Sunday, April 13, 2008

America Must Pray - Francis Scott Key

The great test for the new nation following the War of Independence was what was known as the War of 1812. Old wounds had not healed and this was a renewed conflict with England. The British were forcefully boarding American ships at sea. They were searching for AWOL British sailors. In the struggle the city of Washington was burned by the English in direct retaliation for the torching of British facilities in Canada.

Prayer was being offered up in all the churches to end the conflict. Patriotism was in full bloom and it touched a lawyer who had argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Francis Scott Key. Having been caught behind enemy lines, Key was made a British prisoner. He was on board an English ship as the harbor of Baltimore was bombarded with a relentless barrage. As the smoke cleared Key saw the American flag still waving. He jotted down some poetic lyrics he called "The Defense of Fort McHenry." But the poem was renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" by a Baltimore newspaper.

Many do not know that in the original poem there was the phrase "In God is our Trust." This became when later made popular, "In God We Trust." The poem and the song that followed became an overnight success but it was not until 1931 that the U.S. Congress officially designated it the country’s national anthem.

Timothy Dwight was a well educated pastor and a longtime friend of George Washington. He wrote what is thought to be the oldest hymn by an American still in common use today. Some of the lines read:

I love Your kingdom, Lord,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved.
I love Your church, O God,
Dear as the apple of Your eye.

Dwight also wrote many essays and poems that parents read to their children. Dwight challenged parents with this essay: "All the duties of Christianity are eminently solemn and venerable in the eyes of children. But none will so strongly prove the sincerity of the parent; none so powerfully awaken the reverence of the child, none so happily recommend the instruction he receives as what is given at family devotion."

Dwight lived by example. He and his family gathered daily for prayer.