This transcript is taken from the Stand in the Gap Today radio program originally aired on Nov. 10, 2019.
Sam Rohrer: Well, you’ve all heard the phrase I am sure, prayer changes things. Well, the question is, I’m sure you’ve heard it, but do you believe it? Well, you should because God’s made it clear that He does answer prayer. Proper prayer can turn the head of God, proper prayer by God’s people can turn back the judgment of God.
Christ even said that powerful prayer with faith can literally move the mountains. So we should pray personally and fervently and nothing can ever, no law, no government, can ever remove from us the ability to pray. The only thing that can do that is our own personal choice not to do so. Yet when it comes to public prayer, the kind of prayer that opens each session of Congress, as an example, or state assemblies and many local government meetings, the kind of prayer that used to start most public school days across our nation, the kind of prayer that Governor Bill Lee called for this day today for his state of Tennessee.
To national days of prayer initiated in the past by many presidents, public prayer has though unfortunately been increasingly minimized, perhaps ridiculed by some in our nation. It’s not done as frequently, and I’m afraid that when it is done many times it’s done maybe far more from tradition perspective or symbolism perhaps or for historic reasons, rather than because we truly understand the power and the benefit and the need for prayer and public prayer.
But that knowledge of prayer needs to change in this nation if we’re going to see healing of the deep divisions that are about us, or see a restoration of justice, or a return of God’s blessing to our nation. So we’re going to talk about these things today. The theme that we’re going to pursue is this, public prayer, the constitution and public schools. And with that introduction, let me welcome you to Stand in the Gap Today. I’m Sam Rohrer and I’m going to be accompanied by the full team, Gary Dull, Dave Kistler, and our special recurring guest, constitutional attorney, author and speaker David New.
And with that, David, I’m going to get right into the first question with you. I’d like to start at the foundation of it all. Now the foundation as we approach prayer and public prayer, we know is in the scripture. We know that personal prayer or public prayer by leaders of government is something that is highly valued by God. I mean, there are famous prayers in the Bible that we can go back to, King David did. King Solomon did. King’s servants in secular governments like Ezra and Nehemiah have recorded prayers. Vice rulers, as I would call them, like Daniel in pagan government.
Daniel actually led a prayer of repentance for his nation in that Babylonian era, and that’s recorded in Daniel chapter nine, but when it comes to our own nation, let’s take it here now, David, when it comes to our own nation now, what can you share with us about what our United States, I’m going to call them our organic documents of law. What do they say about prayer? And I mean that the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What do they say, David, about prayer or intimate about prayer from a public civil perspective?
David New: Well, you’re absolutely right about the great prophet Daniel in chapter nine. In fact, one of the things you may want to, ladies and gentlemen, to have a mental record is that in Daniel nine, Ezra nine, and Nehemiah nine, they’re all chapter nines are the great prayer chapters by these prophets. And the secret to prayer in each of these chapters was the reading of scripture.
They read scripture first and then they said their prayer. Now the Mayflower Compact is a compact, it’s a system of government, but it is really also a prayer. So this country is born, without question, it has its birth, it’s birth pangs, are involved in prayer. The Declaration of Independence at the very end you could call that part a prayer, because they are looking to God for their protection because they declare their independence from the most powerful nation in the world.
And they’re an army that has an enormous Navy. The United States did not have a Navy. I mean the odds were all in favor of the British. The constitution, the main message when it comes to prayer and the constitution is that the constitutional left religion to the State, so that they can pursue whatever avenues of religion that they want to. And of course prayer is a big part of it. John Hancock issued prayer proclamations. George Washington, the very first proclamation by a US president was about prayer.
Sam Rohrer: Yes, indeed. So David, you made it clear, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence really are within them a full prayer or a partial prayer, and the constitution recognizes that attitude of prayer based on the founders who signed it and what they said. David, I want to go to… I mean Dave, I want to go to you, I’m trying to keep David and Dave clear, separate.
Dave Kistler, you do work in Washington and as part of an evangelist, you get into churches and you get around and you’ve got a focus there in Washington. You’ve gotten to meet and get to know very well Chaplain Black, he happens to be the chaplain of the US Senate. His purpose is to be involved in leading and prayer. I’ve heard him speak, you’ve heard him speak many times. Anything that stands out about him that you’ve heard talking about the importance of prayer in a public fashion as he does in front of our US Senate?
