What I Learned at Seminary: A Snippet

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[Do NOT fall asleep on me just because I posted a picture of George Washington!]

Contrary to popular belief, George Washington was not a deist. After 15 or so years of primary research, Dr. Peter Lillback, author of George Washington’s Sacred Fire, purported last night that America’s Father was indeed a devout Christian. Lillback taught us that Washington maintained an orthodox Christian view of God’s sovereignty, using the word “Providence” over 270 times in his reference to politics, weather, and daily occurrences. His letters and political documents contain over 200 Biblical references from Genesis to Revelation; several of his personal letters weave multiple Scriptures together, revealing a deep knowledge of the Word of God. He also referred to himself as a Christian on multiple occasions. The supporting point that meant the most to me was Washington’s commitment to prayer. Not only did Washington faithfully carry and use a custom-made Common Book of Prayer, but he also wrote over 100 prayers of his own and commenced the political birth of America with a prayer meeting. I don’t know about you, but although I jot some prayers down from time to time, I surely have not crafted and recorded 100 intentional prayers (let alone prayed that many more without writing them down!). I’m deeply moved by Washington’s apparent reliance on our Sovereign God.

In one of his prayer journals, he wrote:

Holy and eternal Lord God who art the King of heaven, and the watchman of Israel, that never slumberest or sleepest, what shall we render unto thee for all thy benefits; because thou hast inclined thine ears unto me, therefore will I call on thee as long as I live, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same let thy name be praised. among the infinite riches of thy mercy towards me, I desire to render thanks & praise for thy merciful preservation of me this day, as well as all the days of my life; and for the many other blessings & mercies spiritual & temporal which thou hast bestowed on me, contrary to my deserving. All these thy mercies call on me to be thankful and my infirmities & wants call for a continuance of thy tender mercies; cleanse my soul, O Lord, I beseech thee, from whatever is offensive to thee, and hurtful to me, and give me what is convenient for me. watch over me this night, and give me comfortable and sweet sleep to fit me for the service of the day following. Let my soul watch for the coming of the Lord Jesus; let my bed put me in mind of my grave, and my rising from there of my last resurrection; O heavenly Father, so frame this heart of mine, that I may ever delight to live according to thy will and command, in holiness and righteousness before thee all the days of my life. Let me remember, O Lord, the time will come when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise and stand before the judgment seat, and give an account of whatever they have done in the body, and let me so prepare my soul, that I may do it with joy and not with grief. bless the rulers and people of this and forget not those who are under any affliction or oppression. Let thy favor be extended to all my relations friends and all others who I ought to remember in my prayer and hear me I beseech thee for the sake of my dear redeemer in whose most holy words, I farther pray, Our Father, who art in Heaven…

Lillback concluded that Washington spiritual beliefs matter very much to America, today. After all, he is the single-most influential man in America’s history and established the foundations for its politics and faith. Washington’s beliefs determine the way in which we interpret the constitution. They also determine whether or not Christians have a place in the public square. And, most importantly to me, if Washington did indeed believe in Jesus Christ and pray often for God’s sovereign guidance and protection, than perhaps it was God who inspired some of the richest political blessings that have affected the entire world…

This sparked in me the desire to know if any other countries have been established by one or more people who were sincerely seeking God’s direction and blessing. If I were proposing a thesis topic this evening, it would revolve around an exploration of what those countries are like today; I wonder, do they wrestle with their identities as ferociously as we do? I wonder, do they still pray? Do we?