It was 1787 in Philadelphia as delegates met to try and form a new government. The outcome of the proceedings would be the United States Constitution, a document which, while not perfect, has survived and become a template for many new nations.
The meetings which led to its creation were almost destined to prove fruitless as arguments and differences arose between states. History records that the success of the meetings may well have been the result of a very uncharacteristic suggestion from Benjamin Franklin. Though a deist who believed that God was not actively involved in the affairs of men (even though he was a close personal friend of George Whitfield), he rose amidst the clamor and suggested, “We have arrived, Mr. President … at a very momentous and interesting crisis in our deliberations. Hitherto our views have been as harmonious, and our progress as great as could reasonably have been expected. But now an unlooked for and formidable obstacle is thrown in our way, which threatens to arrest our course … . I will suggest, Mr. President, that propriety of nominating and appointing, before we separate, a chaplain to this Convention, whose duty it shall be uniformly to assemble with us, and introduce the business of each day by an address to the Creator of the universe, and the Governor of all nations, beseeching Him to preside in our council, enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!”
He actually suggested commencing each session with prayer! Alexander Hamilton, not a friend of spiritual things, sarcastically remarked that we did not need “foreign aid” to solve our problems. But the suggestion of Franklin prevailed and each session was begun with prayer.
We, as well, have arrived at a momentous and “interesting” crisis in our experience. Our weakness and need is apparent on every hand. Gospel work is not seeing the fruit we would long to see; attendance at conferences hardly reflects the number of believers who could be there; assemblies in many areas are suffering loss and diminution by the homecall of older saints. All is not lost; but without genuine prayer and laying hold of God, all may be lost.
Scripture testifies to the value of even one person laying hold of God in sincerity: Hannah in her day; Daniel in his day. Elizabeth and Zacharias, Simeon and Anna, and Epaphras all remind us of the power of persistent, pointed prayer. Our danger is to look for newer techniques, for ways of communicating our message in a more culturally acceptable manner. While we should be sensitive to our audience in our preaching, we cannot improve on God’s method of “heralding” the truth in an authoritative yet gracious manner. All the other means of communicating the message are for the purpose of bringing people under the sound of the preaching of the Word.
Above all, we need to become people of prayer once again. We must throw off our spiritual pride of being “gathered to the Lord’s Name” and humbly confess that with that great blessing has come failure on our part. Penitent prayer assaulting God’s throne, coupled with a sincere realization that our only resource is in God, is our only hope amidst the crisis of our day.