- - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Throughout our history, from the first permanent settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, until the present day—from our Founding Fathers to ordinary citizens who cherish this country’s heritage—faith and prayer have formed the bedrock of our national character. Prayers have been offered as petition and thanksgiving, to embrace our grief and sorrow, for our troops and first responders, in times of uncertainty and crisis, during war and in peace, for protection, provision, guidance and the acknowledgement that in and of ourselves, we are wholly insufficient. Sadly, this humble act of dependency on the Creator is increasingly challenged, diluted and, in many instances, publically disallowed.

Religious freedom is integral to America’s greatness and has been a central pillar since her birth. While the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a government-based religion, the acknowledgement, celebration and discussion of God within the public discourse or marketplace of ideas has been and should always be a secure and sacred right. The Library of Congress—the national repository of our written history—records that many of the Founders were deeply spiritual. For most, God and government, religion and morality were irrevocably bound and indivisible, woven together in a sacred plan that produced one of the greatest nations on the earth. There was no corporate outrage, no lawsuits, no widespread demand that the government was forcing a particular faith on anyone, no loss of individual religious freedoms and rights, and no public outcry by citizens to remove every reference or vestige of God from the national conscious.

William Wilberforce, the centerpiece of this special editorial section, when acknowledging a nation’s need for honor and integrity, stated, “The distemper of which, as a community, we are sick, should be considered rather as a moral than a political malady.” In that same vein, the Congressional Prayer Caucus was founded in 2005 under the strong leadership of Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) in order to formally acknowledge the importance of faith and prayer in life and American history. This Caucus grew out of a prayer meeting that convenes in Room 219 in the Capitol where Congressional Members regularly assemble before every legislative session to pray for the country. According to Forbes, “Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic expression of Americanism. Thus the founding fathers of America sought and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be.” Today, the bipartisan and bicameral Caucus has nearly 100 dedicated members and continues to grow in both influence and number.

The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF), a non-profit, non-partisan organization also formed in 2005, was designed to support the official Caucus, help protect religious liberty and preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. Through its efforts and the committed support of these government leaders, a nationwide American Prayer Caucus Network currently includes fifteen state Prayer Caucuses with over 500 legislators engaged in proactive initiatives around the unifying theme of religious freedom.

Earlier this year, government leaders gathered at the LIFFT America Religious Liberty Summit in Charlotte, NC. The Summit, convened by the CPCF, along with Congressman Forbes and Senator James Lankford, co-chairs of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, included 16 members of Congress and 36 state legislators—representing 25 states—to address a growing anti-faith sentiment in the United States. An extraordinary, nationwide prayer initiative was birthed at the Summit where participants signed a Prayer for America Proclamation. Now once again, government leaders are calling on God’s people to unify with one heart and one voice to pray for the United States and those who lead her.

The PrayUSA: Government Leaders Calling the Nation to Prayer Initiative (www.PrayUSA.com)— is engaging churches across the country and in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14, urging Christians to humble themselves, pray for God’s forgiveness and the healing of our land. Over 650 government leaders and thousands of citizens have already answered the call and signed the Prayer for America Proclamation. Congregations everywhere are scheduling PrayUSA Sundays and inviting a local or state elected official to participate by reading the Proclamation. Wilberforce also recognized this priority for people of faith, “Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer. Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action, as well as meditation.”

In November, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (396-9) to pass House Resolution 13 reaffirming “IN GOD WE TRUST” as the official motto of the United States. Inspired by this landslide vote, the CPCF launched the “In God We Trust: Put It Up!” Campaign. This is not just a reaffirmation of four words, but a recommitment to the principles that define our nation. A hallmark effort of this initiative is the MILLION WINDOW campaign, with the goal of placing our national motto on a million windows across America (www.InGodWeTrust.com)

The United States is the greatest example of freedom in the world and religious liberties are worth fighting for, as Forbes rightly asserts, “prayer has played a vital role in strengthening the fabric of our society.” America stands at the edge of a precipice. Either we will plunge headlong into a post-modern, secularized and amoral vacuum—a ship without rudder and void of those things we have long held sacred—or we will light the fires of renewal and reclaim a godly heritage that has produced one of the most profoundly blessed nations in the world.

• Lea Carawan is President of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation.

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