Review from the
Catholic Review Newspaper April 22, 2004
Prayers from and in American
By Christopher Gaul
the ragged and dispirited American troops were
quartered for the winter in extreme conditions
at Valley Forge in 1777, a pious Quaker by the
name of Potts was walking through a large
grove near the army’s headquarters when he was
surprised by the sight of a man, his back
toward him, kneeling in earnest prayer. Potts
stood still and watched as the man slowly got
to his feet and then turned to face the
Quaker, who recognized him immediately. It was
Gen. George Washington.
Potts got back to his home he excitedly told
his wife he was now convinced the Americans,
even though they had not fared well at
Germantown, would go on to beat the British
because he had witnessed Washington in prayer.
anecdote, intended to establish the Christian
character of Washington, is retold in the
introduction of a slender volume called
“Prayers from American History,” compiled and
edited by Conrad Bladey, a parishioner of St.
Philip Neri in Linthicum (near his home), who
was inspired to create the unique work after
attending a faculty retreat for Seton Keough
High School where earlier this year he had
taught American history.
retreat addressed the concept of the school as
a “community of prayer,” and whether it was,
in fact, a good idea to open each class with
who now teaches Irish studies at Harford
Community College in the evenings, told me he
was a little surprised to discover how many
teachers weren’t too keen on the idea, noting
as they did that prayers were already
broadcast on the school’s intercom system at
the beginning and end of the school day.
before each class would detract from the need
to press on with the curriculum, they argued.
Conrad said he understood their concern
because classroom work is indeed demanding,
but it got him to thinking. Surely, he
thought, there were prayers that were part of
U.S. history, for example, which would
actually contribute to not detract from the
couldn’t find anything already in print and so
he spent hours at local university libraries
and the Library of Congress tracking down
prayers from American history, and the result
is his booklet containing prayers from just
about every period of our history, from the
time of the American Indians to 9/11.
fascinating collection it is. In it you’ll
find Mark Twain, wonderful entries from
Washington’s prayer journal, the prayer on
“the day of fasting and prayer” ordered by
Abraham Lincoln; the prayers of Thomas
Jefferson and John Quincy Adams; prayers of
soldiers in the Civil War, including those
distributed to Jewish Confederate soldiers;
prayers of Joseph Smith, founder of the
Mormons; early African American prayers; the
prayers of poets like Whittier and Sandburg,
and of evangelist, Billy Graham.
also a rather stern reminder from The
Baltimore Catechism (1891): “Prayer is
necessary to salvation, and without it no one
having the use of reason can be saved.”
suppose Conrad brought that up at the Seton
Keough faculty retreat.
is selling his “Prayers from American History”
for $9, which he says is his cost, and one
that schoolteachers and other interested folk
may easily afford.
is available from Hutman Productions, P.O.
268, Linthicum, MD 21090 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org