Our Presidents & Their Prayers

Proclamations of Faith by America's Leaders


By Rand Paul

With James Robison

Read by Rand Paul

Read by James Robison

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What is the single most important common thread that unites all American Presidents – such a small number of extraordinary people from different centuries, parties, backgrounds and experiences – as they shoulder the overwhelming responsibilities of the office of President of the United States? There is only one possible answer: their faith.
As a respected national leader and a man of deep faith himself, Senator Rand Paul has written OUR PRESIDENTS & THEIR PRAYERS in collaboration with James Randall Robison to remind us all that in a country founded by religious people, that abiding and rock-solid belief in God has been the key to each and every president’s strength.
Senator Paul’s inspiring look into the heart-felt sentiments and personal prayers of leaders past and present becomes a powerful testament to our incredible accomplishments: winning the Revolution, writing the Constitution, and leading the world as the most exceptional and longest-lasting democracy in history.
It’s nothing short of a miracle, then and now.
Every man who has answered the people’s call to become President has looked for and found answers in his faith as he faced the nation’s problems, and each president has frequently described his reliance on the Creator in his public speeches, official proclamations and private prayers.
Join Senator Paul in applauding the important role faith has played in our country through over 225 years of triumphs and struggles, justice and injustice, accomplishments and setbacks, war and peace.
In OUR PRESIDENTS & THEIR PRAYERS, Senator Paul stands up to the doubters in this most timely and important affirmation of how faith and prayer have always guided us, and why they must continue to do so as we face major decisions for the future of our country.


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Pilgrim fathers arriving in America.

Freedom of Worship by Norman Rockwell, 1943.


Americans often take for granted that our country was born of a religious people. We sometimes discount the importance of religion as the stabilizing force that allowed us to proceed in relative calm from the chaos of war to an enduring nation guided by faith and the rule of law.

One of the media's favorite questions to politicians is: "Do you believe America is a Christian nation?" Well, it is of course a historical fact that we were founded by a religious people, most of whom were Christians. But if one tries to expound on that point, even to acknowledge its historical significance, some immediately want to paint you as an intolerant believer in theocracy.

The media so often dumbs down the debate that the general public fails to appreciate how uniquely fortunate we were that our American Revolution was the exception to the rule played out repeatedly in world history—bloodshed, violence, and enduring chaos.

Among revolutions, America's was extraordinary in that once we threw off the yoke of the king, we didn't also cast off our traditions. We kept our religious faith. We maintained a thousand year history of English common law. We considered our revolution to be a continuation and natural progression of the battle for individual rights that began at Runnymede in 1215.

Consider, for example, how the American Revolution differed dramatically from the French Revolution.

In America, we fought to be free of the British King but we maintained our several hundred year tradition of limited governmental power and we kept our bedrock religious faith. We didn't forget or attempt to turn away from the quest for individual rights that began with the Magna Carta. We built upon its keystone. Our founders were not bashful in acknowledging God's Grace in our history.

Contrast that with the French Revolution, where the king and religion were to a degree inseparable and rejected simultaneously. As a result, violent chaos and destruction ensued.

The American Revolution was also extraordinary in that it gave birth to the first real meritocracy. Barbara Tuchman writes of how novel it was that the American Revolution opened up progress to people from all walks of life, not just the nobility.

While it took awhile for the Republic to include everyone, the fact that it occurred and remains is, to my mind, nothing short of a miracle.

Some modern critics worry though that we do not separate religion from government enough. They seek to not only divide faith from our government but also from the private sector businesses of our citizens. They argue that the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby should be forced by law to keep their faith out of their business.

But when the US Government decreed that Hobby Lobby would be forced to purchase insurance covering procedures its owners found morally objectionable, they responded, unbowed, in a way that speaks to the core of America's founding principles. Their lawyer wrote:

"Obamacare asks us to abandon our faith to remain in business or abandon our business to remain true to our faith."

In a free country, such a question should be unthinkable. Such a question is inconsistent with liberty. Indeed, such a question is antithetical to the American tradition.

Modern day pundits act as if the separation of church and state means that our origins were based upon a purely secular state devoid of the influence of religion.

Nothing could be further from the truth. To a person, all of our Presidents have acknowledged the guiding influence of their faith.