Dave Kistler: Well, Sam, I do. And in fact one of the statements that Dr. Black will use is this, he says, “Prayer is nothing more than the inhaling and the exhaling of the soul.” Now that’s a great way to describe it. He also talks about this. He said, “Prayer is our spiritual weapon.” It’s one of several that we have, and he said, “Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and if you don’t have a relationship with the transcendent one that is the God of heaven, then many times you’re going to undervalue or underestimate the weapons that are at your disposal. Prayer being one of them.”
And by the way, I would say this, if people want to read some of the prayers and some of the emphasis of chaplain Barry Black, US Senate chaplain, great book, he’s written called Nothing to Fear: Principles and Prayers to Help You Thrive in a Threatening World. That is a great book. It is a little booklet. It’ll be incredibly helpful. But this man knows about prayer. He talks about prayer a lot on Capitol Hill. He preaches about prayer. More importantly, he lives it.
Sam Rohrer: And Dave, I can recall being there one time with you and I’m not sure if Gary, you were in the room at the same time, but there were some other pastors that were there. Chaplain Black spoke, and he actually talked about Daniel and the prayer that Dave had referenced and that I referenced earlier, probably one of the most profound, invigorating expositions on the prophet Daniel leading in prayer during a time of a secular government of anybody that I’ve heard. Recall that?
Dave Kistler: I do Sam, and if you remember, he also rose to prominence during the government shutdown a couple of years ago where he prayed phenomenal prayers that CNN and MSNBC actually picked up on, but they were prayers based on that Daniel passage you’re talking about.
Sam Rohrer: So ladies and gentlemen, our focus today, public prayer, the constitution and public schools. We’ve talked about the constitution, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence have prayers within it or around it, certainly. We have leaders like the Chaplain Black who’s actually leading in public prayer.
Our theme today is public prayer, the constitution and public schools. I’m Sam Rohrer and you are listening to Stand in the Gap Today, a national program that is a aired on over 400 stations nationwide. Actually all 50 states have access, so if you are listening right now you are a part of a very large audience and we are thankful to you for being a part of that.
We deal with issues on this program from a perspective that not very many others do, and that perspective is a biblical worldview perspective of those issues of the day, those lead issues of the day and we try as best as we can to not just talk about issues but go to a solution, because we believe that God’s word holds the answer to all issues of life for all time for all nations. If we believe it, and we do, we would like to believe that we are demonstrating that on this program and on our national Stand in the Gap TV program, which you can access as well.
Just go to our website to find out where that can be done, standinthegapradio.com, you can find that information there. Well, the issue of the day we’re talking about is prayer. We’re talking about increasingly on this program, we always talk about prayer, but we’re talking about it in a very fresh way because the problems in this country they’re never going to be solved by the guys in Washington.
They’re not going to be solved by a Supreme court case. They’re not going to be solved by some debate on some platform somewhere. It’s going to come because people get their hearts right with God and we invite the Lord to do what only He can do. And why are we doing this? Because we’re tired of talking about symptoms. We’re going to go to the issue and the heart. We’re talking about prayer today, but here’s a little bit of interest that I think you’d like to know. As I was doing my research for the program, talking about public prayer, I thought, “You know what? What of our US presidents, what have they done?”
The governor of Tennessee called for a public day of prayer for Tennessee today. We talked about what the Constitution says and other documents, but from a president perspective, let me just give you a little bit here. Listen to this. President Washington after the whiskey rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, where we are, close to where Gary actually is situated, declared a national day of prayer, January 1st, 1796 when he declared, “All persons within the United States to render sincere and hardy thanks to the great ruler of nations for the possession of constitutions of government. We fervently beseech the kind author of these blessings to establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety.”
That was George Washington. Or that during a threatened war with France, President John Adams declared a national day of prayer and fasting March 23rd, 1798, and he did it again on March 6th, 1799. Did you know that President Tyler proclaimed a national day of prayer and fasting on April 13th, 1841 when President Harrison died in office?
Or that President Zachary Taylor declared a national prayer of day and fastening on July 3rd, 1849, during a cholera epidemic? Or did you know that President Buchanan declared a national day of prayer and fasting to avert civil strife. When? December, 14, 1860. Or that when President Lincoln was shot, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a national day of prayer April 29th, 1865.
Or that in 1918 when the United States entered World War One, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a national day of prayer and fasting where he declared, “Whereas in a time of war, humbly to acknowledge our dependence on all mighty God and to implore His aid as I, the president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim a day of public humiliation and prayer and fasting, and do exhort my fellow citizens to pray that all mighty God may forgive our sins.”
