Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation 97 – Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer
By the President of the United States of America
Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves, us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
Lincoln, of course, wasn’t the first to appeal to God for forgiveness and have God respond with a delay of judgment. Another famous example is given in Jonah Chapter 3:
“And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them, and He did it not.”
[Nineveh – Assyrian empire - final destruction 612 B.C.]
Jonah is dated to the period of King Jeroboam, between 780 and 750 B.C., between 138 and 168 years from Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh’s end in 612 B.C., so the king responded to Jonah in repentance and humiliation somewhere between 150 and 165 years before the final destruction of Nineveh.
Contrary to popular thought, Obama hasn’t yet put an end to our yearly national day of prayer, although there are some distinct differences in addition to the date, which in 2016 was May 5, and the participation, which doesn’t appear to include our president in its observance.
Obama’s proclamation, available on the Internet, involves all faiths instead of Lincoln’s appeal to our Judeo-Christian God. Moreover, the aspect of repentance and humiliation over our sins and our fervent search for the Lord’s pardon for our evil doings is entirely absent. In fact, the proclamation carries a suggestion that instead of a direct appeal to God, prayer is of psychological benefit.
Oh, and by the way, it’s now been 153 years since that proclamation of Lincoln’s.
Published by Art Perkins