If I were President, the first thing I would do is resign because I would probably be impeached anyway. I am sure I would be accused of combining church and state even though technically I wouldn’t be.
For if I were President, one of my first acts would be to call a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. It wouldn’t be just a National Day of Prayer. We have one of those, and for those few who participate, it has become an hour of prayer and music.
I would make my day a real day of prayer by doing it the old fashioned way : I would add back the fasting part. And I would make it during the week and request all non-essential services be closed so that people could devote themselves to prayer, soul-searching, repentance, and humility. I am sure this would elicit howls of derision from most corners of the nation, which is probably why I would be impeached.
The idea of a national day of fasting has a long national tradition. The Pilgrims were more inclined to call a thanksgiving fast rather than a thanksgiving feast, 1621 being one notable exception to the rule.
In 1746 the French fleet threatened the British settlements in North America. On October 16 of that year, the people of New England called for a day of fasting and prayer. That night the French fleet was destroyed by a dreadful storm at sea. Maybe that was coincidence, and maybe not.
The Continental Congress passed the First Prayer Declaration in 1775, setting aside a day for the colonies to pray and fast together.
Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Senate called for a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer in the proclamation of March 30, 1863. The document proclaimed, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! “
It has been a while since the nation has been called to fasting. The proclamation of 1863 seems to describe 2006 America, but I don’t expect anyone in government today to mandate what the Senate and the President mandated back then.
That doesn’t mean you and your church can’t call such a day on your own, and in fact that might be the only way this type of thing can get done. It must come from the heart of the grassroots and spread upward if it is to be effective.
It is well to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin in a speech he gave before the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787. During the bleakest days of the Convention, when it appeared that the delegates would fail, he stood and said the following words:
"In this 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 humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our Understandings? In the Beginning of the Contest with Britain, when we were sensible of Danger, we had daily Prayers in this Room for the Divine Protection. Our Prayers, Sir, were heard; — and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engag’d in the Struggle, must have observed frequent Instances of a superintending Providence in our Favour. To that kind Providence we owe this happy Opportunity of Consulting in Peace on the Means of establishing our future national Felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need its assistance? 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 probable 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 labour 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; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local Interests, our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and a Bye-word down to future Ages. And, what is worse, Mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate Instance, despair of establishing Government by human Wisdom, and leave it to Chance, War, and Conquest.
“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 or more of the Clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that Service."
Those are good words for all time.