July the Fourth 1776 is considered the birthday of our nation. It was on July the Fourth that our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence breaking our ties with Great Britain and precipitating the Revolutionary War. This July the Fourth is our 229th birthday.
But the Declaration of Independence did not have the effect of law and did not make us a nation. It was the ratification of the Constitution of the United States more than a decade later that made us one nation under God.
The Articles of Confederation that had loosely united the original thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary War were not adequate to found a new nation. A Constitutional Convention was called and assembled at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 25 1787. By June 28th of that year, the convention was close to adjourning in disarray. United during the Revolutionary War by the common cause of liberty, the various representatives now found themselves divided over a number of domestic issues.
Benjamin Franklin, then 81 years old, rose to his feet and addressed the moderator of the convention, George Washington with these words.
“In the situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were graciously answered…
“I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probably that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel…
“I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessing on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”
Cogent words from a man historians claim was a Deist. Franklin’s eloquent appeal to prayer for guidance was predicated on the teachings of Scripture, Matthew 10:29; Psalm 127:1; Genesis 11:1-9. As our nation celebrates another birthday we find ourselves groping in the dark again, and our only hope now as then is prayer and the guidance of the Scriptures.