By Douglas V. Gibbs

Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

― Benjamin Franklin’s
Request for Prayer ―

 was the centerpiece of the view of the
founders.  Through Divine Providence, the
English Colonies
 defeated the most powerful military force in
the world, and through Divine Providence, the greatest constitution in history
was written after about four months of grueling debate.  Benjamin Franklin
, likely the
least religious of the delegates, recognized God’s Hand in the forging of this country,
and was not afraid to voice his opinion on the matter after the first few weeks
of debate during the federal convention of 1787, which was yielding little by
way of results.

elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin
, who had been
watching the tumultuous beginnings of the convention with patience, and in
silence, spoke up. “Gentlemen, we are missing something.”

understood that if the convention was going to be able to move forward, the
battling delegates had to discover a common bond that was both inspirational,
and demanded virtuous action.  He
recanted how they had been on their knees in prayer during the war against
.  He reminded the delegates how all odds had
been against the states that had united for war in the hopes of defeating the
mightiest war power on Earth.  With the
Hand of Divine Providence
 guiding them, and protecting them, the newly
formed union of states defeated the British, and now stood at the gateway of an
exceptional existence.

81-year old, possibly wearing his round-rimmed glasses, recounted all of the
miracles of America, and explained to the room of delegates that their
bickering, and disagreements, simply proved that human understanding is
  He commented on how they had
studied history for examples of good and bad government, including the
different forms of republics.
discussed that with all of the laborious research they had engaged in, and
looking at the current systems of government throughout Europe, that no system
studied was perfectly suitable for the needs of the fledgling United
  Even with all of that research,
in the convention they could not seem to be able to find the political truth
they sought.
  How is it that they could
not find the answer?
  Could it be that
something was missing?

they, perhaps, humbly appeal to The Creator
?  Should they not consult the “Father of lights
to illuminate our understandings?”

American Revolution
 was a dangerous undertaking.  During the war they were on their knees in
daily prayer.  The prayers were heard,
“for only His Favor could account for their victory.”

said that they were “consulting in peace on the means of establishing our
future national felicity.
  And have we
now forgotten that powerful friend?
do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”

 was not known to be a religious man.  He admitted that in his younger years he did
not give much thought to the credence of the existence of God.  But, as he had grown older, his observations
were telling him otherwise.  To explain
this, Franklin said, “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?”

God, he assured his fellow delegates, “We labor in vain.”
  Without God, the government formed by the
convention would fail.
  Without God they
would be divided, bickering over little partial local interests.
  Without God, the greatness that could be the
United States would be lost to future generations.

Franklin called himself a “deist” in his biography.
  What he meant was that he believed in The
Creator, but he was not so sure about all of the “religion” that had
infiltrated The Church.
  “Deist” did not
mean that he was not a Christian, it meant he was not a “religious person” and
that God had set things in motion, but didn’t necessarily get involved.
  Franklin, if he was not a follower of Jesus,
was not very good at it.
  He referenced
Scripture, including The Gospels, often.
Biblical principles existed throughout his writings.  Franklin was a firm believer that in order to
preserve liberty a society must be a virtuous one, and in his old age he had
realized that God’s Hand was involved in America’s infancy.

explaining to the delegation that it had been the Hand of God guiding them to
that point in history, Doctor Franklin
that the delegates pray before each session of the convention.

the recommendation had been made by Franklin, Alexander Hamilton
and a number of others who shared his political views, expressed their
apprehensions about praying before each session of the convention.  Hamilton’s sarcastic protest included his
refusal to “accept foreign aid.”  Hamilton
believed prayer would alarm onlookers, and present a perception that the
Framers of the Constitution were so unsure regarding their proceedings that
they were crying out to God.

four days of debate a motion was made to hire a member of the clergy to lead
the delegation in prayer before each session.
The motion was seconded, and then defeated by the vote of the
  The concern was that the
delegation lacked the funds required to hire a clergyman.
  Following the vote, those who wished to pray walked
to the nearest church, The Reformed Calvinistic Church of Philadelphia, and
asked Revolutionary War veteran and chaplain, Baptist Minister William Rogers,
to lead them in prayer.

during America’s journey, based on Franklin’s request, the tradition of prayer
before each session of Congress
 was initiated, and has been in place ever

the opinion of a majority of the founders, Divine Providence
 was an important key to the success of America,
and is an integral part in maintaining the essence of freedom.

― William Rogers’
Prayer ―

“As this is a period, O Lord! big, with
events, impenetrable by any human scrutiny, we fervently recommend to thy
fatherly notice, that august Body assembled in this city, who compose our
Federal Convention; will it please Thee, O Eternal I Am! to favor them from day
to day with thy immediate presence; be thou their wisdom and their strength!
Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for
healing all divisions, and promoting the good of the great whole; incline the
hearts of all the people to receive with pleasure, combined with a
determination to carry into execution, whatever these thy servants may wisely
recommend; that the United States of America may furnish the world with one
example of a free and permanent government, which shall be the result of human
and mutual deliberation, and which shall not, like all other governments,
whether ancient or modern, spring out of mere chance, or be established by
force. – May we triumph in the cheering prospect of being completely delivered
from anarchy; and continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to
partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized 
society!” — July 4, 1787; Prayer for the
delegates of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention by Reverend William

William Rogers (1751–1824) was an American
clergyman who is perhaps most famous for leading the Constitutional Convention
in prayer on July 4, 1787, at the Reformed Calvinistic Church of Philadelphia.
Besides being the first student to attend and graduate Brown University (then
known as Rhode Island College), from 1771 to 1824, Rogers was a Baptist
clergyman, serving as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia from
1772 to 1775. He also served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the
Revolutionary War.

Chaplains of the House
of Representatives and the United States Senate

inclusion of prayer before the opening of each session of both the House and
the Senate continues to this day.  The
history can be traced back to the colonial period.  Colonial assemblies regularly had chaplains,
who would open proceedings with prayer. 
The Second Continental Congress, after a request from Samuel Adams, did
the same. 

the Constitutional Convention, about a month after the Constitutional
Convention had begun in 1787, Ben Franklin proposed that the sessions begin
with a prayer.  After a few days of
spirited debate, some members proceeded to a nearby church to pray.  Following Franklin’s recommendation, in 1789,
a chaplain’s prayers opened Congress for both the House and the Senate.

election of William Linn as first Chaplain of the House occurred on May 1,
1789.  Shortly after the Senate first
convened in April 1789 in New York City, one of its “first orders of business”
was to convene a committee to recommend a Chaplain, selecting the Right
Reverend Samuel Provoost, Episcopal Bishop of New York.  The Senate moved to Philadelphia the
following year, and the Right Reverend William White, Philadelphia’s Episcopal
bishop, was selected.  In 1800, when the
Senate relocated to Washington, D.C., clergymen from various Christian
denominations continued the tradition.

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