That was Woodrow Wilson. Or that in 1952 President Truman made the national day of prayer an annual event stating, “In times of national crises when we are striving to strengthen the foundations of peace, we stand in special need of divine support.” Now my point is that public prayer from an historical basis in this nation has been consistent, it’s been long, and it’s been recognized for various reasons as something that rises to the level of full public prominence and engagement.
So we’re going to talk more about that. David, let me go to you now. I’ve given a few examples here. Previous presidents called for national days of prayer for various reasons. Are there any other examples of public prayer from an historical perspective perhaps that you as an historian and author could help our listeners to be firmly convinced in the practice of public prayer in our nation?
David New: Well, one of the things that we have that shows that the secular side of the constitution is a godless secular document and that it’s supposed to create a godless secular government. Well, Christian nations take on a certain characteristic.
They’re alike in many, many ways and there’s about 10 or 11 of them and I list them in my upcoming book on the separation of church and state. And one of those characteristics that Christian nations have is that they hire chaplains that come into the legislative body and lead prayer. Now if the secularists are right, that we’re supposed to be governors, then the first Congress should never ever have hired chaplains that come in and lead a chaplain for the Senate and the chaplain for the house.
This is highly suggestive that their interpretation is wrong and that even though the constitution doesn’t authorize a chaplain, the fact that the Congress did it shows that they tried to fit in with Christian America with the federal government.
Sam Rohrer: That’s a good point you make there David, and I’m just going to let that hang there ladies and gentlemen. Again, there are a lot more historical examples that we give, but prayer and public prayer as we’re talking about is a part of the very fiber and the fabric of this nation from the day that the Pilgrims set foot on the shore and offered that prayer in the form of the Mayflower Compact, appealing to the God of the word and the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Yes, in that document, to the signers of the Declaration who appealed to the great judge of the universe to hear the rectitude and the rightness of that big cause that they undertook, which if they had not, we wouldn’t be sitting here today with the freedom that we have. But that wasn’t the only point we can point to with public prayer. Prayer used to be in our public schools.
There’s many of you who are listening right now, who would say, “Yeah, I can recall that.” I know I can recall that in my elementary school, but Gary, let me go to you. I started with President Washington’s proclamation that came out of an issue in Western Pennsylvania. You live in Western Pennsylvania. What do you recall? Do you remember public prayer of any type happening in your public school when you grew up? Why was it done and what do you recall about it?
Gary Dull: Yes, I do recall it. I don’t recall Washington’s prayer on 1796, but I go back quite a ways and I can remember right up through seventh grade having both prayer and Bible reading in our schools. As a matter of fact, I was just sitting here thinking I can recall several ways in which our teachers would allow for prayer. On some occasions we would pray as a class.
We would pray together the Lord’s prayer. Of course that is the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples how to pray. And then of course there were times when the teacher himself would lead us in prayer. I remember particularly one particular teacher, Carl Skinner was his name. He would always lead us in prayer, but then he would also give various students within the class the opportunities to pray. Of course I went to church with him and he was in fact one of my Sunday school teachers.
So frequently he would call on me to pray and that was in fifth and sixth grades where I had him, but prayer was very prevalent. I would say that most readily it was the Lord’s prayer that was prayed, but I can sure remember when teachers would lead us or give us that opportunity to pray and I missed it the first year after it was taken out of school. I can remember missing it quite well. I think it made an impact upon the lives of the teachers and the students back in those days.
Sam Rohrer: Gary, that’s my recollection as well. But let me turn it now to David, because I want you to get this in here. There was a time in 1962 though when the United States Supreme court in their “wisdom,” decided that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. Set that up for us. What did they say and why did they do that?
David New: Well, the prayer that was involved in 1962 that started this whole, what you might call war on Christianity, also is a cultural war. It was a 22 word prayer and it was set out of New York state, and the prayer went like this, that doesn’t even have the word Jesus in it. And listen to this prayer, it’s 22 words long and all this fighting that we have over religion started right here.
It goes like this, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee and we beg thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.” That is the prayer that began this whole culture war between the those who believe in honoring God, in God we trust, and those who don’t.
Sam Rohrer: Isn’t that incredible, ladies and gentlemen? That simple for prayer, “God, we need your help. Bless our country,” reverse order, “Our parents and our teachers.” What an amazing thing that the Supreme court said we can’t do this anymore. Well, that’s what happened to public prayer in our schools and now we’re without it. Now we think we don’t need anything from God, but boy, how we do.
