Prayers of George Washington – Washington’s
Letters to the Churches and his Farewell Address,
September 17, 1787.
Of great interest to Americans, are George Washington’s hand-calligraphied prayers entitled “The Daily Sacrifice,” constituting a morning and evening prayer for each day of the week. Following are a number of these, reprinted for all to read:
The Daily Sacrifice
ALMIGHTY GOD, and most merciful father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise thee for thy protection both night and day; receive, O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee; I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou hast preserved me from the dangers of the night past, and brought me to the light of this day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated to thine own service and for thine own honour. Let my heart, therefore, gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works, but wait on thee, and discharge those weighty duties thou requirest of me; and since thou art a God of pure eyes, and wilt be sanctified in all who draw near unto thee, who dost not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in thy courts, pardon, I beseech thee my sins, remove them from thy presence as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ, that when I come into thy temple, and compass thine altar my prayer may come before thee as incense and as I desire thou wouldst hear me calling upon thee in my prayers, so give me grace to hear thee calling on me in thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation & peace to the saving of my soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me, gracious God, the good work for which thou hast sent it. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God and guide this day and for ever for his sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O MOST GLORIOUS GOD, in Jesus Christ my merciful & loving father, I acknowledge and confess my guilt, in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins, but so coldly & carelessly, that my prayers are become my sin and stand in need of pardon. I have heard thy holy word, but with such deadness of spirit that I have been an unprofitable and forgetful hearer, so that, O Lord, tho’ I have done thy work, yet it hath been so negligently that I may rather expect a curse than a blessing from thee. But, O God, who art rich in mercy and plenteous in redemption, mark not, I beseech thee, what I have done amiss; remember I am but dust, and remit my transgressions, negligences & ignorances, and cover them all with the absolute obedience of thy dear Son, that those sacrifices which I have offered may be accepted by thee, in and for the sacrifice Jesus Christ offered upon the cross for me; for his sake, ease me of the burden of my sins, and give me grace that by the call of the gospel I may rise from the slumber of sin unto newness of life. Let me live according to those holy rules which thou hast this day prescribed in thy holy word; make me to know what is acceptable in thy sight and therein to delight. Open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith and repentance. Increase my faith, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life. Bless, O Lord, all the people of this land, from the highest to the lowest, particularly those whom thou hast appointed to rule over us in church & state. Continue thy goodness to me this night. These weak petitions I humbly implore thee to hear, accept and answer for the sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O ETERNAL AND EVERLASTING GOD, I presume to present myself this morning before thy divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and hast given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body & soul. Direct my thoughts, words and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever living God in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life. Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentence from dead works; pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labour in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favour, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends & kindred. Unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued and ended when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father, &c.
MOST GRACIOUS LORD GOD, from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift, I offer to thy divine majesty my unfeigned praise & thanksgiving for all thy mercies towards me. Thou mad’st me at first and hast ever since sustained the work of thy own hand; thou gav’st thy Son to die for me; and hast given me assurance of salvation, upon my repentance and sincerely endeavouring to conform my life to his holy precepts and example. Thou art pleased to lengthen out to me the time of repentance, and to move me to it by thy spirit and by thy word, by thy mercies, and by thy judgments. Out of a deepness of thy mercies, and my own unworthiness, I do appear before thee at this time; I have sinned and done very wickedly, be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ’s sake: instruct me in the particulars of my duty, and suffer me not to be tempted above what thou givest me strength to bear. Take care, I pray thee of my affairs and more and more direct me in thy truth. Defend me from my enemies, especially my spiritual ones. Suffer me not to be drawn from thee, by the blandishments of the world, carnal desires, the cunning of the devil, or deceitfulness of sin. Work in me thy good will and pleasure, and discharge my mind from all things that are displeasing to thee, of all ill will and discontent, wrath and bitterness, pride & vain conceit of myself, and render me charitable, pure, holy, patient and heavenly minded. Be with me at the hour of death; dispose me for it, and deliver me from the slavish fear of it, and make me willing and fit to die whenever thou shalt call me hence. Bless our rulers in church and state. Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and thy Son Jesus Christ. Pity the sick, the poor, the weak, the needy, the widows and fatherless, and all that mourn or are broken in heart, and be merciful to them according to their several necessities. Bless my friends and grant me grace to forgive my enemies as heartily as I desire forgiveness of Thee my heavenly Father. I beseech thee to defend me this night from all evil, and do more for me than I can think or ask, for Jesus Christ’s sake, in whose most holy name & words I continue to pray, Our Father, &c.
