July 4th: Celebrating the nation’s independence and our dependence on God

Psalm 33--12

It is by far one of the most popular summer celebrations in the nation: the 4th of July or Independence Day recognizes America’s official severing of ties with Great Britain, when the Second Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence. According to a discussion of the history of the Fourth by PBS, http://www.pbs.org/capitolfourth/history.html, the committee responsible for writing the document included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Although the document was principally crafted by Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer, a total of 86 changes were made to his draft. The final version was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.

The custom eventually spread to other towns, both large and small, where the day was marked with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks. Observations throughout the nation became even more common at the end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870 and in 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a holiday, but with full pay for federal employees. Today, communities across the nation mark this major midsummer holiday with parades, fireworks, picnics and the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and marches by John Philip Sousa.

Today, 238 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in the midst of these turbulent times, never has there been a greater need for divine guidance and direction for the nation though prayer. The words of the spiritual have never been truer than when they declared, “There is trouble all over this world.” During times of desperation and deepest need, the nation cries out to God. The Psalmist reminds us

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any man.

In “History Reflection for 4th of July: How Prayer Underpinned American Independence” Fr. Stephen Lynch, states, “Prayer played an important role in the American struggle for independence.” He goes on to relate a request that the meetings of the Continental Congress be opened with prayer. After considerable disagreement, the Congress agreed to have the Rev. Mr. Duche read a prayer. John Adams describes what transpired:

“Accordingly, next morning the Rev. Duche appeared with his Episcopal vestments and read the 85th Psalm. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning.

“George Washington was kneeling there, alongside him Patrick Henry, James Madison, and John Hancock.  By their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered.”

Lynch concludes by saying, “The First Continental Congress proved to be an inspiring example of the fraternal unity that can come through devout prayer.”

In reflecting on the importance of prayer in our nation’s beginning, we are reminded of the words of Jesus Christ who declared, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” As never before, we need to continue to pray for our nation.

On this Fourth of July, when much that plagues our nation appears beyond our control, we not only celebrate our independence as a nation, but we also recognize that more than ever we must also recognize our dependence upon God as well.

O God our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come.

Our shelter from the stormy blast

And our eternal home.

Take-6 offers this stirring rendition of “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now,” as we declare our dependence upon God on Independence Day.

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4 Responses to “July 4th: Celebrating the nation’s independence and our dependence on God”

  1. Richard L Rice Says:

    Thank you for the reminder of how our national founders didn’t rely on human judgment or wisdom, but rather waited upon the Lord in prayer, seeking His providential guidance. May love and faithfulness again meet together in our land; and righteousness and peace kiss each other.

  2. Dr. J Says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtfully expressed comment. May it be even as you said. . . Amen!

  3. Al Says:

    “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.” (The 33rd Psalm)

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