Thomas Jefferson knew about controversial elections. The election of 1800 was eventually settled in the United States House of Representatives with Thomas Jefferson winning on the 36th ballot. You can read about the entire election process and controversy right here. To say that it was a bitter and potentially divisive turning point in American politics is certainly accurate. That Thomas Jefferson prayed the following prayer on the day of his inauguration is testimony to his desire for a sense of unity to prevail after such a divisive campaign.
Two related areas should be noted. One is the ultimate duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and his political rival Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury on July 11, 1804. Burr and Hamilton had represented the two major competing political interests or parties of the Day, Burr the Democrat-Republicans, and Hamilton The Federalists. Their political differences ignited hatred between them and the duel was occasioned by Hamilton's defamation of Burr in the media. It is important to remember this nasty election because it reminds us moderns that political strife and stress has been evident in the American voting and electoral system since the founding of our nation. While most of us believe this to be the most virulent election in the annals of American politics the election of 1800 resulted in a political duel causing the death of one of our founders. Jefferson's prayer may have calmed the political waters in the immediate aftermath of such a hateful campaign. But, the differences existed until the Congress amended the electoral system to alleviate such voting deadlocks in the future.
Another angle in printing Jefferson's prayer is the on-going debate about Thomas Jefferson's faith. Talk about a collision of liberal and conservative historians and their disciplines, the truth about Thomas Jefferson's religious beliefs is vigorously argued to this day. The line of division was most notable with the release of historian David Barton's The Jefferson Lies (Thomas Nelson, 2012). Barton, a noted Christian historian tackled several of the more traditional and misleading myths that secular historians had circulated for years about Thomas Jefferson. Using primary and secondary sources Barton demystified many of these legends with truth about a deeper, though usually unorthodox, faith experience of our third President. Secular historians attacked Barton's conclusions, his legitimacy as a historian, and Thomas Nelson eventually recalled the book. When it was released by Wallbuilders, and then by World Net Daily in 2016, it was an immediate best seller, again. Space and time are elements today so I won't argue the case for Mr. Barton. But, his work is well-documented and his conclusions seem very accurate. The point is that Mr. Barton's study reveals a Thomas Jefferson consistent with the devotion, simplicity, and dependence on Christ that is visible in this prayer. Pray it with Mr. Jefferson right now.
Thomas Jefferson A Prayer for the Nation
Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Washington D.C., March 4, 1801
As yesterday, there is a central passage that seems most appropriate right now.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought
hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those
whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be
justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show
forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.
Asking God to "fashion into one united people the multitude" and "Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government" seem appropriate for a nation so divided. For many, it may be little more than a pipe dream, the apple pie and deep blue sky of wishful thinking. I'm just imagining what would happen if a large contingent of our population prayed this kind of prayer this week. Please join me in praying so until next Tuesday.
Time in the prayer closet will prepare us for time in the voting booth.