President Abraham Lincoln set forth three separate days of national prayer and fasting for the United States. The first one was set for September 26, 1861, 158 years ago. Presidential proclamations are solemn things. They are of several types, chief among which are Executive Orders. Every president issues them and they hold force until rescinded, if ever. The occasion of Lincoln's first prayer and fasting proclamation was the onset of the Civil War. It was almost six months since Fort Sumter was fired upon by Confederate forces on April 12th. Lincoln felt it was time for the Northern States to appeal to God for mercy, forgiveness, and strength that peace might be restored speedily. The war would rage on for three and half years. I wonder what national or world calamity would compel any American president to issue a proclamation calling for prayer and fasting? John Adams, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson are the only four presidents who have issued proclamations precisely for "fasting, humiliation, and prayer." President George Bush issued a proclamation inviting prayer for the lives lost on 9/11. No humiliation or fasting. Perhaps our unity as a nation isn't what it used to be. To assume there would be some agreeable sentiment for such a religious joining for prayer, humiliation, and prayer is beyond the pale. That is sad and speaks to a much different national character. It also points to a place to which we will never return. Prayer may be common and regular enough, but where does fasting and humiliation fit in any modern culture? Christian Lent is not what it used to be. Perhaps only the Muslim Ramadan fasting is observed across the globe. And being humble before God...Let's not go there today. Over a century and a half ago our nation was called to prayer and fasting for a massive and worthy goal. At least we can remember.
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