In the summer of 1832, at the end of Jackson's first term as president, cholera was raging across Europe, killing tens of thousands. It seemed to be heading for the U.S. as well. The Reformed Church of America called upon Jackson to call designate a day of fasting and humiliation, and prayer to protect the people of this country from the disease.
Jackson stubbornly refused and said it was not the role of the president to call for such religious expressions. Senator Henry Clay offered a "prayer" bill but Jackson announced he would veto it. Clay backed down.
"Old Hickory" Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, won sympathy from the country earlier when his wife, Rachel, died just before he had been sworn in as president of the nation. There had been trouble earlier. Rachel had been previously married to a scoundrel who was a rounder, and who had terribly mistreated her. Thinking her divorce had gone through, she and Jackson were married. When it was discovered the divorce had not been consummated, Rachel and the president took a terrible hit socially. Naturally, they had to be remarried!
Just before Jackson was sworn in, Rachel must have had a heart attack because she died suddenly. Jackson was spiritually and emotionally humbled. He was grief stricken by his wife’s death. But with the pain, he found endearing consolation in praying. Every evening in the Oval Office in the family quarters, Jackson would end his day by unclasping the locket around his neck with Rachel’s picture, and then place it on the table in front of him. He would then open his prayer book and read for an hour. On more than one occasion aides coming to see the president after hours found him immersed in prayer.
Jackson won a second term and swore in his inauguration to "Beseech the hands of God to override all my [wrong] intentions and actions and inspire the hearts of my fellow citizens that we may be preserved from dangers of all kinds and continue forever a united and a happy people."
As time went on, Jackson dodged the assassin's bullet while attending a funeral in Washington. He became the first president of the U.S. whose life was threatened while in office. Because of all he had gone through Jackson became stronger spiritually.
Writing to a nephew he and Rachel had adopted, he said,
I nightly offer up my prayers to the throne of grace for the health and safety of you all, and that we ought all to rely with confidence on the promises of our dear Redeemer, and give our hearts to Him. This is all He requires and all that we can do.