By Dr. Mal Couch
Public prayer, spiritual publications of poems and music, have always been a part of America, until recently. There are forces now trying to silence the Christian spiritual heritage of open and free expression to our God that made this nation great.
Each week Iíll add some historical tidbits as how Christian expression and public prayer was a vital part of our nationís blessing. We may not fully know of the spiritual state of all the men we examine, but we do know none of them were fearful of prayers to the God of the Bible in the public setting.
If you are a pastor or Sunday school teacher, please print off these little bits of our history and share them with others.
Early Christian Colleges
By the conclusion of the Revolutionary war there were already two dozen institutions of higher learning in America, dedicated to Christian principles and various disciplines to benefit the new nation. They supplied the colonies with politicians, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and merchants. They cast a wide shadow in their influence on the affairs of building America. Each college had been founded by a specific church or denomination and was watched over by Godly ministers. They set out to provide, in their own words, "a truly Christian education."
Even Benjamin Franklin, often mistaken as a deist, understood the value of these Christian institutions for the nation. He helped found the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) with a rigorous morning and evening prayer time and of worship. In these awesome and blessed all-male institutions, the men rose at four and five oíclock for prayer. A brief sermon and prayer was led by one of the professors. If a student missed, he forfeited the next meal! The day would end with another prayer time, seeking and asking Godís guidance for the next.
On Sundays the time for spiritual contemplation was even more intense. Longer services and invocations were held, with the president of the college delivering the messages. For decades, such rigors of Bible study and prayer were maintained with few complaints. One graduate observed "The students as a rule preserved order in the Prayer Hall, because they realized that any disrespect to Christianity would bring speedy and severe punishment."
But students would often be students, having fun with the administration for comic relief! Before prayer on one occasion, the students placed a stuffed raccoon behind the Bible on the podium. The poor raccoon was seen by all smiling down at all the students and faculty as they filed into the room. How the schoolís professors responded is not recorded!
In these prayer times, as one student wrote, "Together, the president and the students beseeched God to instill in them diligence in their studies and good moral character in their lives, affirming through prayer that we all intended to promote the glory of God and the good of all mankind."
In time, such honor to God in these services disappeared and almost all of these early institutions departed from the faith. But all who participated affirmed that prayer sustained these schools of higher learning for generations before they finally departed and went into a form of godless apostasy!