James 5:16 “ Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Matthew 5: 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
In 1646 pastor John Elliot met a Native American named Waban of the Algonquian people. John had learned the basics of the Algonquian culture and language living nearby. Waban was so impressed by John, a man that knew his language and culture, that he invited him to his village to share and trade with his people. John would come every 2 weeks and talk about life and faith, sharing sweet treats with the children. One day, Waban asked John if God could understand the Algonquian prayers in the Algonquian language. When John said yes, Waban was disconcerted, asking John, “why had no one ever told him that God could understand his prayers?” Waban began to pray and soon put his trust in God. Prayer so permeated the village that the people of New England began to refer to his village, Natick, Massachusetts as a “Praying Town.” The entire town would often join together and pray for God’s guidance and protection.
When the deadly violence of King Philip’s War (1675-1678) devastated New England, many of the English colonist began to fear who the Algonquin people would be loyal to, even though most of the native Americans did not support the Native American chief called King Philip. Fearing that Waban’s town might side with the King Philip, the governor of Massachusetts interned Waban’s people on Deer Island in Boston Harbor through the harsh winter of 1676. Many of them were miss-treated and left there to die without adequate food and water. When spring arrived, the Massachusetts General Court freed them and Waban led about 50 survivors back to their village. Rather than striking back at the English for the harsh treatment of the people, the village gathered, confessed their sins and prayed.
Waban discipled one of the young men of the town, Daniel Takawambpait. Daniel attended Harvard University and became the town’s first minister and the nations first Native American minister. He would conduct Sunday services to the Algonquin people in their own language and became a strong advocate for indigenous land rights in colonial Massachusetts. Waban and Takawambait were strong, yet gentle leaders that influenced many in New England. By their leadership of the “Praying Town,” Natick became a witness throughout New England during troubled times between the diverse people groups of our nations history.
Waban and Daniel Takawambpait were examples of strength and leadership during turbulent days. Their peaceful and prayerful posture led a people to seek God in their own language. The results were “praying towns” filled with a people that found their hope and strength in God.