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President McKinley Was Guided by Prayer in Life and Death

Robert Morgan writes that as President William McKinley lay dying from an assassin's bullet in Buffalo, New York, in 1901, the Lord's Prayer was on his lips. Prayer had been a lifelong practice that guided McKinley through his political career and into the presidency. McKinley had been born into a devout Christian home fifty-eight years before, and born again at age fourteen. According to his pastor, A. D. Morton, young McKinley stood up during a youth meeting and said, "I have sinned; I want to be a Christian ... I give myself to the Savior who has done so much for me."

McKinley's mother, a woman of deep prayer, taught him to pray by example and encouragement, but his greatest lessons in prayer were forged under the pressures of his duties as President of the United States. One of his heaviest decisions arose in 1898 regarding the status of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. One day, a delegation of church leaders came to the White House, and McKinley told them how he had decided to resolve the crisis in the Philippines.

"The truth is, I didn't want the Philippines," he said. "I did not know what to do. … I sought counsel from all sides—Democrats as well as Republicans—but got little help. … I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight, and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way."

McKinley relayed the strategy that developed in his mind as he prayed: that the Philippines should be taken seriously and helped, that the United States should "by God's grace do the very best we could by them as our fellow-men for whom Christ died." McKinley added, "And then I went to bed, and went to sleep and slept soundly."

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