Prayer Targets: The Necessity and Privilege of a National Day of Prayer
April 11, 2018
Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. Psalm 86:11
Dear Praying Friends,
This letter is different than our regular Prayer Targets. Please read it through. I want to share my heart regarding the National Day of Prayer (NDP). I believe this is even bigger than the huge issues and challenges and problems we would normally pray about.
Only three weeks remain before the National Day of Prayer on May 3rd, 2018. It was designated by Congress to be held on the first Thursday in May and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, but it did not begin with Reagan. The history of the National Day of Prayer is one of the greatest legacies passed on to us by our Forefathers. We live in a nation that has designated two national days of prayer -- one in the spring (the National Day of Prayer) and one in the fall (Thanksgiving Day, the last Thursday in November).
We need to pray for our leaders in government and over the issues and initiatives in Washington and our state capitals. But it is equally important for us to pray, prepare for, and tell as many friends as we can about the upcoming National Day of Prayer. I invite you to join FRC and Dr. Ronnie Floyd in offering this 2018 National Prayer for America (video, words).
As Americans, we are uniquely blessed to have a Christian heritage in which our Forefathers obtained national independence in a principled way by appealing to God and enshrining in our Constitution the freedom of religion as our "first liberty" in the Bill of Rights. But we must always remember what President Ronald Reagan famously said, echoing the warnings our Founders frequently gave: "Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." We face many adversaries who seek the latter outcome.
God has preserved our nation to this day, but like ancient Israel, America has had its times of closeness to God and times of distance from Him, its times of blessing and times of correction and discipline. He has treated us like sons (Heb 12:8). When the delegates emerged from the Constitutional Convention, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, "What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin abruptly replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." Remember, it was Franklin, who when the Constitutional Convention reached a hopeless impasse, stood up and called upon the body to establish daily prayer to precede their deliberations. How much more do we need God's help now, to preserve the Constitution and Republic they established?
The history of ancient Israel, from God's perspective, is wonderfully recorded throughout Scripture. The Old Testament especially highlights the lives of those who led the people and had such a great impact on their nation's relationship with God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God lays out His Law. Chapter 28 declares specific blessings that God will give for obedience to Him and specific consequences (literally "curses") that will come to the nation for disobedience. The New Testament teaches that "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come" (1 Cor 10:11). But it also says, "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom 15:4).
The Bible highlights in the lives of the leaders and people moral character and conduct, acts of obedience, wisdom, and leadership, and contrariwise, immorality, disobedience, inaction, and folly. The focus was on the lives of the judges in the days of the Hebrew Republic, the good and bad kings (and priests) during the monarchy, and the divided kingdom. The prophets encouraged the God-fearing kings and common people; they warned the weak and teetering, and denounced the wicked men and women -- people, priests, and kings. Their words were intended to drive men to get in right relationship with God and to worship Him as he deserves. They warned men not to forget, disobey, or dishonor God, and so to harm themselves and their nation's relationship with Him. Each of us impacts our families, friends, neighbors, communities, and nation for good or for evil. We are taught to pray for all men, but especially those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2).
The National Day of Prayer, now led by Pastor Dr. Ronnie Floyd (see bio), may be more important than ever as our deeply divided nation faces confrontations with darkness and danger unlike any we have faced since the Civil War. Our American Forefathers called for Solemn assemblies during the colonial period in times of danger. In the first nationwide prayer calls by the Continental Congress and the ones that followed by U.S. presidents and Congress, national prayer day proclamations were proclaimed in the spring, and fall (Thanksgiving). Almost all contained the elements of a Solemn Assembly found in 2 Chr 7:14: "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."
The National Day of Prayer is the closest thing we have to a National Solemn Assembly, like the godly leaders in ancient Israel led their people to observe, as they sought to turn their nation wholeheartedly back to God. It is a day for sanctifying America to God, afresh. Of course, there were unbelievers in Israel, and there will always be unbelievers here: agnostics, atheists, and even devil worshipers in our free land. But if God's people -- those called by His name -- will meet His biblical conditions, He will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land. The gospel mission will prosper among those who do not presently know Him. The issue is us!
The theme of this year's National Day of Prayer is Unity. It is a day for all Americans, especially those who name the name of Christ, to come together to pray for our nation, to repent, to pray for our leaders, to pray for one another, and even to pray for our adversaries, including those who persecute and despitefully use us (Mt 5:44), and to unite our hearts together under God. Every Christian in America should be involved and lead others to participate in a local expression of the National Day of Prayer.
I urge you, Pastor, to lead your church people to observe the National Day of Prayer. Invite your neighbors to participate. Check to find an observance in your area. If there is no expression of the NDP in your community, start one yourself -- right away. God will honor just a few people praying for our nation outside the county courthouse on May 3rd for an hour or two.
Finally, it is God who calls us to unity. But we need His help!
- Lord, help us to have spiritual unity in our own hearts! May we bring our entire beings into unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ: fearing, honoring, and worshiping our Creator and Savior -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Ps 86:11).
- Help us to strive for unity in our local church, and among all churches that name the name of Christ (Ps 133; Eph 4:3).
- Help us to be peacemakers in America,holding forth the truth to our neighbors and fellow countrymen in the spirit of peace and love. May we never allow the enemy of our souls to sow the spirit of discord and division in our hearts that we see seemingly everywhere in America today (Rom 12:17-18).
- Hear our prayers on the National Day of Prayer and grant us UNITY among Christ, and as much as is possible among our fellow Americans with whom we share so much -- the many special graces that You have bestowed on all who live in this nation. Lord, we know that we cannot have perfect unity outside of our Lord Jesus Christ. But You can superintend the kind of peace in our nation that You speak of in 1 Timothy 2:1-8.
Thank you, as always, for joining us in prayer!