A President Who Prayed

By Jim H. Yohe

The Spiritual Life Of America’s Most Revered President

As a young Illinois lawyer, Lincoln attended a fiery revival service being conducted by the Rev. Dr. Peter Akers. Akers was arguing that slavery was holding back the blessing of God upon America, In a message entitled The Dominion of Jesus Christ Akers cried out “…who can tell but the man who shall lead us through the strife may be standing in this presence!” Thirty feet away stood Lincoln drinking in his every word.

The next morning he stumbled in looking haggard from a sleepless night. His partner asked, ” Lincoln! What’s wrong with you?” Lincoln replied by telling him about the sermon, and said: “I am utterly unable to shake from myself the conviction, that I shall be involved in that tragedy!” Through the sermon, God had called him to set the nation free of slavery, and to lead the nation through the struggle of the forthcoming Civil War!

Abraham Lincoln had godly parents! In the book, Abraham Lincoln: The Man & His Faith, author G. Frederick Owen reveals that Lincoln’s parents received their conversion experience at an old-fashioned Methodist brush arbor. They shouted and danced in the spirit under the open skies of Kentucky. After elected President, Lincoln’s reliance on God’s guidance, gave great hope for our nation’s survival. White House guest, James F. Murdock shared this experience:

“One night–it was just after the battle of Bull Run–I was restless and could not sleep. The hour was past midnight; indeed, it was getting near dawn, when I heard low tones proceeding from a private room near where the President slept. The door was partly open. I saw the President kneeling beside an open window. The light was fumed low in the room, his back was toward me. For a moment I was silent, looking in amazement and wonder. Then he cried out in tones pleading and sorrowful: ‘Oh, Thou God that heard Solomon in the night when he prayed for wisdom, hear me. I cannot lead this people. I cannot guide the affairs of this nation without thy help! I am poor and weak and sinful. Oh, God, Who didst hear Solomon when he cried for wisdom, hear me, and save this nation!’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a man to be president of the United States today? Only God knows what a restless White House guest would find today wandering the darkened halls of the president’s home. God give us a president that prays for us, instead of one that preys upon us.

Lincoln was the president who by proclamation declared a National Day Of Thanksgiving, that has been celebrated in November ever since. In accepting a beautiful Bible, bound in purple velvet, mounted in gold, engraved with a representation of Lincoln striking the shackles from a slave, and enclosed in a walnut case lined with white silver, Lincoln said, “In regard to this Great Book, I have only to say that it is the best gift which God has given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this Book. But for this Book we could not know right from wrong.”

Never a member of any denomination, Abraham Lincoln was nevertheless very devout in prayer and bible study. God guided him with dreams and visions through a lifetime of personal and national crises. After the Civil War had been won, and his second inauguration completed, Abraham Lincoln had a dream that shook him up. In talking to friends, he revealed, “About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs (in the White House). There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible . . . until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards… “Who is dead in the White House?” I demanded of one of the soldiers. “The President” was his answer; “he was killed by an assassin!” Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.” After his friend and he had discussed the possible implications and causes of the dream, Lincoln concluded the conversation by saying, “Well, let it go. I think the Lord in His own good time and way will work this out all right. God knows what is best.”

I found it quite interesting that the last word that Abraham Lincoln ever spoke was “Jerusalem” As Mrs. Lincoln and he sat in the theater booth waiting for the production to begin, Lincoln was talking about a deep yearning that had come over him to “tread those holy fields over whose acres walked those blessed feet … nailed for our advantage on the bitter cross.” He fumed toward Mrs. Lincoln and declared, “No place that I wished to see more than Jerusalem.” The word was half-finished on his lips -“Jeru. . .” when the assassin, John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger on the one-shot Derringer pistol, shooting Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head.

When we celebrate Lincoln’s birthday each year, please realize that it’s more than a number. We are celebrating the godly life of an American President who guided this nation on his knees before God! May his love of God and righteousness come upon all America’s presidents. May the words “In God We Trust” be more than a motto.