George Bowers Sr.: Let’s try Zachary Taylor’s solution
Most Americans don’t know much about our nation’s 12th president, Zachary Taylor, but a few things happened early in his presidency that are very noteworthy. For starters, even though he had earned the nickname of “Old Rough and Ready” by his leadership in the War of 1812, he refused to be sworn into office on a Sunday out of respect for the Lord’s day. Instead, he was inaugurated at noon on Monday, March 5. The term of outgoing President James Polk ended the day before and so the nation was officially without a chief executive for 24 hours.
During Taylor’s tenure, America faced a vicious enemy. After killing tens of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Africans, the disease of cholera began to strike a hard blow in the United States. In the year of his inauguration, 8,000 people died in Cincinnati, 3,000 in New Orleans, 5,000 each in New York and St. Louis, and 3,500 in Chicago. Some 12,000 died on their way to the California Gold Rush alone. Although Taylor had previously defeated the British, the Sac and Seminole Indians, as well as the Mexicans, his military strategies and bravery proved powerless with this contagious killer.
He wisely turned to other means. On July 3, 1849, he issued a proclamation calling for a national day of prayer and fasting in which citizens were encouraged to “humble themselves before [God’s] throne, and, while acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy. It is therefore earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer…and to implore the Almighty in His own good time to stay the destroying hand which is now lifted up against us.”
And so, on Aug. 3, citizens all across America assembled for prayer. By the end of that very month, the death toll dropped suddenly and the epidemic tide of suffering and loss was turned. While some will call it coincidental, individuals of that time connected the obvious dots and recognized God’s great providence in sparing the nation a similar fate of those across the Atlantic.
Many times throughout our past, presidents, governors, and generals have called our people to pray for special crises. And now we are called again. Next Thursday is the National Day of Prayer and is a time for all Americans to pause and seek God’s mercy and guidance at this critical juncture in our history.
Although cholera no longer threatens our citizens, today we face Zika, Ebola, and cancer. Unemployment, immigration, drugs, terrorism, racism, and education all cry out for solutions that seem to evade the most astute thinkers. In addition, we are in the midst of an incredibly contentious and bitter presidential campaign that is likely to get worse as we head toward November. How desperately our nation needs godly leaders as well as godly followers. If there was ever a time we need to pray, it’s now.
Christians of all denominations will gather in front of the old Shenandoah County Courthouse by the Muhlenberg statues at noon Thursday to pray for our churches, schools, courts, and law enforcement officers, as well as our county, state, and national leaders. All are invited to come and pray silently or aloud. This is not a political event sponsored by any party or denomination but an hour to join together to pray for America. We will ask for God’s mercy, guidance, and blessing at this critical time. If it rains, we will pray inside one of the churches Muhlenberg pastored at Emmanuel Episcopal, just down from the Courthouse at 122 E. Court St.
Please spread the word in your church and bring a friend to Woodstock. For those who cannot attend at noon, Valley Pike Church of the Brethren near Maurertown will host a prayer service at 7 p.m. that evening and again, all are invited. If there was ever a time to pray for our nation, this is it. Please join in prayer on Thursday. Praying, George
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books, including his latest book of poetry, “Holy Verses.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.