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In our opinion: National Prayer Breakfast reminds the country to turn to the Father of lights

Morning prayer in the House of Representatives, Nov. 2, 2017.
Morning prayer in the House of Representatives, Nov. 2, 2017.

Today political, business and faith-based leaders gather in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast. It is a good reminder that, in America, exercising the right to pray can unite, inspire and instruct — regardless of background, ethnicity or religious affiliation.

This is a time when the world seems to be turning away from prayer at the very moment it needs it most in homes, communities and countries. Collective wisdom has left many wanting for truth and light. Political parties have failed their constituents and are tearing the fabric of society through divisiveness. Instead of looking heavenward to the Father of lights for answers and comfort, the country plunges to the depths of depravity as if more darkness will somehow light the way forward.

The nation has been here before. After four weeks of mostly unproductive debate in the Constitutional Convention, a frustrated Benjamin Franklin spoke, saying, “…We indeed seem to feel our own wont of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

“In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

“I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? ...

“I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business. …”

Franklin, the printer and political statesman, delivered this call to prayer in June 1787, but it may be more applicable to Americans today than it was to his colleagues in Philadelphia. President Thomas S. Monson, also a printer and 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, said it this way: “Men and women of integrity, character and purpose have ever recognized a power higher than themselves and have sought through prayer to be guided by such power.”

One need not belong to a particular religion to be blessed by prayer, nor should one have to be standing in a church or synagogue to be inspired by prayer.

There simply is power in prayer, and the nation should turn toward it.