The First And Last Prayers Of Continental Congress

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The kids are I are reading Profiles of Valor: Character Studies from the War of Independence by Marilyn Boyer and Grace Tumas as part of our Morning Basket Time.

(I’m planning to write a full review of this book when we are finished, but suffice it to say, this gem is quickly becoming one of our favorite living history books of all time.) 

A few weeks ago, we finished Chapter 5, which told the story of Jacob Duché, the thirty-seven year old minister who Samuel Adams called upon to lead the very first Continental Congress in prayer, in September 1774. 

Along with a summary of the immediate events surrounding the first Continental Congress, and a character sketch of Duché, Portraits of Valor records his prayer in its entirety.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the 1st and 117th prayers of Continental Congress and see what has changed from 1774 to 2021. 

Here are the first and last prayers of Continental Congress (1774-2021) 


The 1st Prayer of Continental Congress

Date: September 7, 1774

Prayed by: Jacob Duché, Age 37

“O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee.

To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give.

Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation.

That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people.

Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come.

All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”

The 117th Prayer of Continental Congress

Date: January 3, 2021

Prayer by: Emanuel Cleaver, Age 76

“Eternal God, noiselessly we bow before Your throne of grace as we leave behind the politically and socially clamorous year of 2020.

We gather, now, in this consequential Chamber to inaugurate another chapter in our roller coaster representative government.

The Members of this august body acknowledge Your sacred supremacy and, therefore, confess that without Your favor and forbearance, we enter this new year relying, dangerously, on our own fallible nature.

God, at a moment when many believe that the bright light of democracy is beginning to dim, empower us with an extra dose of commitment to its principles. May we, of the 117th Congress, refuel the lamp of liberty so brimful that generations unborn will witness its undying flame.

And may we model community healing, control our tribal tendencies and quicken our spirit that we may feel Thy priestly presence even in moments of heightened disagreement.

May we so feel Your presence that our service here may not be soiled by any utterances or acts unworthy of this high office.

Insert in our spirit a light so bright that we can see ourselves and our politics as we really are–soiled by selfishness, perverted by prejudice and inveigled by ideology.

Now, may the God who created the world and everything in it bless us and keep us.

May the Lord make His face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us.

May the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon us and give us peace–peace in our families, peace across this land and dare I ask, O Lord, peace even in this Chamber, now and evermore.

We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God and Brahma and God known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and A women.”

I’m going to refrain from adding my own commentary here, but if you’re looking for a good social study to do together, consider reading both prayers aloud with your family, learn about the time period and events surrounding these prayers to put them into context, and note the differences.  

“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.” ~ Abraham Lincoln 

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