During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln approved a Senate resolution to proclaim a day for National humiliation, fasting and prayer on 30 April 1863. The President and the Senate “devoutly recognised the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations.” They affirmed, “It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”
They acknowledged, “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!”
This all seems far removed from Britain in the 21st century. We give the impression that we have outgrown the Christian faith and rejoice that we are a “progressive” secular society. But the reality is that we have “forgotten God” and are proud of our “superior wisdom.” This may explain why we are facing so many serious problems in every part of our national life. Some politicians have been dishonest in claiming their expenses; some banks have acted without integrity, threatening the financial stability of our country; sexual immorality is commonplace and accepted as the norm; the appalling abuse of children by media celebrities, and some church leaders, has come to light; the neglect and abuse of vulnerable people and the elderly in care homes has shocked many.
The Bible teaches us wisdom, which is practical instruction for life. This wisdom applies to us both as individuals and as nations. The book of Proverbs says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” It would be good for us to humbly acknowledge, both as individuals and as a nation, our sin and disgrace. Like Abraham Lincoln and his people we, too, need the blessing of the living God.