Spiritual revivals are unique and reflect the time and circumstances, but they all have one thing in common – mainly that they come following a time of moral apathy or decline.

From the “Great Awakening” (1734-1743) to the “Civil War Revival” (1861-1865) and the Jesus Movement (late 1960s and early 1970s), the outbreak of prayerful fervor has often caught many by surprise.

“A revival is not the Church deciding to do something and doing it,” once wrote Dr. David Martyn Lloyd Jones. “It is something that is done to the Church, something that happens to the Church. A revival, by definition, is the mighty act of God and it is a sovereign act of God.”

It’s true that when God’s omnipotent hand reaches down and ignites revival, there is no stopping it. It’s something we pray for, especially when times appear chaotic and bleak.

Yet, despite not being able to manufacture such moments, world leaders do cast long shadows, and perhaps none as lengthy as the president of the United States. Regularly referred to as the “leader of the free world,” the Oval Office occupant wields and yields tremendous influence – even when it comes to matters of faith.

Back on February 1, 1953, the second Sunday of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency, the retired five-star general and his wife, Mamie, went to National Presbyterian Church.

It being the Lord’s Day, there was nothing that unusual about such an occurrence. In fact, National Presbyterian had also been the church home for the Trumans, the previous occupants at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Only this would be no ordinary Sunday – not for the Eisenhowers nor in American history.

That’s because in a private ceremony that day, President Eisenhower was baptized. The officiant was the Reverend Edward Elson, a pastor turned Army soldier who eventually returned to the pulpit following the end of World War II.

Reverend Elson, incidentally, graduated from Asbury College in Kentucky – site of “Asbury Revival” that lasted around the clock for more than two weeks just last year. Elson, who passed away at the age of 86 in 1993, presided over the president’s funeral in 1969.

At the time, “Ike” felt it was important, especially given his newly elected role as president, to set a spiritual example. Raised in a family whose early life revolved around the local Mennonite Church in Abilene, Kan., the president had seen his personal faith grow stale and stagnant. His parents would actually become affiliated with the Jehovahs Witnesses.

But then along came Dr. Billy Graham, whose teaching and preaching made a big impression on the World War II hero. In time, President Eisenhower would be neither shy nor subtle about sharing his Christian faith.  Ten days before being baptized, here is how he began his first inaugural address:

Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment, my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people regardless of station, race or calling.

May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.

During his two terms in office, President Eisenhower began meetings in prayer and is credited with launching the National Prayer Breakfast. It was on his watch that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” was added to United States currency.

By the time Eisenhower left office, church attendance nationally had grown from 49 percent to 69 percent.

There’s a reason Teddy Roosevelt referred to the presidency as the “Bully Pulpit.”

No president has been baptized while in office since that February Sunday back in 1953– but could it ever happen again?

Of course.

Will it?

It’s certainly the way to pray.


Image from Getty.