Did George Washington Pray at Valley Forge?

There is a debate among history professors as to whether George Washington actually got down on his knees and offered a prayer to God at Valley Forge. Several artists have created paintings that depict Washington praying for his country at that crucial juncture in our history. Pray For US believes that, based on the historical record and the larger body of proof that Washington was frequently at prayer, he most likely did pray for victory that day.

One of the best records of an eyewitness account to Washington’s prayer at Valley Forge comes from the journal of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden.

He recounts the tale of an eyewitness to Washington’s prayer. Apparently the event was so moving that the Quaker who witnessed it, converted from a Tory sympathizer to a Whig and began supporting the American cause for liberty:

I knew personally the celebrated Quaker Potts who saw Gen’l Washington alone in the woods at prayer. I got it from himself, myself. Weems mentioned it in his history of Washington, but I got it from the man myself, as follows:

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“I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) in Montgomery County, Penn’a near to the Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of ye Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our State & a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, ‘It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America c’d proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean, but something very extraordinary converted me to the Good Faith!”

“What was that,” I inquired? ‘Do you see that woods, & that plain. It was about a quarter of a mile off from the place we were riding, as it happened.’

‘There,’ said he, ‘laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.

‘Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.

‘I went home & told my wife. I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen & heard & observed. We never thought a man c’d be a soldier & a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. She also was astonished. We thought it was the cause of God, & America could prevail.’

“He then to me put out his right hand & said ‘I turned right about and became a Whig.'”

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We have provided a short article on how to pray here, titled How to Pray to the God of the Bible.

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