Whatever happened to proclamations of National Days of public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer to Almighty God? The exhortation - “humiliation and fasting” – before God, “with the deepest humility, acknowledging before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation” as John Adams’ March 23, 1798 proclamation stated - having all but disappeared from national proclamations. Aptly quoted by Abraham Lincoln in his August 12, 1861 Proclamation, appointing a National Day of public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7a)
Following are some original presidential proclamations, attesting that this American Republic is indeed a nation under God, blessed and protected through her first allegiance to, and dependency upon - the love, mercy, compassion and kindness of Almighty God:
Day of Public Humiliation Appointed
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favourable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed, and as this duty at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are, at present, placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation, by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a Foreign Power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our Commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens, while engaged in their lawful business on the seas. – Under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country, demands, at this time, a special attention from its inhabitants.
I have, therefore, thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the ninth day of May next, be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer: That the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all Religious Congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching him at the same time of His infinite Grace through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his Holy Spirit, to that sincere Repentance and Reformation, which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favour and Heavenly Benediction: That it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication, that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it: That our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate, and perpetuated to the latest generations: That our Public Councils and Magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period: That the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence, and inspired with that vigour and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished, and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages: That the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their Agriculture, Commerce, Fisheries, Arts and Manufactures, be blessed and prospered: That the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens, and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And finally, I recommend, that on the said day, the duties of Humiliation and Prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the bestower of every good gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States, in the independent enjoyment of their Religious and Civil Freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favours, conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.
Given under my hand and the Seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this twenty-third day of March, in the year of our Lord* one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight, and of the independence of the said States the twenty-second. >
JOHN ADAMS .By the President:
TIMOTHY PICKERING, Secretary of State.
Day of Public Humiliation and Fasting Appointed
The two houses of the National Legislature having, by a joint resolution expressed their desire that, in the present time of public calamity and war, a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting, and of prayer to Almighty god for the safety and welfare of these States, his blessing on their arms and a speedy restoration of peace: I have deemed it proper, by this proclamation, to recommend that Thursday the twelfth of January next be set apart as a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering, at the same time, in their respective religious assemblies, their humble adoration to the great sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people, in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season; in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security; and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defence and protection of our country; a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the human race, that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offences against Him; to support and animate them in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions, so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquility at home, and to their liberties, civil and religious; and that He would, in a special manner, preside over the nation, in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms, in maintaining its rights, and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts against it; and finally, that, by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace, its blessings may be speedily and happily restored.
Given at the city of Washington, the sixteenth day of November, one thousand eight hundred and fourteen, and of the independence of the United States the thirty-eighth.
A Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer Appointed
And whereas it is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission to his chastisements; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions, in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offences, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action:
And, whereas, when our own beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation, and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy - to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved; that our arms may be blessed, and made effectual for the re-establishment of law, order, and peace, throughout the wide extent of our country; and that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing, by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored in all its original excellence:
Therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday in September next, as a day of Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting, for all the people of the nation. And I do earnestly recommend to all the people, and especially to all ministers and teachers of religion, of all denominations, and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day, according to their several creeds and modes of worship, in all humility, and with all religious solemnity, to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace, and bring down plentiful blessings upon our country.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed, this twelfth day of August, A.D.* eighteen hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-sixth.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
*The year of our Lord (Jesus Christ) - Editor’s note.