Throughout his life, whether while a young man, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, or President of the United States, George Washington showed, by example, how meaningful were his mother’s teachings.
He’d stand up at promptly 9:00 pm, take his candle, and go off by himself. There, from 9:00pm to 10:00pm, he wouldn’t be seen. He was alone on his knees in front of a chair praying. A candle stood on a stand next to the chair. And his Bible was open before him. This he would do even when guests were present. Then promptly at 10:00pm, he would emerge and go directly to his bedroom.
He’d get up every morning at 4:00am, and spend another hour in the same room. He could be found kneeling before the same chair, in the same posture, with the same Bible open before him.
William White comments on the personal life of Washington’s in his book, Washington’s Writing: “It seems proper to subjoin to this letter what was told to me by Mr. Robert Lewis, at Fredericksburg, in the year 1827. Being a nephew of Washington, and his private secretary during the first part of his presidency, Mr. Lewis lived with him on terms of intimacy, and had the best opportunity for observing his habits.
“Mr. Lewis said that he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice.”
Washington made a practice of never traveling unnecessarily on the Sabbath. He never, no matter what the circumstances, received visitors on Sunday, with one exception, a Godly friend named Trumbel. They would spend time reading the Bible and praying together. Henry Muhlenberg was the pastor of the Lutheran church near Valley Forge. He also was one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in America. He said this about Washington while he was in command of the Continental Army: “I heard a fine example today, namely, that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances, this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God’s Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in His hand as a chosen vessel.”
Washington, “without making ostentatious professions of religion, was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man,” according to John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Marshall had fought with General Washington at Valley Forge during the War for Independence.
After Washington died on December 4, 1799, Reverend J. T. Kirkland said: “The virtues of our departed friend were crowned by piety. He is known to have been habitually devout. To Christian institutions he gave the countenance of his, example; and no one could express, more fully, his sense of the Providence of God, and the dependence of man.”
Praying at Valley Forge
The paintings of George Washington kneeling in prayer in the snow covered woods of Valley Forge are based on fact. We have all probably heard of his prayer that was overheard by a Quaker, a pacifist, a Tory – a man loyal to the Crown. This man returned home shaken and said to his wife: “Our cause is lost! I came unexpectedly in the woods upon a man who was kneeling in prayer. As I drew closer, I heard his voice. I heard the impassioned plea of his prayers and saw the tears on his cheeks. I knew our cause was lost.”