In 1620, 102 Pilgrims boarded a ship, leaving a relatively easy life behind to travel to barren land for new beginnings. Most have heard this magnificent story. We love the Thanksgiving holiday with turkey and pumpkin pie that is annually celebrated in honor of our ancestor’s bravery. But let us take a deeper look at this story.
The pilgrims disagreed with the Church of England on many different Biblical grounds. Many felt that the traditions and orders were man-made and not of the Bible. They were known for their conservative beliefs and values and were called Separatists. Their voyage to America would not be the first for these brave souls. They first fled England, and settled in a more tolerant country called Holland.
In Holland, they found religious freedom, but their children found secular life to be enticing. The Separatists were alarmed by this fact. In an effort to preserve their children, they made a decision to sell everything, give up a life of ease, and move to the New World.
Yes, most have heard about this story in second grade. Most of us wore the Pilgrim hats, and enjoyed decorating with Indian corn, but the Pilgrim’s story is really one about faith in the Lord. A story, when completed, would be the foundation of one of the greatest nations on Earth.
The Pilgrims were plagued with problems from the beginning. They set sail in two ships, but soon the Speedwell sprung a disastrous leak. They returned to land, and combined two ships of people and supplies into one ship – the Mayflower. The Mayflower was a merchant ship that was designed to carry cargo, not passengers. The delay caused them to sail during the Atlantic stormy season. Soon passengers became sea sick, and the living conditions were far from sanitary. Still nothing would stop them from pursuing their calling – living a life where they could worship God according to how they felt the Bible meant it to be.
Their troubles did not end there. In the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, the main mast of the ship cracked during a rather violent storm. They were trapped in a watery grave. It was determined that it was irreparable. In reality, the Pilgrims faced certain death, but they began to pray. Miraculously, one of the men had brought a giant iron screw from England for the purpose of building houses, and they used that to repair the mast. The God that they served had provided in the midst of a violent storm at sea.
This was not the first that they would pray, and the good Lord would provide just enough and in the right time. Our history books may have forgotten to mention, that every task and hardship that they faced was first fought on their knees. William Bradford would keep a journal, and mentioned time and time again how God provided, but first, the pilgrims prayed. When they stepped foot on land in the New World, they immediately rejoiced together and praise God that He allowed them to see land again.
154 years after the pilgrims, on September 5, 1774, a group of delegates met to make important decisions. Before they began, an unknown Patriot suggested that they pray first. That day, Rev. Jacob Daschle lead the First Continental Congress in prayer. John Adams described that moment in a letter to his wife as a real move of God, “… Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploring heaven for divine interposition and aid it was enough to melt a heart of stone. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. …. I saw tears gushing into the eyes of the old, grave pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.” Prayer would start every meeting during and after the Revolutionary War. Congress called around fifteen special days of prayer and fasting. This is yet another forgotten piece of history. Yes, our great nation was founded on prayer to the Almighty God, our Savior.
Our first president, George Washington, was a man of great faith. Before becoming president, Washington was the commander in chief of the American patriots during the Revolutionary War. He took a band of men, who had no official training as soldiers, and won against the mightiest army on the face of the earth. So often analyst will write long articles, in which they give reasons that make it seem that luck was on Washington’s side. Luck was not apart of the equation, but God himself was on Washington’s side.
Today, I want to share with you a little known fact that has left a profound impact on me. Upon becoming the commander in chief, George Washington ordered that each day would begin with prayer, led by the officer of each unit in the colonial army. Rev. Henry Muhlenberg, as he was passing through the woods near Valley Forge observed George Washington himself deep in prayer. Washington, facing the toughest year of the war, was alone, on his knees, horse by his side, praying to the Almighty God. He sought God’s favor. His troops were cold, hungry, sick, and death was rampant due to diseases. Muhlenberg stated, “Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of a man”.
Washington was losing more troops to death, due to diseases, rather than loss of life in battles. 90% of deaths during the Revolutionary war were due to diseases. Washington made a medically historic decision that many historians point to as one of the most profound moves in the history of the Revolutionary war. Washington secretly ordered all troops to be inoculated, during the month of February in 1777. This would mean that three – quarters of his troops would be sick and need time to recover. Although battles were not fought during he winter months, Washington took a great risk of the British finding out and attacking during this time. The thought of a commander in chief putting the majority of his troops out of commission during such a critical time in a war is unheard of, yet Washington did it.
This brave and daring act saved the lives of countless soldiers, and ultimately made a stronger army. As we know, the American’s won the war, and we have our freedom today. I often wonder if God did not whisper to Washington on that cold day in the middle of the woods a plan to vaccinate his soldiers. Such a plan took a great amount of faith on Washington’s part.
Today, 241 years later, God has called us to work hard for Him. We must have the faith of our forefathers, those who sacrificed luxury, life, and had great faith in God. He has called us to wade deeper into the waters. Our families, and this great nation are depending on us to pray. God is going to move in ways we have never before witnessed.