Prayer, a President, and Passing It On

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Ray and I had lunch yesterday on the patio of our town’s new Mexican restaurant. Our server introduced himself as Abel and then said playfully that thankfully he doesn’t have a brother named Cain. I later asked him if he lived locally. He told me that he lives in a town nearby and drives 20 minutes to work. His joyful face lit up and he held his hands in a praying position. He said that he talks to God all the way each time he drives to work.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people headed to work that way!

A Praying President

Dwight Eisenhower took on an important job in 1953 and he began that job with prayer. After decades of dedicated service in the U.S. Army and after rising to the position of Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Eisenhower was elected president of the United States. He was inaugurated on January 20, 1953.

When Eisenhower took the oath of office, he placed his hand on two Bibles. One was the Bible George Washington used when he was inaugurated in 1789. On that cold Inauguration Day in 1953, Washington’s Bible was opened to the following verse:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
Psalm 127:1

Eisenhower received the other Bible as a gift from his parents when he graduated from West Point Military Academy. That Bible was opened to this verse:

If my people, which are called by my name,
shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;
then will I hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

After completing the oath of office, Eisenhower began his inaugural address with a request for his listeners:

My friends, before I begin the expression of those thoughts that I deem appropriate to this moment, would you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own? And I ask that you bow your heads.

Then the new President prayed:

Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment, my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere. Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling. May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.

Eisenhower showed his commitment to God in his Cabinet meetings. Each meeting began with a moment of silent prayer. A few months after becoming president, Eisenhower spoke these words at a prayer breakfast:

Today I think that prayer is just simply a necessity, because by prayer I believe we mean an effort to get in touch with the Infinite. We know that even our prayers are imperfect. Even our supplications are imperfect. Of course they are. We are imperfect human beings. But if we can back off from those problems and make the effort, then there is something that ties us all together. We have begun in our grasp of that basis of understanding, which is that all free government is firmly founded in a deeply-felt religious faith.

Learning Faith from His Parents

President Eisenhower had learned about faith in God in the front yard and the small back parlor of his family home in Abilene, Kansas. David and Ida Eisenhower and their six boys gathered for nightly Bible readings. When the weather was warm, they sat in the front yard. When it was cold, they sat in the back parlor. One brother read until he made a mistake. The Bible then passed to another brother. Night after night, the boys learned to read, learned how to talk in front of a group, and learned the truths of God’s Word.

One Nation Under God

On February 7, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower sat in the Lincoln pew at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The church’s minister, George MacPherson Docherty, mentioned in his sermon that he believed the words “under God” should be added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Eisenhower agreed with Docherty. He encouraged Congress to pass a joint resolution that would add those words to the Pledge. Congress acted quickly. On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, Eisenhower signed the joint resolution. Eisenhower made this statement when he signed it:

From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this re-dedication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country’s true meaning.

Especially is this meaningful as we regard today’s world. Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more children were “daily proclaim[ing] in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty”!

Passing It On

Eisenhower passed on his faith to his son and grandchildren. He once told his granddaughter Mary Jean Eisenhower:

There was only one perfect man. Then the rest of us crucified Him.

Members of the Eisenhower family on Easter Sunday, 1953. Left to right: granddaughter Barbara Ann, daughter-in-law Barbara, grandson David, President Eisenhower, mother-in-law Elivera Doud, and wife Mamie. Courtesy Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

As homeschooling parents, you have the opportunity to teach faith in God in your front yard, in your “back parlor,” and on every “school morning.” You can be like Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you,
which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois
and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.
2 Timothy 1:5

 

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  1. I love this post! So inspiring, and so timely! It is encouraging to know what men of faith have led our country throughout its history. Gives one hope for its future!