I saw this prompt in Writing in the Margins and wished that I had seen it in time for President’s Day:
In your Bible, next to Psalm 34:4 write, “Abraham Lincoln’s Prayer.” Now, write a prayer asking God for a transformation of your own fears.
After reading Psalm 34, I read what I could find on the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln. I was curious to learn that he never joined a church, but through personal friendships and a friendship with the Bible itself, he appears to have come to a deep and very personal faith that I think would resonate with many today. I was touched by the following words from this President:
On his journey of faith:
“Probably it is to be my lot to go on in a twilight, feeling and reasoning my way through life, as questioning, doubting Thomas did. But in my poor maimed, withered way, I bear with me as I go on a seeking spirit of desire for a faith that was with him of olden time, who, in his need, as I in mine, exclaimed, ‘Help thou my unbelief.'”
On the Bible:
“Nothing short of infinite wisdom could by any possibility have devised and given to man this excellent and perfect moral code. It is suited to men in all the conditions of life, and inculcates all the duties they owe to their Creator, to themselves, and to their fellow men.”
On the Psalms:
“They are the best, for I find in them something for every day in the week.”
On why he never joined a church (The honesty and integrity in this statement brought me to tears):
“Because I have found difficulty, without mental reservation, in giving my assent to their long and complicated confessions of faith. When any church will inscribe over its altar the Savior’s condensed statement of law and gospel: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself,’ that church will I join with all my heart.”
On God’s Providence:
“We are indeed going through a great trial—a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid—but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, he wills it otherwise. If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced; if I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that he permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.”
As I reflect on the times that President Lincoln endured, my thoughts and prayers turn to war-torn areas of our world today. My heart aches and my understanding fails me when I think of the persecuted Christians and their families in hostile areas. The news is too horrific to read.
Abraham Lincoln may not have been a margin writer, but a historian noted a very distinguished thumbprint next to the verse below in his Bible and it’s easy to see how these words were close to Lincoln’s heart: