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In 1789, President George Washington penned the Thanksgiving Proclamation, commissioning a national public day of thanksgiving and prayer. Two hundred and twenty-three years later, we remain thankful for many of the things our first President spoke of. Despite a hard fought election, overseas conflicts, a prolonged recession, and the threat of a ‘fiscal cliff,’ we are a nation that is still blessed with, as Washington put it, “a great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty.” Washington was also specifically grateful for “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.” Our first president understood the necessity of both these pillars of freedom to the future success of a fledgling republic. Despite coming under unprecedented attack in recent years from various quarters, our religious liberties remain a critical foundation of our civic life.
One thing that has changed in the past two centuries is that much of our nation has seemingly forgotten the second half of Washington’s commission: prayer. As we gather with family and friends around our dining room tables on Thursday, many of us will offer up prayers of thanks, but that is not all Washington had in mind. He asked the young nation to, “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” He recognized that the Lord is the “Ruler of Nations” and will bring judgment to the collective sins of society as well as those of individuals.
We should join Washington in continuing to pray for our nation in this way, in the hopes that our God would, “render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”
From all of us at Massachusetts Family Institute, have a blessed Thanksgiving, and please keep us in your prayers as well.