About the Prayer Walks & the Appeal to Heaven

Prayer Walking, on earth as it is in heaven

For years prayer teams had been walking the city square praying for the different sectors of society, sometimes referred to as the 7 Mountains of culture which shape a city. Then, in 2019, the PRAYERIE team was directed to go out into Erie County and pray for families. In 2020, we prayed for Erie’s ports of entry and the people who are tasked with guarding them; praying for the harbor, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Immigration Services, Airport, Highways, Police and Fire Fighters, and more.

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he with Me.”  Jesus had just finished a conversation in the previous chapters about 7 churches in 7 cities. Then He says, “Open the door and I will come in!” LORD, we accept Your invitation to open the door, we hear You, we listen to You and we heed what the Spirit says to the church in Erie (Revelation 3:22).

Being the body of Christ who has walked the city square and the county, praying for peaceful habitation, safe dwelling and, quiet resting places for families (Isaiah 32:18), we open the doors of the Greater Erie Area to Jehovah God declaring:

  • Jesus Christ is Lord over the people here; we shall have no other gods before Him (Deut. 6:13).
  • We repent for relying on our own strong arms and worldly ways renouncing any and all small “g” gods that have been set before the one true God.
  • We acknowledge God called us here (Acts 17:26-27), that He is with us and we will keep His ways and His law. We trust Him to finish the work He started (Gen 28:15).
  • We ask that our prayers open this land to sustainable commerce for the Kingdom, to make straight and smooth a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3). We release new plans for Erie’s future!

Erie is at a turning point. We are at a place where this old rust belt city is birthing something new. If our community is to be successful, history teaches we must turn to God for guidance and rely on Him for the will to persevere. The nudge to use the evergreen tree as part of the PRAYERIE logo and carry the flag came when I learned of George Washington’s use of the tree on the Appeal to Heaven flag. It first flew over the 13 colonies proclaiming our fledgling nation’s dependence on God. Washington knew that winning American independence from imperial rule would require the colonist’s complete dependence on God for guidance as well as the stamina to persevere. The flag was designed to remind the colonists that their reliance was with Everlasting God.

The Tree Flag, featuring a pine tree with the motto “An Appeal to Heaven” was used originally by a squadron of six cruiser ships commissioned under George Washington’s authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army in October 1775.

The design of the flag came from General Washington’s secretary, Colonel Joseph Reed. The pine tree had long been a New England symbol being depicted on the Flag of New England flown by colonial merchant ships dating back to 1686. Leading up to the Revolutionary War it became a symbol of colonial ire and resistance. The colonists resented the restrictions on the timber used for their needs and livelihoods. Prohibitions were disregarded and they practiced “Swamp Law,” where the pines were harvested according to their needs regardless of statutes.

In New Hampshire, enforcement led to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772, one of the first acts of forceful protest against British policies. It occurred almost two years prior to the more well-known Boston Tea Party protest and three years before open hostilities began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The pine tree was also used on the flag that the Colonists flew at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.

The phrase “Appeal to Heaven” is a particular expression of the right of revolution used by British philosopher John Locke in the Second Treatise on Civil Government which was published in 1690 as part of Two Treatises of Government refuting the theory of the divine right of kings. Locke’s works were well-known and frequently quoted by colonial leaders, being the most quoted authority on government in the 1760-1776 period prior to American independence. Locke said, “The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven…”

An appeal to Heaven had been invoked by Patrick Henry in his Liberty or Death speech, and the Second Continental Congress in the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. Subsequently, the phrase was used again by the Second Continental Congress in the Declaration of Independence.

As I dug further back into the history of the symbol, I was intrigued to learn of local Native Americans using as evergreen tree as a symbol of their covenant of peace. You may have heard of the Iroquois Nation or Five Nations of the Iroquois. The story behind how these tribal enemies, came together to form a confederacy of nations is compelling. Point of interest: this Native American people group called themselves Haudenosaunee (pronounced – ho dee noe sho nee) which is interpreted – People of the Long House. The French called them Iroquois. The British called them Five Nations.

Iroquois history teaches that centuries ago, ancestors in what is now the state of New York were enmeshed in continuous inter-tribal conflicts. The cost of war was high and had weakened their societies.  An Indian brave from the north named Deganawida, later called The Peacemaker, had an encounter with Chief Hiawatha.  The Peace Maker had a revelation and strategy for peace but Hiawatha was the orator. Together they traveled to five different tribes and shared their ideas for peace. A joint meeting was called, the new Great Law of Peace was presented, and was agreed upon by the chiefs. An agreement, based on peace and consensus rather than fighting united the five tribes into a League of Nations. To seal the covenant, they gathered at the base of a large pine tree and buried tomahawks and weapons of war under the tree. This covenantal ceremony is thought to be the origin of the saying, “bury the hatchet.

To read more about this fascinating history, click the link to the Gem City Story, “Bury the Hatchet.” https://prayerie.org/gem-city-blog/

Also, a beaded belt, called Wampum, was crafted to symbolize the new confederacy. All five nations are represented in the belt with the Onondaga being represented in the center. This is where the council meetings were to take place. Notice, the Onondaga are represented in the wampum by a pine tree.

Dutch Sheets provides a look into even earlier history from the Bible. He writes in his book An Appeal to Heaven, the evergreen’s use as a symbol of peace and commitment to covenant didn’t originate with the Iroquois Confederacy.

“The most important and weighty example of this symbolic use goes all the way back to Abraham and his covenant with Yahweh. In Genesis 21:33, Abraham called on the Everlasting God…. And planted a tamarisk tree, which is an evergreen. But why did Abraham plant this particular tree? His choice of the tamarisk evergreen is interesting. Three significant facts are that it is slow-growing, long-living, and when fully grown produces cool shade…. By planting this particular evergreen, Abraham was thinking of his descendants, making a powerful declaration to them for generations to come. With this tree he was saying, “I am in covenant with the Everlasting God, and generations to come can sit under the shade of this covenant.””

So, Erie, here we are at a turning point. Will we choose to live and move and have our being in the one true God (Acts 17:28), making decisions for our community that will be for the benefit of generations to come? Can you see yourself in Erie’s story? I hope so because our stories are Erie’s stories!  Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.” Will you help Erie write a story that is kind to our children and grand-children? A story soaked with prayer, believing as God’s word says, “If we humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, we will hear from heaven, and He will forgive our sin and heal our land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).