John Adams at First Continental Congress

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I want to take you back to the First Continental Congress that met at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia during September of 1774 . Hello I am Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council in Washington, DC. The members of the First Congress had assembled to discuss what to do about the latest injustices of the British government, which had closed the port of Boston with warships. Armed conflict seemed inevitable. Those were desperate times.

Among the 56 delegates in attendance at this meeting were two future Presidents: George Washington and John Adams, John’s cousin and Patriot leader, Samuel Adams, John Jay, the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice and a fiery 38-year-old lawyer from Virginia named Patrick Henry. A day into the meeting came the call to have a chaplain pray over their deliberations. Some were concerned about the diverse Christian denominations represented, but Samuel Adams settled the matter when he declared: “I am no bigot. I can hear a prayer from any man of piety and virtue, who is at the same time a friend to his country.”[i]

So John Adams recommended the Rev. Dr. Jacob Duché, an Anglican minister of Christ Church, located just two blocks away. It was agreed, and John Adams records what happened the next morning in a letter to his wife Abigail:

Accordingly, next morning [Reverend Mr. Duché] appeared with his clerk and in his pontificals, and read several prayers in the established form, and read the collect for the seventh day of September, which was the thirty‑fifth Psalm. You must remember, this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston.

john-adamsPastor Duché began reading the entire text of Psalm 35, which was the Anglican Church’s assigned Scripture reading for that day. Here is a portion of what our Founding Fathers heard on that morning of

September 7,1774: “Plead my cause, 0 Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.   (Psalm 35: ).”

This Psalm spoke directly to their desperate situation because only one day before they received the rumor, though unfounded, of the British bombardment of Boston. John Adam’s believed it was “Providential.” Pastor Duché followed this psalm with prayer asking God to support the American cause:

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…All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Saviour, Amen.[ii]

The Scripture reading and prayer moved the whole assembly. John Adams continues in his letter to his wife Abigail:

I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duché, unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which fined the bosom of every man present. I must confess, I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced … for America, for the Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the town of Boston. It had an excellent effect upon everybody here…[iii]

George Washington was kneeling there with the President of the Congress Peyton Randolph, and the first Supreme Court Justice John Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan Patriots of New England, who at that moment had every reason to believe that Boston was under fire and some of their homes being laid to waste by the British. John Adams reflected on their prayers…

“We prayed for America, for our Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston.” Our prayers were enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.”[iv]

Today put yourself in the place of our Founding Fathers, some on their knees, others standing with head bowed, still others weeping – all there, joining their hearts together in prayer, to God on behalf of the American colonies. God heard their cries and after eight long years of war, they won their independence.

These too are desperate days and they call for desperate prayer. That is why we are asking you to participate in the Call2Fall on July 3, the Sunday before Independence Day. We are asking that you spend at least a few minutes on your knees as a church, praying for America. Visit Call2Fall.org to join what is becoming a movement with churches participating in all 50 states. Who knows but what God might hear our cries, forgive our sins, and heal our land.

More on the First Continental Congress

[i] George Bancroft, History of the United States, 4:64.

[ii] The Library of Congress recorded remembrances on a historical placard the effect of that first prayer upon Congress on September 7, 1774. First Prayer in Congress – Beautiful Reminiscence (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress).

[iii] Charles Francis Adams, ed., Letters of John Adams ‑ Addressed to His Wife (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), 1:23‑24.

[iv] Library of Congress historical placard.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve learned about this in school

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