Well, we’re at our mid point in the program now and we thank you for being with us today. If you’re just joining us, we’re focusing on public prayer, the constitution and public schools, because we believe that as you’re listening to this program, you’re listening to other news as well. Don’t you think that we have need for prayer in this nation? You look to Washington, what’s happening down there and what’s happening as we talk about this program, with all of the fighting that’s going on and all that’s taking place with Middle East war, all these kinds of things that are happening. Aren’t we in a time where we need prayer?
I think you would agree that we are. Then why don’t we hear more about it? Well, I think the sad fact of it is because we’ve got a culture that doesn’t really understand the importance of prayer and that God said that national blessings come from national prayer. And it’s a whole lot tied in; we’re not getting into all of that here today, but trying to help direct our hearts and our minds back that just talking about or regurgitating what we see in the truth absent media generally.
If that’s all we do, it leads you nowhere but to frustration, right? We need to pray. When we pray and we do it properly, individually and publicly, nationally, God says, “If you do it right, you do it My way, I’ll hear.” That’s what we want to say. Let’s focus ladies and gentlemen, if you know the Lord, if you have a fear of God, then let’s be thinking more and more and more about what we’re doing in regard to taking our needs before the Lord. Now in this case, we’re going to go back to the public school. An historical piece that happened, 1962, US Supreme court and the Engel v. Vitale decision.
Just a few people raised their voice and they got that prayer with them. I’m going to ask David New to recite again, because it’s so wonderfully simple. Because of that prayer, it was thrown out, declared to be illegal and unconstitutional. Even though as we’ve established prayer publicly is wrapped up in our organic documents of law from the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence to reflect it even within our constitution.
Public prayer led by our presidents. It’s been a part of our fiber and fabric. Yet this US Supreme court stepped up and said, “Nope, it’s not any longer.” And as David New said, put us on a trajectory away from God. So David, let me go back and to hear when the Supreme court made their disastrous and I’m going to say unlawful decision in 1962, there was one Senator though who did speak out in opposition. He tried to do something about it. I’d just like to know that story because I think it’s interesting here. Who was it? What did he say? And what did he attempt to do?
David New: Yes, his name was Senator Everett Dirksen. And if you go to Washington D.C. you will come across a building, part of the Capitol, the US Capitol called the Dirksen Senate Office Building. And this great Senator was born in 1896 and he died in 1969. He was not pleased with what the US Supreme court did in removing prayer in the Engel case.
And then in the subsequent year, 1963, with Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s case, where they talk about the Bible and the Lord’s prayer. And the Congress was so upset about this business of removing prayer that when you look at the well of the house of representatives, you will see the words In God We trust. That was put there in protest of removing prayer and the Engel case.
And so the first president to have the golden words In God We Trust above him was President Kennedy, in the following year in 1963. In January of 1963 when he gave his state of the union address. So Senator Everett Dirksen entered an amendment to the constitution. And around this time, there was over a 150 proposals to reverse the Engel case. And here’s what his said, “Nothing contained in this constitution shall prohibit the authority administrating any school, school system, educational institution, or other public buildings supported in whole or in part through the expenditure of public funds from providing for or permitting the voluntary participation by students or others in prayer.”
Sam Rohrer: Hmm.
David New: Great man. He’s a great man.
Dave Kistler: Amazing statement.
Sam Rohrer: Go ahead, David. I’m sorry. That was an amazing thing. I didn’t know all of that David New, I really didn’t. So Dave, you’re down there off. I’m sure you’ve seen that many times, the house well?
Dave Kistler: Sam, I have and I’ve been in the Senate chamber and had the opportunity to be a guest chaplain. In fact, I want to read the prayer I prayed in 2004 as guest chaplain in the United States Senate. Here’s the entire prayer. It was transcribed into the congressional record. “Lord, your Holy word says in the book of Romans that those who serve in the halls of government are actually your ministers. Remind us that the work to be done here today is larger than any particular individual or political party. Grant wisdom, oh Lord, to this assembly that they might understand their responsibility not only to the people of this great nation, but primarily to You.
May we understand what former president Grover Cleveland said that those who manage the affairs of government should be courageously true to the interests of the people and that the ruler of the universe will require of them a strict account of their stewardship. Turn us back to You in humble contrition and acknowledgement of Your will and ways, for it is in the name of our Redeemer and savior Jesus Christ, that we humbly pray. Amen.”
Now, David, I want to ask you a question. I prayed that prayer, I prayed in Jesus name and prayer takes place in the house and Senate chamber every single day. How has the Supreme court navigated this distinction between no prayer in public school and yet the US Congress opens both of their houses every day in prayer? How does that work?
