Reflections on the National Day of Prayer 2010

May 5, 2010

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer in America. Many local and national events will take place around the country to commemorate this time of public prayer.

It’s heartening to know that even in 2010, with secularism on the rise that America stops to pray. I’m also grateful that our President is defending the National Day of Prayer against a court challenge and signed the proclamation proclaiming May 6th, tomorrow as The National Day of Prayer.

You might have disagreements with policies President Obama has pursued, but for this he should be applauded.

Here is a little history of the NDP, from the official website:

The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.

Christians and the National Day of Prayer

Today I want to reflect a bit on the attitude of Christians and the National Day of Prayer. Often, Christians are on the front lines of the culture war, fighting for the place of God and prayer and Bible in our public institutions. I think this is a worthy fight, as we fulfill our God-given role as salt and light in the culture.

And yet I think we’re better at fighting and criticizing and complaining about politics than actually praying. Perhaps its time for Christians, those who know God by faith in Jesus Christ, should return more fervently to their knees.

I’d like to share three ways in which we can shape our country through prayer.

1) The Prayer of Revival

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

This is perhaps the most-quoted verse about American revival. When we look at the context, we realize this is an answer to Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles chapter six, which was a request for God’s blessing on the new temple and on the nation of Israel.

God only made a covenant with one nation, the nation of Israel. So American can’t claim specific covenant promises God made to Israel. However, there is a powerful secondary application here, that God’s people will experience God’s blessing in their land if they turn to him with humility, prayer, and repentance. Psalm 33:12 tells us “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

Now often Christians pray for revival in America, but do we really want real revival or do we just want the conditions to improve or the politicians to embrace certain platforms? The true spirit of revival, as spelled out in this verse, suggests personal revival. God is talking to His own people.

We should pray that we turn in humility, prayer, and repentance toward God. A work of God, a revival, always begins with God’s own people. If God’s people, Christians, would return to their knees, would return to the Bible, and would faithfully live out God’s will through active involvement in their local churches, then our nation would look much differently. So let’s not pray that our perceived enemies, those convenient political targets—liberals, ACLU, etc—experience revival. Let’s pray that we, as God’s people, are revived.

2) A Prayer of Freedom

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 1 Timothy 2:1-8 (KJV)

This passage tells us that it’s appropriate to pray for religious freedom in America. Not so we don’t have to experience persecution—because often God allows that to purify His church and as a witness to the world. No, we should pray for spiritual and religious freedom, so the gospel can be proclaimed loud and clear across the country.

Think about this. Even in 21st century America, with so many obvious problems in the state of our nation and the state of the American church, the gospel goes out over the airwaves, on TV and radio, online and in millions of churches around the country. We have the freedom to worship God and the freedom to proclaim the gospel far and wide, an unprecedented religious freedom. I believe God raised up America for this purpose, so we can beam the gospel around the world. We send thousands of missionaries, we broadcast the gospel to millions of people on TV and shortwave radio and online. I remember being in Cairo, Egypt and seeing the satellite TV’s on the homes of every person, rich and poor. It’s amazing the penetration of the gospel that takes place.

Paul says that we should pray for our local and national leaders. I wonder how often we actually do this. Personally, I know that I’m more inclined to complain about my leaders and fire off an email or read a blog or try to be in the know. But do I pray for my mayor and governor and President? Do I pray for his cabinet and the representatives and senators? Imagine the cumulative effect this would have on the culture and on our leadership at all levels if every single believer committed to prayer?

And we don’t do this because we agree with their policies. We do it, as Paul said, so that God gives them wisdom in preserving our freedom so we can spread the message of the gospel.

3) A Prayer of Trust

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Romans 13:1-7 (KJV)

Remember that Paul wrote this to Christians in Rome who were serving under one of the most corrupt, vile, ruthless persecutor of the faith in all of church history. And yet Paul said that Nero was in his position of power because God ordained it. Nero would make our most crooked and misguided politicians seem like Baptist Sunday School teachers.

Our obedience and prayer of our public leaders is not a matter of our agreement with their policies, it’s a matter of our trust in a sovereign God. If we truly believe God is in charge, then we’ll experience His peace, even when we disagree.

Paul says that our elected officials are ministers of God, they bear the sword, not in vain. In other words, God has given them the authority to enforce the laws. They answer to God for their decisions. And we answer to God for our attitude and our obedience to them.

That’s why we should pay our taxes, we should vote, we should obey the laws. Even laws we don’t like, we should obey, unless they violate the Scriptures. Then God’s law stands supreme.

What if they increase our taxes? We should pay it. Now in America, we have a choice in shaping our government and the right to vote for those we wish. But once they are elected we must pray for them, obey them, and honor them. Notice Paul says in this passage; give “Honor to whom honor is due.” That means we respect the office they hold, even if their behavior or their policies go against what we believe. Daniel referred to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and said “O, King, Live forever.” Nehemiah gave the same greeting to Ahasuerus. If you know the history of kings in those eras, you’ll know these men were anything but moral and honorable in their conduct. Nevertheless, God says to respect the office.

Conclusion

I want to encourage you to make a concerted effort to pray in these three areas tomorrow on the National Day of Prayer. Hopefully it will be a catalyst to pray like this throughout the year. God’s own people need revival so our nation can be blessed. America’s leaders need prayer so we can maintain our freedoms and continue to proclaim the gospel, and Christians need to trust in the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men.