Today's critics sometimes imply that you can't have both faith and freedom. Some think you must choose between faith or freedom, or put a different way—liberty or virtue.

I disagree.

I believe that liberty is absolutely essential to virtue, and vice versa. After all, it is the freedom to make individual choices that allows us to be virtuous.

Don Devine gets to the heart of the matter in his book, America's Way Back. He writes:

"Freedom needs tradition for law, order, inspiration.

Tradition needs freedom to escape stagnation, coercion, and decline.

The great achievement of the Constitution's framers was in providing a means for synthesizing freedom and tradition."

Government can't impose virtue, we must impose it on ourselves.

Government can't provide salvation, only the individual can choose to be saved.

Government can supply bread, but it can't mend a broken spirit.

To paraphrase Os Guiness, "Liberty requires restraint but the only restraint consistent with liberty is voluntary restraint."

This does not mean government cannot or should not reflect our values. In fact, it must. I believe that leaders guided by faith, leaders guided by virtue, are essential.

Most of our Presidents recognized this principle, especially President Washington. He recognized that freedom requires an undergirding of faith. Washington believed that democracy depended upon a virtuous people. His prayers and writings, and those of the other great Presidents in our history contained in these pages, reveal how integral our religious traditions were to our founding, and I believe, to our future as well.

Ingraving of George Washington by Alexander H. Ritchie, 1852 based on a painting by Peter Frederick Rothermel.


We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.






From his election as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army to the end of his second term as president, George Washington stood as the quintessential American leader. After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, he was unanimously elected as our nation's first president. On April 30, 1789, he placed his hand on an open Bible while standing on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. After taking the oath, church bells rang out across the city as the crowd thundered with applause. President Washington then delivered the first inaugural address to Congress, which included a patent acknowledgement of God's hand in the establishment of a new, free land.

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.


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 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 has appointed to rule over us in church and 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.


Washington's reputation as a general went hand in hand with his renown as a man of faith. He sought God's intervention as he fought for freedom. And when the war was at its lowest ebb he sought solace on his knees before God at Valley Forge.

Brueckner's portrait of Washington in prayer continues to inspire. In fact, Reagan said that the portrait of George Washington kneeling in the snow praying at Valley Forge "personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and their Preserver."

In the bitter cold winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, General Washington bent his knee in prayer.

Like so many stories surrounding Washington it is sometimes hard to sort out the apocryphal from fact. But the story recounted by Isaac Potts, a young Quaker resident of Valley Forge, appears consistent with what we know of Washington's faith. Potts had firsthand knowledge. He was there at Valley Forge overseeing the grinding of grain for the army.

Potts' story is recounted in the "Diary and Remembrances" of Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, a Presbyterian minister and a Princeton graduate (Original Manuscript at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Call no. PHi.Am.1561-1568).

"I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) near Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of the Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our state and a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, "It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America could proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean. But something very extraordinary converted me to the good faith."

"What was that?" I inquired. "Do you see that woods, and that plain?" It was about a quarter of a mile from the place we were riding. "There," said he, "laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the ship but that one good man. In that woods," pointing to a close in view, "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. I went home and told my wife, 'I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before', and just related to her what I had seen and heard and observed. We never thought a man could be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. We thought it was the cause of God, and America could prevail."

One of the things I am most grateful for in my life is that I was blessed to be born into a large and loving family, with two wonderful parents. Together with our spouses, my four siblings, and I have nineteen kids between us. With six married or engaged, there are now twenty-five in that generation, with seven great-grandchildren also in the mix. Typically, there are over forty people at dinners of "just the family. " I love it.

There is a special strength and comfort in knowing that there are so many people who stand with you and behind you—no matter what unfolds in your life. I was reminded of that again just recently, as my mother and younger sister Joy hosted events in Texas to celebrate my wife Kelley's new book, True and Constant Friends.

My mother Carol hosted an afternoon tea and my sisters, sisters-in-law and nieces all helped with every detail—flowers, food, invitations and decor. Kelley was so touched by the labor of love. Our niece Vicki sang "God Bless America" a capella, to begin one of the events, and did so having been given virtually no advance warning! That's the way my family is: always ready to do what is asked.

