“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” – II Corinthians 3:17
Skeptics, appealing to the “Separation of Church and State” mantra, often will insist that prayer is a private matter that has no place in any public forum outside a church building, and certainly no place in government. In those few cases where skeptics are forced to relent, such as the military or Congressional meetings, the naysayers retreat only slightly, demanding generic prayers that are devoid of Judeo-Christian theology.
Some Christians, in the midst of all this back-and-forth, often ask why public prayer matters.
In point of fact, it matters on multiple fronts:
The assault on public prayer is a direct assault on American history. The war on public prayer is not about tolerance, as tolerance is—as we shall see in the coming installments—but a Trojan horse for the marketing of a very anti-American and totalitarian agenda. To the skeptic, our freedoms are not a matter of Providence, but rather a product of evolution and therefore subject to change. This is why fundamental liberties—such as freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms, expressed in black-letter print in the Constitution—are always up for reinterpretation by the skeptic.
To the skeptic, our Founders envisioned America as a secular Utopia in which law and justice are devoid of any connection to religious information. This worldview denies the fact that our very legal system of common law, which has its roots in the Old and New Testaments, predates our own Constitution by over a thousand years, and informs the way our Founders understood basic liberties.
The assault on public prayer is a coordinated dismissal of that Providence, and, by default, an assault on the liberties for which our Founders fought and died.
Our record of public prayer is integral to understanding American history. To understand America’s perseverance through difficult times requires an understanding of American character. Our history of public prayer, particularly in the military, provides snapshots of that collective character in every historical era, from colonial days to our modern era.
Our record of public prayer provides encouragement and warning to our generation. Our society is at its greatest impasse since the Civil War. Whereas we fought over secession and slavery, today the struggle is over our identity as a nation. The decision we make will determine our path forward.
John Adams said it succinctly: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Our history of prayer shows us where we have been, and where we can go. It in, we learn what kind of people we must be if we are to persevere as a union. Historic prayers give us pause to reflect that our great status as Americans is a gift from God, and not a product of philosophical rumination.