Abraham Lincoln’s Call for a Day of Humiliation and Prayer

Abraham Lincoln’s Call for Humiliation and Prayer from Claude V King on Vimeo.

On March 3, 1863, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution requesting that President Abraham Lincoln issue a call for a day of humiliation and prayer. On March 13 Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward signed a proclamation calling for a national day of humiliation and prayer "to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." God did promise:

"If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:13-14, HCSB).

As God’s people, let’s humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and repent for the healing of our nation!

Lincoln’s Proclamation…

"A Proclamation.

"Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation:

"And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:

"And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

"It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

"Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national  humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

"All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

[L. S.]

"Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh."

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


[1]   DS, DNA FS RG 11, Proclamations. The Senate Resolution requesting the president to proclaim a day for “national prayer and humiliation” was introduced by Senator James Harlan on March 2, and adopted on March 3, 1863.

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.




Senate Resolution, March 2, 1863

Mr. Harlan submitted the following resolution for consideration; which was ordered to be printed:

Resolved, That, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, and sincerely believing that no people, however great in numbers and resources, or however strong in the justice of their cause, can prosper without His favor, and at the same time deploring the national offences which have provoked His righteous judgment, yet encouraged, in this day of trouble, by the assurances of His word to seek Him for succor according to His appointed way, through Jesus Christ, the Senate of the United States do hereby request the President of the United States, by his proclamation, to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation, requesting all the people of the land to suspend their secular pursuits and unite in keeping the day in solemn communion with the Lord of Hosts, supplicating Him to enlighten the counsels and direct the policy of the rulers of the nation, and to support all our soldiers, sailors, and marines, and the whole people, in the firm discharge of duty, until the existing rebellion shall be overthrown and the blessings of peace restored to our bleeding country. (pages 378-379)

 March 3, 1863

On motion by Mr. Harlan,

The Senate proceeded to consider the resolution, yesterday submitted by him, requesting the President of the United States to set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and

The resolution was agreed to. (page 404)

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875
Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 55