix? Here’s what one of his companions said:

Major McKinley is a quiet man upon religious subjects, but he is a religious man. I have been with him many times and during all of his campaigns. We have frequently attended political meetings and banquets, and have often retired at a late hour, but I have never known him to go to his bed until he had read from his Bible and had knelt in prayer.

W.K. Miller, in The Chatauquan

Following the election of 1896 – where McKinley faced the equally devout William Jennings Bryan, McKinley was elected, and faced many important decisions. The Spanish American War literally drove this president to his knees!

I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed to Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. 

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=1257

Don’t end your day without prayer – and when facing problems, pray to God for guidance!

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

April 20: The women who prayed for James K Polk

James K Polk
James K Polk

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

1 Peter 3:1

It is Biblical to pray for people’s salvation, especially if that person is an unsaved husband.

Sarah Childress Polk was a devout Christian, but her husband, President James K. Polk, was not a believer. Unfortunately this mixed marriage was not unique – her husband’s parents were split: a devout mother and a scoffing father.

In fact, it wasn’t until her husband’s deathbed that he finally settled his lifelong struggle between skepticism and Christianity. James K Polk was an ambitious politician, but on his deathbed, he realized there were things more important than politics.

Interestingly it appears God used a sermon preached years earlier on his birthday to stir his conscience:

This was my birthday, being fifty years old. The text was from the Acts of the Apostles, chap. 17, verse 31: ‘Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained.’ It was communion day, and the sermon was solemn and forcible. It awakened the reflection that I had lived fifty years, and that before fifty years more would expire I would be sleeping with the generations which have gone before me. I thought of the vanity of this world’s honors, how little they would profit me half a century hence, and that it was time for me to be “putting my house in order.”

Diary of James K Polk

For twenty five years of their marriage, it is likely that Mrs. Polk prayed for her husband. For many more years it is likely that his mother prayed for him as well. Finally their prayers were answered only on his last days in earth.

Sometimes it seems that our prayer requests for loved ones will never be answered. That’s why James reminds us:

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much

James 5:16

April 19: The Allegory of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

An allegory is a a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. It is noteworthy that this President would achieve his greatest triumph on Palm Sunday (when Lee surrendered to Grant, ending the War), only to be quickly followed by his assassination on Good Friday.

Today is the 154th Good Friday “since the assassination of the youthful skeptic who became the most religious of all Presidents and who strove like no other to know and do the will of God.” (WI Family Council).

That skeptic, Abraham Lincoln, was in the Oval Office before Phineas Gurley was able to lead him to the Lord after the death of his second son, Willie. (Marvin Olasky)

In our post-Christian nation, many may not be interested in the message of Good Friday and Easter. But perhaps the interesting parallels of the Civil War may help you point your skeptic friends to the Savior.

Abraham Lincoln saw the Civil War as a form of atonement for the nation’s sins. He knew that sin must be atoned for with a blood sacrifice.

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Second Inaugural Address, March 4th 1865

This would be a substitutionary atoning sacrifice – people not directly involved in the sin would die – similar to that of 1 Chronicles 21.

So how can man receive the benefits of atonement? Lincoln shows the key to national, and personal healing as he called the nation to prayer, with a prayer that we can still pray today!

And 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.

March 30th, 1863 Fasting Proclamation

Genuine repentance and dependence upon God – another way of saying what Jesus said as He began His ministry:

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark 1:15

Let’s pray today that our loved ones will repent and believe as well!

Let us pray also that our nation may return to the LORD God!

April 18: Praying with John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams

His father, John Adams, was away while he grew up, but wrote to him regularly. At eleven, he joined his father in France where they successfully lobbied the French to intervene in the American Revolution. He graduated from Harvard in 1787, and was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands by George Washington, responsible for managing one of the largest creditors to the nascent Republic. His father was elected President in 1796, and appointed him to Ambassador to Prussia, where he brokered an important trade deal. In 1803 he was elected to the US Senate, served as a professor at Brown, and argued before the US Supreme Court. Despite being unanimously confirmed to a position on the US Supreme Court, he declined the honor in 1811. In 1824 he was elected the 6th President of the United States. What does he have to say about prayer?

September 1, 1811
From St. Petersburg, Russia, where John Quincy Adams served as Ambassador

I have myself for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavoured to read it with the same spirit & temper of mind which I now recommend to you. That is with the intention & desire that it may contribute to my advancement in Wisdom & Virtue My desire is indeed very imperfectly successful, for like you & like the Apostle Paul, I find a law in my members warring against the law of my mind but as I know that it is my nature to be imperfect, so I know it is my duty to aim at perfection, & feeling & deploring my own frailties, I can only pray Almighty God for the aid of his spirit to strengthen my Good desires & to subdue my propensities to evil—For it is from him that every Good & every perfect Gift decends.—

My custom is, to read four or five Chapters of the bible every morning immediately after rising from bed. It employs almost an hour of my time & seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. But as other cares, duties & occupations engage the remainder of it, I have perhaps never devoted a sufficient portion of my hours to meditation upon what I have read—Even meditation itself is often fruitless—unless it has some special object in view. usefull thoughts arise in the mind and pass away without being remembered or ever applied to any good purpose, like seed scattered upon the surface of the ground which the birds devour or the wind blows away, or which rots without taking root however good the soil may be upon which it is cast.

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-2021

Interestingly, we have his diaries that show how he started the year!

January 1st, 1829 – “The year begins in gloom. My wife had a sleepless and painful night. The dawn was overcast, and as I began to write, my shaded lamp went out, self-extinguished. It was only for lack of oil; and the notice of so trivial an incident may serve but to mark the present temper of my mind…. But, in good or in evil fortune, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Let him look to the Fountain of all good; let him consult the oracles of GOd. I began the year with prayer, and then turning to my Bible, read the first Psalm. It affirms that the righteous man is, and promises that he shall be, blessed. This is comfort and consolation, and points in general terms to the path of duty. May the light of this lamp never forsake me!

Page 89, https://books.google.com/books?id=rhdPAQAAMAAJ&dq=john%20quincy%20adams%20prayer&pg=PA89#v=onepage&q=prayer&f=false

John Quincy Adams was busy in politics in Europe and America, but still spent the first hour of each day with the LORD. Let’s start our day with prayer and the Word!

April 17: Praying with George Washington

Wreath laying at George Washington Grave
Wreath laying at George Washington Grave

I’ve had the privilege of laying a wreath at the grave of George Washington, the father of our country.

At the ceremony, one of our group read what is referred to as his prayer for his country. This prayer is read twice daily at Mount Vernon.

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Devine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”   Amen

https://www.mountvernon.org/the-estate-gardens/the-tombs/george-washingtons-prayer-for-his-country/
George Washington
George Washington

Did you notice how Biblical this prayer was? I caught references to at least 5 different passages of Scripture. Let me know if I missed any:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Romans 13:1

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 13:34

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:8

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

Colossians 3:14

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:7

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. 

Psalm 33:12

Let’s try to pray Biblical prayers as well!

For more on George Washington’s religious beliefs check out this article from WallBuilders.