Five years later, after the United States had chosen George Washington as the first President under the U.S. Constitution, the schedule of events for the first inauguration day ran in the New York Daily Advertiser:
"[O]n the morning of the day on which our illustrious President will be invested with his office, the bells will ring at nine o'clock, when the people may go up to the house of God and in a solemn manner commit the new government, with its important train of consequences, to the holy protection and blessing of the most high. An early hour is prudently fixed for this peculiar act of devotion and . . . is designed wholly for prayer."
Just months after Washington had been sworn in as president, both the House and Senate passed a resolution asking him to declare a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” Concurring, on Oct. 3, 1789, Washington issued a proclamation which read in part:
"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness"
"Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.
These historical examples, drawn from the many that are extant and accessible, show the centrality of prayer in the earliest years of our Republic. And they demonstrate that Gov. Perry’s proclamation of “a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God's guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation,” epitomizes the way George Washington and the Founding Generation approached matters during our Republic’s earliest years.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund (www.telladf.org).
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.