I get a chance to travel around the country a good bit — speaking to various groups who at least pretend to enjoy what I have to say. I almost always enjoy the events and I especially enjoy meeting the folks who attend. Usually my only task is make to folks laugh — something I truly enjoy doing. But once in a great while the job takes a little bit of a serious turn, and sometimes I am asked to speak on a particular subject. I actually have to prepare for these gigs.
Thursday morning I had the honor to speak at the National Day of Prayer breakfast in Oconee County. What a concept! A day set aside for prayer. I hope it catches on.
Usually when I speak people expect to hear a funny story or two, no matter what the topic or occasion. I have a couple of stories I like about prayer. For instance, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue hosted a prayer service on the steps of the State Capitol to ask the Almighty to intervene and end the drought that was plaguing the state at the time, the great Methodist preacher, Gil Watson, showed up to pray. As Gil approached the podium a scowl creased his face and he said, “Oh ye of little faith. Hundreds of people showed up to pray for rain and I’m the only one who brought an umbrella.”
And then he held up his.
Another good story about prayer concerns the legendary Alabama football coach, Bear Bryant — the only coach in America to have an animal named after him. Former Tide quarterback Joe Willie Namath was playing for the New York Jets and had become Broadway Joe. He had also run afoul of his coach and the NFL commissioner and was at a low point in his life. He called his former college coach seeking advice. Coach Bryant reportedly asked him a rather poignant question. He said, “Joe, have you gotten too big to pray?”
That’s a pretty good question, isn’t it? I can’t help but wonder if we, as a nation, have gotten too busy to pray. This nation was founded on Godly principles, even though there are many revisionists among us that would deny that fact.
John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that when the delegates of the First Continental Congress met for the first time in Philadelphia, a motion was made to begin the proceedings with prayer. Two delegates objected, stating that the religious beliefs of the congress were too diverse, pointing out that there were Quakers and Congregationalists and Episcopalians and even a Baptist or two among the delegates.
Samuel Adams — who was a tavern owner and probably not a Baptist — stood and said that he could hear a prayer of any man of piety and virtue who was a friend to the country, and to this day each session of Congress begins with prayer. The Declaration of Independence — our nation’s birth certificate — is filled with references to God.
Jefferson in the first sentence wrote of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God ... ” He acknowledged that all of our rights are “endowed by our Creator” — that’s with a capital C. And he appealed to the blessings of the “Supreme Judge of the World.”
In his famous speech at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin noted that God governs in the affairs of men and asked, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
The magnificent buildings in Washington, D.C., are adorned with countless references to God, the Bible and the power of prayer. In the U.S. Capitol, itself, the words “God shed his grace on thee” are carved into the walls of one corridor. In God we Trust — our nation’s motto — is carved into the walls of the House Chamber, and the House Chamber also contains a statue of Moses — holding the Ten Commandments. The Latin Phrase “Annuit Coeptis” adorns the Senate Chamber — it’s Latin and means God favored our undertakings.
Some people take great pleasure in trying to paint our Founding Fathers as agnostic or anti-religious — I have heard Abraham Lincoln described as an “infidel” — and they take statements made by these great men during times of doubt out of context to prove their points. I’d hate to be judged by posterity by some of the comments I have made during my life. Wouldn’t you?
At any rate, I was quite honored to have an opportunity to share my beliefs about our nation’s relationship with the Almighty. We are constantly asking God to bless America. I think it would be much more appropriate — and fruitful — to ask America to bless God.
It’s Mother’s Day weekend. Mine’s long gone. I wish she could have been with me Thursday. She would have been proud of her little boy.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his past columns at www.rockdalecitizen.com, www.newtoncitizen.com or gwinnettdailypost.com.