By Veronica Neffinger, Crosswalk.com
America has now had 45 presidents in its history. Most of these men have been at least nominally Christian, and none have declared themselves atheists. Each President's Day, many Americans think back to the leaders we have had throughout the few centuries since the country's founding. A few presidents particularly stand out for their Christian faith and how they relied on God in times of personal and national crisis. It may be inspiring to read how these men knew that while they themselves had a great deal of power, they too knew who the ultimate authority was and knew they could only succeed in their responsibilities through His guidance.
Here are eight presidents who are particularly noteworthy examples of men of character and faith.
1. George Washington
George Washington was, of course, the first president of the United States. His Christian faith is well-documented in The Writings of George Washington. Washington often made reference to a Divine Authority and to Providence in his speeches and writings.
According to MountVernon.org, "Washington is reported to have had regular private prayer sessions, and personal prayer was a large part of his life. One well-known report stated that Washington's nephew witnessed him doing personal devotions with an open Bible while kneeling, in both the morning and evening."
2. John Adams
John Adams was America's second president, following on the heels of George Washington. Another one of the Founding Fathers, Adams was the first to ask for a blessing to be said over the White House. He also maintained that America was founded on Christian principles:
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God," he said in a letter he wrote to Thomas Jefferson.
3. Abraham Lincoln
One of America's most noteworthy presidents for many reasons, many historians do not believe Lincoln professed Christian faith, but there is evidence he came to faith later in life.
“When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus," said the president who led the nation through the Civil War, according to the biography Abraham Lincoln, the Christian by William J. Johnstone.
4. James Madison
James Madison, the 4th president of the United States "was a faithful Episcopalian who signed a federal bill to appropriate funds for Bible distribution," according to an article from Religion News Service. Although Madison later advocated for a greater separation of church and state, his religious beliefs remain central to his character and presidency.
In a letter he wrote to William Bradford in 1773, Madison said, "I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; & I wish you may give in your evidence in this way."
5. Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms as president. He married while in office and had five children. His oldest daughter, Ruth, popularly known as Baby Ruth, died at the age of 12 from diptheria. Cleveland deeply grieved Ruth's passing, but looked to God for comfort.
"God has come to my help and I am able to adjust my thought to dear Ruth's death with as much comfort as selfish humanity will permit," reads a passage from his diary.
6. Jimmy Carter
Although many conservatives and also Christians disagree with Carter's politics, it is difficult to refute the sincerity of his faith. Carter is a long-time Baptist Sunday school teacher who also served for a time as a door-to-door missionary. He read his Bible daily while in office and made prayer an important part of his life.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Carter explained the intersection of his faith with his politics: "At the same time, there's no way I could ever separate my Christian belief from my obligations as a naval officer, as a governor or as President, or from my work now. I can't say my commitments as President were free of my beliefs. We worship the Prince of Peace, and one of the key elements of my life as President in challenging times was to keep our country peaceful."
7. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan is known as the quintessential conservative president, but he also took his faith seriously.
“I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living," he is quoted as saying.
8. George W. Bush
George W. Bush, whose time in office most of us recall, did not shy away from referring to God in speeches and in public discourse. He believed God had a specific calling on his life stating, "I believe God wants me to be president."
In a speech during a time when America was engaged in the Iraq War, Bush said, “As we continue to fight against terror, we ask the Almighty to protect all those who battle for freedom throughout the world and our brave men and women in uniform, and we ask Him to shield innocents from harm. We recognize the sacrifice of our military families and ask God to grant them peace and strength. We will not forget the men and women who have fallen in service to America and to the cause of freedom. We pray that their loved ones will receive God’s comfort and grace.”
Quotes and information extracted from "Christian Presidents: 10 Leaders Known for Their Faith," "Which U.S. Presidents Were the Most Religious?" and "The Religious Affiliation of 22nd and 24th U.S. President: Grover Cleveland."
Photos courtesy: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons