May 03, 2019
A lot has changed since I attended my first National Day of Prayer ceremony here in Washington back in 1992. But one thing hasn't -- and that's how meaningful it is to stand in the most powerful city of the world and intercede for this great country alongside so many believers. Last night, looking around the Capitol, you couldn't help but be moved by the rich history of faith in America -- and the tradition of a people looking, together, to God. As Congressman Jody Hice (R-Ga.) put it so perfectly, "We are deeply honored, every one of us, to live in the greatest country in the history of the world. It's one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, to be able to come right to Statuary Hall, right in the centerpiece, the epicenter of American government -- and to be able to pray and sing and worship and have this kind of service."
And at a time, no one would deny, when this country desperately needs it. With America fraying at the edges, there is no better reminder than this year's theme: "Love one another." Just think, Dr. Ronnie Floyd imagined, if that happened across American life. "How many marriages would be saved and healed? How businesses would experience more prosperity? How many churches would thrive, grow, and explode with the gospel? How much more great things could get done in city governments, state governments, and in the United States government? How much safer would our schools and our public venues become? How much more poverty and homelessness would be eliminated if we learned to love one another? How much more exciting would life be every day if it was permeated by the power of love?"
But for all of the country's challenges, there's one thing we can take great encouragement in: this emphasis on prayer comes naturally. We are a believing nation, who -- even now -- understands the power of seeking God's face. More people in America do that every day than any wealthy country in the world. According to Pew Research, 55 percent of our nation prays daily -- that's higher, authors point out, than the world average (49 percent) and significantly higher than the 40 percent average of affluent countries.
The reason, they believe? America's unique emphasis on freedom. With the exception of Barack Obama's obvious hostility to faith, we are still one of the most "open religious 'markets'" in the world, if not the most. Under President Trump, that market is only growing. He's thrown the doors wide open to religious expression -- and not just here, but around the world.
The living proof of that commitment was standing behind the podium last night -- and not behind bars: Pastor Andrew Brunson. Together with Noreen, they represented so many millions of answered prayers -- and the hope we have for others, like imprisoned Pastor David Lin. Let's pray that next year he'll be standing where the Brunsons were Thursday -- on home soil. He was certainly on my mind and many others as I prayed for the persecuted church and the millions of brothers and sisters around the world pleading for the freedom we take for granted every day.
"Father, in the silence, in many prisons in dark and damp places, there are those in the quietness of their soul crying out to you tonight. Lord, may we become their voices. May we stand with them in solidarity and love. May we see our brothers and sisters. Though we may not be able to touch them, may we be touched by them. Father, we thank you that you hear our prayers, and Lord, even tonight we rejoice that when we pray in agreement -- and we reach heaven with our voices -- that Lord you... always hear. Often you'll give us the request we want, like Andrew being returned home. But Father, I pray that none -- none -- would believe or feel or think they are forgotten. May we never, ever forget our brothers and sisters."
"And Father, where we cannot reach and where we cannot see, I pray the Holy Spirit would go and stir within them, as Paul said, 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels -- that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed -- always carrying out in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. That the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. Father, tonight, may the persecuted -- in places near and far away -- know that they are not forsaken, nor forgotten. Burden our hearts that we would continually lift them up before you and equip our hands to courageously help them. In Jesus's name, Amen."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.