Washington’s Addresses to the Churches
On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn into office as first president with his left hand upon the Bible, opened to Genesis, Chapter 49-50. Genesis 49:22-25c, upon which his hand lay, was Washington’s inaugural Scripture. He swore allegiance to the U.S. Constitution with his right hand upraised, the event taking place in Federal Hall, New York. As first president of the United States, George Washington received letters of congratulations from fourteen churches. In response, he penned personal addresses to each of them. Reprinted below are a number of these:
TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN
CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES
I receive with great sensibility the testimonial given by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, of the lively and unfeigned pleasure experienced by them on my appointment to the first office in the nation.
Although it will be my endeavour to avoid being elated by the too favorable opinion, which your kindness for me may have induced you to express of the importance of my former conduct and the effect of my future services, yet, conscious of the disinterestedness of my motives, it is not necessary for me to conceal the satisfaction I have felt upon finding, that my compliance with the call of my country, and my dependence on the assistance of Heaven to support me in my arduous undertakings, have, so far as I can learn, met the universal approbation of my countrymen.
While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven, as the source of all public and private blessings, I will observe, that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and confirming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences, it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will all be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.
I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavours to render men sober, honest, and good citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government, as well as for your prayers to Almighty God for his blessing on our common country, and the humble instruments, which he has been pleased to make use of in the administration of its government.
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL
CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES
I return to you individually, and, through you, to your society collectively in the United States, my thanks for the demonstrations of affection and the expressions of joy, offered in their behalf, on my late appointment. It shall still be my endeavour to manifest, by overt acts, the purity of my inclinations for promoting the happiness of mankind, as well as the sincerity of my desires to contribute whatever may be in my power towards the preservation of the civil and religious liberties of the American people. In pursuing this line of conduct, I hope, by the assistance of Divine Providence, not altogether to disappoint the confidence, which you have been pleased to repose in me.
It always affords me satisfaction, when I find a concurrence in sentiment and practice between all conscientious men in acknowledgments of homage to the great Governor of the Universe, and in professions of support to a just civil government. After mentioning, that I trust the people of every denomination, who demean themselves as good citizens, will have occasion to be convinced, that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion, I must assure you in particular, that I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the Throne of Grace for me, and that I likewise implore the divine benefiction of yourselves and your religious community.
TO THE DIRECTORS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED BRETHREN
FOR PROPAGATING THE GOSPEL AMONG THE HEATHEN.
I receive with satisfaction the congratulations of your society, and of the Brethren’s congregations in the United States of America. For you may be persuaded, that the approbation and good wishes of such a peaceable and virtuous community cannot be indifferent to me.
You will also be pleased to accept my thanks for the treatise* you presented; and be assured of my patronage in your laudable undertakings.
In proportion as the general government of the United States shall acquire strength by duration, it is probable they may have it in their power to extend a salutary influence to the aborigines in the extremities of their territory. In the mean time, it will be a desirable thing, for the protection of the Union, to co-operate, as far as the circumstances may conveniently admit, with the disinterested endeavours of your Society to civilize and christianize the savages of the wilderness.
Under these impressions, I pray Almighty God to have you always in his holy keeping.
* “An Account of the Manner, in which the Protestant Church of the Unitas Fratrum, or United Grethren, preach the Bospel and carry on their Mission among the Heathen.”
TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY, AND LAITY OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE STATES OF NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA DELAWARE, MARYLAND, VIRGINIA, AND NORTH CAROLINA, IN GENERAL CONVENTION ASSEMBLED.
August 19th 1789
I sincerely thank you for your affectionate congratulations on my election to the chief magistracy of the United States.
After having received from my fellow-citizens in general the most liberal treatment, after having found them disposed to contemplate, in the most flattering point of view, the performance of my military services, and the manner of my retirement at the close of the war, I feel that I have a right to console myself in my present arduous undertakings with a hope, that they will still be inclined to put the most favorable construction on the motives, which may influence me in my future public transactions.
The satisfaction arising from the indulgent opinion entertained by the American people of my conduct will, I trust, be some security for preventing me from doing anything, which might justly incur the forfeiture of that opinion. And the consideration, that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former by inculcating the practice of the latter.
On this occasion, it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among the friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects, indeed, to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian-like spirit, than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation.
