Bryan Fischer
Tea Party prayer inspired by Ben Franklin
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By Bryan Fischer
April 18, 2009

I had the privilege of opening the Tea Party event with an invocation at Ann Morrison Park and closing it with a benediction at the Capitol Park rally, where I also served as the M.C.

When organizers initially approached me with an invitation to pray, they broached the subject as to whether the prayers should invoke a specific deity. I politely said, "Well, I certainly don't have to be the one to pray, but if I do, I'm going to have to pray the way my rabbi taught me to pray, and that is in the name of Jesus."

Plus, I added, one of the reasons we're doing this event is to protect our right to religious liberty, and fundamental to that constitutional right is allowing public prayers to be prayed according to the dictates of conscience rather than being neutered by politically correct censorship. Permission to pray in Jesus' name was quickly granted by organizers, who are men of faith themselves.

Terry Shepard, convincingly attired as Founding Father Ben Franklin, prepared the way for both of my prayers by delivering a portion of the speech Franklin delivered at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, appealing to the body to resume the practice of opening each session with an invocation.

The Constitutional Convention was on the verge of breaking apart completely over the issue of representation, a stalemate created by the concern of smaller states that they would be overpowered by the larger states, and the concern of larger states that smaller states would be given representation out of proportion to their relative size.

Tempers were short, and the ship of state seemed headed for the rocks before its maiden voyage had barely begun.

Franklin rose and uttered these immortal words:

"In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?

"In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.

"To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?

"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

"We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel...

"I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business."

(Franklin's words are hardly those of a committed deist, for deists believe that God created everything and then bowed out to let the world of men run things on their own. But Franklin's God was in fact quite active in the affairs of men: he was a God who answers prayers for protection, is a "superintending Providence," is able to offer assistance, is a God who "governs in the affairs of men," can aid an empire's rise, and can build a political house. Hardly a remote, detached, disengaged Deity!)

James Madison then moved that Franklin's appeal for prayer be enacted, and Edmund Randolph of Virginia made a further motion that all the delegates attend church the following Sunday.

The result? According to delegate and eyewitness Jonathan Dayton, "We assembled again; and every...unfriendly feeling has been expelled, and a spirit of conciliation had been cultivated."

The Founders soon resolved the impasse over representation, by protecting the interests of the larger states by giving them representatives in the House apportioned to population, and protecting the interests of the smaller states by granting every state two senators.

We face perilous and uncertain times today, with challenges before our nation as daunting as the ones facing the Founders. Without question the need for our lawmakers and for the people of this land to seek the aid of Providence is as great as it was in 1787.

As I prayed at yesterday's event, if a nation cannot rise without his aid, it certainly cannot be sustained without his aid.

Although not all Christians are called to political activism, they are all called to pray, and the urgent need for prayer has never been greater in my lifetime than it is right now.

© Bryan Fischer

 

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