David New: Well, basically what the Supreme court does is that they treat prayer as R-rated activity. In other words they will oppose prayer when children are involved, and that prayer is only an adult thing. That’s how they make the distinction.
Dave Kistler: David, I’m going to jump in. I think that’s a profound statement. That really is quite something, because if I take what you said in Supreme court, and I’m not disputing it, I’m saying, “Hey, that’s an astute point.” That prayer, Bible reading, I’m going to have you go there, Ten Commandments in our school setting of any type, the Supreme court says not appropriate and I think what you said R-rated, inappropriate for our children.
It’s an adult activity only. Seems to me David, to fit right in with the Marxist plan had establish to basically targeting our educational institutions and media to remove reference to God, Christianity, Judeo Christian principles. Their goal was to remove it. That’s effectively what take place. Build on what I just said there if you could, and tack it in with and tie together what you said in the last segment in that-
David New: Effectively what the Engel case represents is it represents a de-Christianization of America. Here’s the main thing to remember, what they’re saying in Engel is that prayer is offensive speech. Today when you hear Americans, you will say they are very offended if you bring up religion or anything. Where did they learn that? Where did Americans get the idea that religion is offensive to them? They got it from the Supreme court in 1962 and the Engel case.
Gary Dull: It’s amazing to see, David, how since 1962 our country has gone down the tube as it were spiritually speaking. As a matter of fact, just in a recent democratic convention, they basically said that they did not want to have God as a part of their platform. And of course we know that that is very, very clear. Do you believe that removing prayer and then of course later on Bible reading from the public school has had, number one, a negative effect upon our society, and secondly has brought God’s judgment upon our country in any way, David?
David New: There is no question that had prayer been allowed to continue, if it remained where it belonged according to the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, with the states and not with the Supreme court, there is no question that gay marriage for example, would not be constitutionally protected.
Sam Rohrer: That’s an incredible thing there David. And I think that, ladies and gentlemen as you’re listening right now, most listening would harken back and maybe you were not in school when the Ten Commandments were on the wall and maybe you don’t recall prayer being led by the principal or the superintendent across the speaker system so the whole elementary school could begin in prayer.
I do, Gary talked about that. David, I’m not sure about you, but nonetheless, many of you who are listening would recall that. And we recall that back in those days when prayer was taken out, Bible reading, Ten Commandments, that we said, “What in the world happened in this country? How did this take place?” And I look back at that point because I was just a young person at that point and I’m saying, “Boy, why aren’t people saying more about this? This seems like a really big matter that happened.”
And there wasn’t a whole lot of fighting that went on, and now we’re sitting looking back and saying, “Wow, well if the Supreme court said about prayer and Bible reading, it can’t be done, they said about the Ten Commandments. We can’t allow those to be hanging in the classroom either because if the kids read them, they’re likely going to do what they say.” And literally the court said, “We can’t allow that to happen.” That’s R-rated activity to do what the Ten Commandments said.
So now we have a generation who doesn’t know who God is and aren’t concerned at all about what they say or do from a moral perspective. We got exactly what the Supreme court set us up to do. This is where we are. Everything has a cause and effect. We’re going to pray. We’re going to do what we’re talking about here when we come back in the last segment.
Well, we’re going to go into now, ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve been listening this week, we have taken the last segment of this program and we’re going to be doing that going forth with a greater intentionality, taking those who are hosting on the program, actually leading in prayer. If we say it’s important, then we think we need to lead and to demonstrate that.
It does no good for us to be informed, to learn about the truth such as we’ve revealed today about prayer in this nation, public prayer as we’ve gone through it, it does no good to learn of those things unless it changes the way we think and the way we act and what we do. So that’s why we’re trying to lead in prayer, and we’ve asked you that as you are with us and listening, join us if you would in prayer.
Pray along with us as we lead publicly from this national pulpit as I would say, this national platform of this radio program on over 400 stations, as we lead from this pulpit in prayer. Would you join us? Join us at this moment. Join us as a partner in prayer ongoing for us. Pray for us in this program. Pray for David New who was a guest on this program, and what he does, and Dave Kistler as he does his preaching across the country, and Gary as he’s a senior pastor of a church in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Pray for us and me, as I lead this ministry, help pray for us. We need your prayer just like our nation needs this prayer.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being with us today and being a part of this. May you go forth from this program in an attitude of prayer. Hear what you hear on the news, filter it through the pages of scripture, and then be refocused in prayer before the Lord.