November 10: Chaplain Robert Eliot

A Presbyterian Prays for Those Who Govern Us
by David T. Myers

On the day following a historic national election of our nation, it is beneficial to remember that our founders advocated the absolute necessity of chaplains in our elected bodies to be prayer warriors for those national decisions which make our nation.

The practice started in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 when circumstances arose which threatened to tear asunder the meeting, Benjamin Franklin, hardly a theist, still arose to state that “if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God’s notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” He went on to state that if they fail to draw upon spiritual strength for guidance, they would succeed no better than the Builders of Babel. And so the idea of appointing a chaplain to preside in prayer before the Senate and the House of representatives came into existence.

Of the various religious figures represented by this spiritual need, a goodly number have came from our Presbyterian bodies. One such minister was the Rev. Robert Elliot, who served for two years in the House of Representatives, and then on this day, November 10, 1808, was appointed as chaplain of the Senate. He was to serve for two years in this position.

Besides leading in prayer for the members of that body, the chaplains then and today offer spiritual care, counseling for members, their families, and staff (which today numbers around 6000 people), discussion sessions, prayer meetings, and a weekly prayer breakfast. In the more recent past, funerals and marriages have come under his ministry.

Words to Live By:
It is certainly true that in this day, we cannot necessarily assume that a Congressional chaplain will be a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching, man of God. There are however regular ministries to the leaders of our nation. And indeed, the new Vice-President Pence is a born again believer. How we need to pray for those of His elect who minister in governmental ways that God’s Spirit will bring that spiritual awakening to our nation while those who minister in Bible believing churches will be used of that same Spirit to pray for genuine revival among those who are members of our Presbyterian churches. Will the reader join the two authors of This Day in Presbyterian History in those prayers?

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