The Power of Prayer & Fasting

Prayers for Protection:

“A notable Day of Prayer was in 1746, when French Admiral d’Anville sailed for New England, commanding the most powerful fleet of the time – 70 ships with 13,000 troops. He intended to recapture Louisburg, Nova Scotia, and destroy from Boston to New York, all the way to Georgia. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley declared a Day of Prayer and Fasting, October 16, 1746, to pray for deliverance.

In Boston’s Old South Meeting House, Rev. Thomas Prince prayed “Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the water…scatter the ships of our tormentors!” Historian Catherine Drinker Bowen related that as he finished praying, the sky darkened, winds shrieked and church bells rang “a wild, uneven sound…though no man was in the steeple.”

A hurricane subsequently sank and scattered the entire French fleet. With 4,000 sick and 2,000 dead, including Admiral d’Anville, French Vice-Admiral d’Estournelle threw himself on his sword. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his Ballad of the French Fleet: “Admiral d’Anville had sworn by cross and crown, to ravage with fire and steel our helpless Boston Town…From mouth to mouth spread tidings of dismay, I stood in the Old South saying humbly: ‘Let us pray!’…Like a potter’s vessel broke, the great ships of the line, were carried away as smoke or sank in the brine.”

As raids from France and Spain increased, Ben Franklin proposed a General Fast, which was approved by Pennsylvania’s President and Council, and published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:

“We have…thought fit…to appoint…a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People…to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent supplications that Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood.”—William J. Federer; Read more here. ◊ 1983, the year of the Bible

‘Fasting’ in the Bible

  • Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline.”—Thomas Jefferson, 1808.
  • “Went to church, fasted all day.”—An entry from George Washington’s diary; June 1, 1774