The fast day resolution, which recommended a day of “public humiliation, fasting and prayer” throughout the American colonies, was authored by John Adams with assistance from delegates William Hooper and Robert Treat Paine. Congress unanimously approved it:
This Congress, therefore, considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state of these colonies, do earnestly recommend that Thursday, the 20th day of July next, be observed, by the inhabitants of all the English colonies on this continent, as a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer; that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins; and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events…That virtue and true religion may revive and flourish throughout our land; and that all America may soon behold a gracious interposition of heaven….
“And it is recommended to Christians, of all denominations,” the congressional resolution concluded, “to assemble for public worship, and to abstain from servile labour and recreations on said day.” Congress had the fast day resolution published in newspapers and distributed as a handbill. Throughout the American colonies, countless pastors read it from the pulpit and encouraged their congregations to properly observe the day of prayer. John Adams was exultant at the prospect. “We have appointed a continental fast,” he wrote home. “Millions will be upon their Knees at once before their great Creator, imploring his Forgiveness and Blessing….” The Continental Congress officially observed the fast day by spending most of it in church.
Excerpted from Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation, 1607-1776, by Rod Gragg; June 2010; Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.