My sister Joy is a busy OB-GYN and a mother of six, the youngest of whom is only two, but she had the time and energy to host a luncheon for nearly two hundred people who came out to hear Kelley speak. Many members of Joy's church were there, including her pastor and his wife.

Kelley and I were so moved by the outpouring of prayers and encouragement we received from Joy's church family, people we had never met before. Many of the guests were also Joy's patients—the fathers and mothers of the thousands of babies she has delivered. One of the guests, a longtime patient of Joy's, said to me that day, "Your parents sure knew what they were doing when they named your sister Joy." That is certainly true.

Our first president spoke of the "Great Author" of all that is good. When I think of my family, and the values and faith they hold dear, I think of the benevolence of His almighty pen. I look at my family and I'm grateful for the bountiful love He has scripted for me.





John Adams was our nation's first Vice President, serving both terms under President Washington. He was a Harvard-educated lawyer, a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a diplomat to France and Holland during the American Revolution.

Although his religious views were unorthodox and ever evolving, he held to a belief in God and, in the words of his grandson Charles Francis Adams, "he was content to settle down upon the Sermon on the Mount as a perfect code presented to men by a more than mortal teacher."

What I have always loved about John Adams and really his entire clan is that they lived out their religious beliefs. In a time in which much was excused, in a time in which many leaders failed to condemn slavery, the Adamses rose above the norms of the day to be a voice against the it.

John Adams by Gilbert Stuart c. 1800.

His opposition to slavery was not loud enough during the Constitutional Convention to prevent the loathsome practice from continuing, but nevertheless his opposition was well known and Adams was always proud of his position against human bondage.

Adams' views are quite clear in his letter to Robert I. Evans, June, 1819:

"Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States.

"I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in such abhorrence, that I have never owned a negro or any other slave; though I have lived for many years in times when the practice was not disgraceful; when the best men in my vicinity thought it not inconsistent with their character; and when it has cost me thousands of dollars of the labor and subsistence of free men…"

Works of John Adams

In his inaugural address, Adams acknowledges that the fate of the Republic and the success of the country rely upon and are necessarily intertwined with the benevolence of our Creator.

I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come.


Perhaps most poignant among Adams' letters was one he wrote to Thomas Jefferson, his friend and political rival, shortly after the death of his wife Abigail. In mourning the loss of his beloved, he meditates on God, human love, and the afterlife:

"I do not know how to prove, physically, that we shall meet and know each other in a future state; nor does revelation, as I can find, give us any positive assurance of such a felicity. My reasons for believing it, as I do most undoubtedly, are that I cannot conceive such a being could make such a species as the human, merely to live and die on this earth. If I did not believe in a future state, I should believe in no God. This universe, this all would appear, with all of its swelling pomp, a boyish firework. And if there be a future state, why should the Almighty dissolve forever all the tender ties which unite us so delightfully in this world, and forbid us to see each other in the next?"

His anguished, yet still hopeful question reminds me of one of my favorite spiritual songs, The Wayfaring Stranger, an American folk classic. I'll never forget how moved I was hearing a woman sing it accompanied by a mandolin and guitar at our church in Bowling Green one morning. Its plaintive words and melody speak to the yearnings of the human heart for love and peace, and the desire to see the faces of our loved ones who've gone before, "God's redeemed, their vigils keep."

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger

Traveling through this world of woe

There's no sickness, toil nor danger

In that fair land to which I go

I'm going there to see my father

I'm going there no more to roam

I'm just a-going over Jordan

I'm just a-going over home

I know dark clouds will hover o'er me

I know my path way is rough and steep

But golden fields lie out before me

Where God's redeemed their vigils keep

I'm going there to see my mother

She said she'd meet me when I come

I'm only going over Jordan

I'm only going over home

I'll soon be free, from every trial

This form shall rest beneath the sun

I'll drop the cross of self-denial

And enter in the home with God.

I'm going there to see my Saviour

I'm going home no more to roam

I'm just a-going over Jordan

I'm just a-going over home



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Oct 20, 2015
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Rand Paul

About the Author

SENATOR RAND PAUL has represented Kentucky in the United States Senate since winning the seat in 2010. When he is not in session in Washington D.C., he lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He and his wife Kelley have three sons.

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