Liberty to Appeal
In 1775 during the Revolutionary War, before the Stars and Stripes became the unifying symbol of the United States, General George Washington commissioned a flag to fly over a squadron of colonial warships. It was a simple design of an evergreen tree on a white background with the words, “Appeal to Heaven” but it carried great symbolism in that day.
The phrase comes from John Locke, a prominent thinker of that day, who wrote concerning natural rights and governmental overreach, “And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to Heaven…”
War and Peace
The dual symbolism of the Evergreen tree on that day is telling: the massive white pine trees of colonial New England were appropriated by the British Parliament to make masts for their warships. At the time the British Navy was the most powerful and fearsome military power in the known world. To the colonists, those stripped-down evergreens symbolized an earthly system of force and strength that had overreached into tyranny. But the intact evergreen symbolized to them something much greater: liberty, strength in unity, and a covenant of peace which comes not from an earthly government but from heaven.
This Appeal to Heaven flag flew over a squadron of ships under George Washington. Washington knew there was no way the Continental army could possibly throw off the rule of the British Empire. The colonial army didn’t have the weapons, the money, the training, or the organization. Among many other meanings, the Appeal to Heaven flag became symbolic of the colonists’ dependence on God through prayer.
Today we acknowledge, as our forefathers did, our need for heaven’s wisdom and guidance through prayer to navigate these days.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.
Born in Prayer
Prayer also birthed the formation of our Constitution and other founding documents, the First and Second Great Awakenings, national revivals, abolitionist movements, and other turning points in our history. And we’re not finished.
Replaced by the Stars and Stripes in 1777, the Appeal to Heaven flag disappeared into history for more than 200 years. It has resurfaced in recent years – you may have seen it displayed in various places, or prominently shown in movies and TV, such as the opening credits of the John Adams mini-series. It flies again today to remind us that the same thing that birthed our nation is what will bring about her re-birth—an Appeal to Heaven.
As we are praying into Exodus 3:8 this week, we remembered that God is our Deliverer, not man, but He calls us partners and friends so we have a role to play.
We exercise our rights and privileges as citizens of the United States of America through our votes and our voices but as citizens of heaven, we make our appeal to our Creator God, the Source of our life and liberty.
We cry out for liberty and for the strength that comes from our unity. Out of many, ONE. And once again come into agreement with His covenant of peace, His good purposes, and His destiny for the good land He has given us.
Father God, let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:9-13