Faith of Our Fathers…and our Presidents

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”  George Washington.

The painting accompanying this article hangs in my church during the winter months and was donated by an older couple several years ago.  Every Sunday I find myself standing before it, almost spellbound.  Horses are among my favorite animals, and I like how the artist has captured this magnificent creature and his breath in the frosty air.  Painted in 1975 by artist Arnold Friberg, the painting is entitled “Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge.”  Things were not going well for the American troops in the long and bloody Revolutionary War, and most Americans were ready to give up.  Isaac Potts, a Quaker farmer who lived near Valley Forge, was in the woods near his home when “I heard a plaintive sound as of a man at prayer.  I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods, and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other.  He was at prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye crisis, and the cause of the country, of humanity and of the world.  Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man.  I left him alone praying.”  Potts reportedly sped home and announced to his wife, “Wife, we are going to win this war.  I just saw General Washington knelt in prayer, and we are bound to win.”  And win, we did.  Above all else at Valley Forge, Washington held to his faith, and prayer was an essential of his belief–whether vocal in the woods, silent in the stable stall, on bended knee at the bedside or in concert with associates at public service.  It is well for men’s souls to feel that a leader of men sought and obtained guidance from the Son of Man. (

Upon viewing Friberg’s painting, President Ronald Reagan said, “One of the most inspiring portrayals of American history is that of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge.  That moving image personifies and testifies to our Founder’s dependence upon Divine Providence during the darkest hours of our Revolutionary struggle.”

Likewise, Abraham Lincoln often quoted Scripture and alluded to his great dependence on God.  Presented with a Bible at an event in Baltimore in 1864, Lincoln stated, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man.  All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.  But for it we could not know right from wrong.  All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

As we have just celebrated President’s Day, I am thankful for the U S Presidents who had a firm faith and knew the power of prayer.  As the Bible’s Old Testament chronicles the journey of the Israelites and their good and not-so-good kings, I am reminded that America, too, has had some good and not-so-good leaders.  President Warren G. Harding is considered the worst president in American history.  He was good-looking, charming, and oddly likeable; yet he said about himself, “I am a man of limited talents from a small town; I don’t seem to grasp that I am president.”  Harding was a keen poker player, and once gambled away on a single hand an entire set of White House china that dated back to the presidency of Benjamin Harrison.  Oh, my!!!!

(c) 2019 Leslie Kelley
sources:  Wikipedia and various world wide web sites 



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