In the summer of 1787, the Constitutional Convention met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to decide how to set up a new government. At times the arguments grew bitter, and tempers flared in the summer heat. Some delegates verged on quitting when they reached an impasse over whether representation was to be based on the population of each state or if each state should be given one vote. Historians have called this period the “critical juncture” in the Convention. The country was brand-new, and already it looked as though it might fall apart.
On June 28, 1787, eighty-one-year-old Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate, rose from his seat and made a simple but profound suggestion: they should pray for guidance. He reminded the others that the Continental Congress had asked for divine aid at the start of the Revolutionary War.
“Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered,” he said. “And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
The delegates did not follow Franklin’s suggestion to begin each session with prayer -for one thing, they had no funds to hire a clergyman. But his words helped calm the Convention, which soon began to make progress, and that answered Franklin’s fervent prayer.