A Call to Prayer
by Benjamin Franklin
When, after the representatives who had met in 1797 to write the Constitution of the United States struggled for several weeks making little or no progress, eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin rose and addressed the troubled and disagreeing convention that was about to adjourn in confusion. It seemed that their attempt to form a lasting union had apparently failed.
Benjamin Franklin said, “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor….And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His 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 man.’ 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 labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this.”
“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 interest; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword 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 or conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”
Benjamin Franklin then proposed that the Congress adjourn for two days to seek divine guidance. When they returned they began each of their sessions with prayer. The stirring speech of Benjamin Franklin marked a turning point in the writing of the Constitution, complete with a Bill of Rights.