Enter your keyword



‘Prayer at Valley Forge’ Teaches Lesson in Faith

Share this...
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter

I said before that the most sublime picture in American history is of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That image personifies a people who know that it’s not enough to depend on our own courage and goodness. We must also seek help from God our father and preserver. – President Ronald Reagan, 1982

For soldiers in times of war, it might seem that conflict offers few moments of quiet reflection, let alone prayer.

When famed American illustrator Arnold Friberg set out to paint his 1975 masterwork, “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” he knew he was offering observers a chance to reflect on not necessarily the accuracy of the moment, but an opportunity to contemplate another part of battle.

In the painting, a depiction of George Washington is shown praying on his knees at Valley Forge. It’s a side of Washington we don’t often see compared to his stately, Army-leading, Founding Father legacy.

American illustrator Arnold Friberg 1975 “The Prayer at Valley Forge" George Washington praying on one knee

The backstory

Consider the gravity of the moment.

After entering winter quarters at Valley Forge in December 1777 with 12,000 men, Washington and his group encountered lack of food, proper clothing, poor shelter and extreme cold.

Disease would ravage his troops, and historians estimate between 2,000-3,000 soldiers had died.

Washington begged the Continental Congress for supplies, to no avail. By February, he was merely trying to maintain morale and prevent desertion.

The story of Washington kneeling in prayer originated from Isaac Potts, who recounted it some 40 years after it happened to his pastor, Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden.

The account was included in Rev. Snowden’s book, “Diary and Remembrances” in hopes that it would be protected for posterity.

As it turns out, Potts was riding alone one day when he found General Washington praying alone in the Valley Forge woods.

Potts was originally against the war, but was moved and had a change of heart upon seeing Washington in prayer.

Proving authenticity

While historians have had difficulty in proving the veracity of the moment, there can be no mistaking the powerful imagery it conjures in our imagination.

After all, this involved one of the greatest Americans of all time.

He is our first president, memorialized by monuments, public works, stamps, currency and places across the nation, including our capital.

Authentic or not, the consideration of that instance offers a moving scene as we contemplate what took place during Washington’s darkest hours.

Friberg’s realism

Friberg wanted to capture the realistic setting for his painting, so he not only studied Washington’s army clothing at the Smithsonian, but hiked along that very Valley Forge location in the middle of February.

And like Washington, Friberg then paused – he removed his gloves and drew part of the snow-covered scene until his fingers froze.

Friberg did so, according to his obituary in the Washington Post, to “pay tribute to Washington, to portray the burden that fell upon one lonely man.”

Modern day inspiration

A copy of Friberg’s painting was on display at the White House during the entire eight-year Reagan administration, and its reproductions have become one of the top selling pieces of American art.

It has also inspired many artists who later created similar renditions. The original has been valued at $12 million.

Valley Forge was a site of terrible suffering and unshakeable perseverance, and it was arguably this – Washington’s finest deed – that may have changed the fate of his men.

It didn’t take an exuberant speech to Congress, nor some majestic rising from the ashes to upend British forces in one swoop.

No, it was when Washington bent on one knee, bowed his head and prayed.

Share this...
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter

God Is Calling You

We've all felt that tug -- deep in our soul -- when a voice calls to us ...

Learn More Add to Cart
$23.95

With God All Things Are Possible

You already believe it, and now you can wear it! One of the greatest Bib...

Learn More Add to Cart
$23.95

God Is My Captain

Everyone loves Captain America, but there's another Captain who's even b...

Learn More Add to Cart
$23.95

Love is Sacrifice

It's so simple -- if you love someone, you put their needs ahead of your...

Learn More Add to Cart
$23.95