I receive with the greater satisfaction your congratulations on the establishment of the new constitution of government, because I believe its mild yet efficient operations will tend to remove every remaining apprehension of those, with whose opinions it may not entirely coincide, as well as to confirm the hopes of its numerous friends; and because the moderation, patriotism, and wisdom of the present federal legislature seem to promise the restoration of order and our ancient virtues, the extension of genuine religion, and the consequent advancement of our respectability abroad, and of our substantial happiness at home.
I request, most reverend and respected Gentlemen, that you will accept my cordial thanks for your devout supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in behalf of me. May you, and the people you represent, be the happy subjects of the divine benedictions both here and hereafter.
TO THE SYNOD OF THE REFORMED DUTCH
CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA
I receive with a grateful heart your pious and affectionate address, and with truth declare to you, that no circumstance of my life has affected me more sensibly, or produced more pleasing emotions, than the friendly congratulations, and strong assurances of support, which I received from my fellow-citizens of all descriptions upon my election to the Presidency of these United States.
I fear, Gentlemen, your goodness has led you to form too exalted an opinion of my virtues and merits. If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should be ascribed to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence. My military services have been abundantly recompensed by the flattering approbation of a grateful people; and if a faithful discharge of my civil duties can insure a like reward, I shall feel myself richly compensated for any personal sacrifice I may have made by engaging again in public life.
The citizens of the United States of America have given as signal a proof of their wisdom and virtue, in framing and adopting a constitution of government without bloodshed or the intervention of force, as they, upon a former occasion, exhibited to the world, of their valor, fortitude, and perseverance; and it must be a pleasing circumstance to every friend of good order and social happiness to find, that our new government is gaining strength and respectability among the citizens of this country, in proportion as its operations are known and its effects felt.
You, Gentlemen, act the part of pious Christians and good citizens by your prayers and exertions to preserve that harmony and good will towards men, which must be the basis of every political establishment; and I readily join with you, that, “while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.”
I am deeply impressed with your good wishes for my present and future happiness, and I beseech the Almighty to take you and yours under his special care.
TO THE HEBREW CONGREGATION OF
THE CITY OF SAVANNAH.
I thank you, with great sincerity, for your congratulations on my appointment to the office, which I have the honor to hold by the unanimous choice of my fellow-citizens; and especially for the expressions, which you are pleased to use in testifying the confidence, that is reposed in me by your congregation.
As the delay, which has naturally intervened between my election and your address, has afforded an opportunity for appreciating the merits of the federal government, and for communicating your sentiments of its administration, I have rather to express my satisfaction, than regret, at a circumstance, which demonstrates (upon experiment) your attachment to the former, as well as approbation of the latter.
I rejoice, that a spirit of liberality and philanthropy is much more prevalent than it formerly was among the enlightened nations of the earth, and that your brethren will benefit thereby in proportion as it shall become still more extensive. Happily, the people of the United States of America have, in many instances, exhibited examples worthy of imitation, the salutary influence of which will doubtless extend much farther, if, gratefully enjoying those blessings of peace, which, under the favor of Heaven, have been obtained by fortitude of war, they shall conduct themselves with reverence to the Deity, and charity towards their fellow-creatures.
May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, and planted them in the promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven, and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people, whose God is Jehovah.
xi) George Washington, the first U.S. President, composed his own prayers, comprised of a morning and evening prayer for each day of the week. What title did the first president give to his prayers? (Circle one)
a) Peace, happiness and prosperity
b) Brotherly love
c) The Daily Sacrifice
d) Successful living
xii) In George Wahington’s Sunday Evening Prayer, the first U.S. President prays in the name of: (Circle one)
a) A Supreme Being
b) A universal God
c) O most glorious God, and thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
d) The Brotherhood of man
xiii) In George Washington’s Sunday Evening Prayer, the first U.S. President humbly beseeches God to: (Circle all correct answers)
a) Give him grace to heed the call of the Gospel
b) Pardon and forgive his sins
c) Increase his salary
d) Give him more votes
e) Remit his transgressions, negligences and ignorances
f) Cover his sins with the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ
xiv) The above historic evidence proves that George Washington, the first president, unhesitatingly, both in the public and private spheres of his life, confessed his belief in: (Circle one)
xv) In George Washington’s May, 1789 letter to The Hebrew Congregation of the City of Savannah, the first U.S. President states that the United States was established as an independent nation, (Circle one)
a) Whose God is success
b) Whose God is prosperity
c) Whose God is Jehovah
d) Whose God is sports
xiii) a, b, e, f
To learn more, click here. (The Christian Heritage of our Nation – Ten National Landmarks book)
Source: Library of Congress, Rare Book Collection.