Monday, January 14, 2008

America Must Pray - President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky just a few miles from where the Second Great Awakening revivals had started in 1801. Lincoln's Godly mother had steeped him in both the Old and New Testaments. From this he learned early to trust in the absolute "will of God." Too, this early experience in the Scriptures often drove him to prayer. He wrote, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."

Lincoln was self-educated. As a young boy he would often walk for miles to borrow books to read. He had a certain ambition within himself, studied for the bar, and received his law certificate. He was a laid back but fairly successful attorney. He became a state representative but it is true that early on he lost almost every election he first ran in.

His oratory made him a man who was both hated and loved. While not eloquent in speaking he spoke directly his home-spun common sense to the average man.

As the President of the United States, the burden of the War would progressively drive him closer and closer to trusting the Lord. He detested denominational squabbling and fights and generally stayed away from organized churches. However in the latter years of the War, Lincoln became more and more in tune to the Christian life. He would often have a Godly Presbyterian minister come to the White House and hold Sunday services. With the burden of his extremely emotional and often unstable wife Mary, and with the death of a young son, Lincoln had to learn more and more to fall back on God's providence. He realized the Lord had placed him in his position as President for the terrible times he was living through.

When Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois to take up the office of the Presidency, and with the War looming on the horizon, he told his friends, "Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

When possible during the War, Lincoln would write to a widow who had lost a son. To a Mrs. Bixby he wrote:

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement,
and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Lincoln four times during the War called for days of national humiliation and contrition for the sins of the nation. He spoke of how the people had sinned that helped bring on this terrible conflict. He was actually seen more than once on his knees in his office weeping before God. At no time, even in the depths of the War, did Lincoln ever question the motives, the wisdom, or the goodness of God. His prayers were those of wonderment, entreaty, and resignation. His only musings about God were confined to conjecturing what his Maker must think of the way America's Christians justified their actions and purposes.

In Lincoln's short but powerful Gettysburg Address, he mentions God, the Bible, and prayer, some fourteen times. And at least twice he refers to the purposes and the providence of God. Toward the close he made this famous statement: "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." Frederick Douglas called his message "more like a sermon than a state paper."

Lincoln kept with him, and read it everyday, The Believer's Daily Treasure. Each day he read a verse from it, inscribed some spiritual thoughts and a prayer. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, the entry for the day was: "Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and they are they, which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

When Lincoln was dead, even his critics realized what the nation had lost. Even in the South there was to a large degree mourning for the loss of this great man. There has never been such a spiritual President as Abraham Lincoln!