First Prayer in Congress
Rev. Jacob Duche
September 7, 1774
O – Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these our American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee, to Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved bands in the day of battle!
Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst The people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask In the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.
The founding fathers had the following to say about the prayer:
After this Mr. Duche, unexpected to every Body struck out into an extemporary Prayer, which filled the Bosom of every Man present. I must confess I never heard a better Prayer or one, so well pronounced. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervour, such Ardor, such Earnestness and Pathos, and in Language so elegant and sublime-for America, for the Congress, for The Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the Town of Boston. It has had an excellent Effect upon every Body here. – John Adams to Abigail Adams – September 16, 1774
Showing That the Founders of Our Government Were God-Fearing and Praying Men.
It seems as easy to believe bad things about a body of men, as it is to believe them about one man. Indeed, it is somewhat easier. For, if there is even a small portion of charity in our make-up, we will exercise it in favor of one whom we are afraid to slander, whereas we will receive and repeat the same story about a congregation, a convention, or a congress without fear or qualm. And if it is a body of dead men, their reputations are absolutely at our mercy. The classic exhortation, to speak nothing about the dead but praise, is rarely heeded after the first burst of post-mortem eulogy.
It is quite the custom for instance, to think and say that the members of the Continental Congress were not devout men, that they had no regard for prayer as an aid to their deliberations, that they did not take God into the account in discussing the measures and results of the revolution. This is an offense to all believers in a gracious Providence, and it is also a foul libel on the political fathers.
We are gratified, therefore, to note that the learned Judge Bacon, of Utica, N.Y., in a recent historical paper of great general value, has corrected this false and unjust estimate of the Continental Congress. He shows how, on the 7th of September, 1774, when the real business of the body was to begin, a formal request was made for an opening prayer by Rev. Mr. Duche and that gentleman was thanked by resolution for his “excellent” services.
This is more consideration than some modern assemblies show to the divine who invoke God’s blessing on their deliberations. Afterward that same Congress, at ten different times, appointed days for fasting and thanksgiving. The last order of that kind was voted late in October, 1781, when December 15 was declared a day for thanksgiving and prayer on account of Cornwallis’ final overthrow.
When that order was entered, a further evidence of devotion was given by Congress going in a body to the Dutch Lutheran church in Philadelphia, there “to return thanks to Almighty God for crowning the allied armies of the United States and France with success, by the surrender of the whole British army under the command of the Earl Cornwallis.”
Now let the reader call these historic facts to mind, the next time he hears it said that the founders of our Government were not God-fearing men; or that the foundations of the Republic were not laid in prayer.
Spirit Lake Beacon (Spirit Lake, Iowa) Sep 14, 1888
posted by rightthingtodo on May 1, 2012