His father, John Adams, was away while he grew up, but wrote to him regularly. At eleven, he joined his father in France where they successfully lobbied the French to intervene in the American Revolution. He graduated from Harvard in 1787, and was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands by George Washington, responsible for managing one of the largest creditors to the nascent Republic. His father was elected President in 1796, and appointed him to Ambassador to Prussia, where he brokered an important trade deal. In 1803 he was elected to the US Senate, served as a professor at Brown, and argued before the US Supreme Court. Despite being unanimously confirmed to a position on the US Supreme Court, he declined the honor in 1811. In 1824 he was elected the 6th President of the United States. What does he have to say about prayer?
September 1, 1811
From St. Petersburg, Russia, where John Quincy Adams served as Ambassador
I have myself for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavoured to read it with the same spirit & temper of mind which I now recommend to you. That is with the intention & desire that it may contribute to my advancement in Wisdom & Virtue My desire is indeed very imperfectly successful, for like you & like the Apostle Paul, I find a law in my members warring against the law of my mind but as I know that it is my nature to be imperfect, so I know it is my duty to aim at perfection, & feeling & deploring my own frailties, I can only pray Almighty God for the aid of his spirit to strengthen my Good desires & to subdue my propensities to evil—For it is from him that every Good & every perfect Gift decends.—
My custom is, to read four or five Chapters of the bible every morning immediately after rising from bed. It employs almost an hour of my time & seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. But as other cares, duties & occupations engage the remainder of it, I have perhaps never devoted a sufficient portion of my hours to meditation upon what I have read—Even meditation itself is often fruitless—unless it has some special object in view. usefull thoughts arise in the mind and pass away without being remembered or ever applied to any good purpose, like seed scattered upon the surface of the ground which the birds devour or the wind blows away, or which rots without taking root however good the soil may be upon which it is cast.
Interestingly, we have his diaries that show how he started the year!
January 1st, 1829 – “The year begins in gloom. My wife had a sleepless and painful night. The dawn was overcast, and as I began to write, my shaded lamp went out, self-extinguished. It was only for lack of oil; and the notice of so trivial an incident may serve but to mark the present temper of my mind…. But, in good or in evil fortune, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Let him look to the Fountain of all good; let him consult the oracles of GOd. I began the year with prayer, and then turning to my Bible, read the first Psalm. It affirms that the righteous man is, and promises that he shall be, blessed. This is comfort and consolation, and points in general terms to the path of duty. May the light of this lamp never forsake me!
John Quincy Adams was busy in politics in Europe and America, but still spent the first hour of each day with the LORD. Let’s start our day with prayer and the Word!