A Breath of Fresh Prayer

May 7, 2020

They are the lasting images of every tragedy -- the pictures of heartbreak, triumph, humility, humanity. They are a scrapbook of a thousand moments that remind us simply: Americans are survivors. The flag over Iwo Jima. George Bush on a pile of rubble with a megaphone. An amputee, crying, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Years from now, looking back on the darkness of these days, what will we remember? The chaplains holding hands with patients. Nurses on a hospital helipad, praying over a city skyline. Cars lined up in the church parking lots. I hope what we remember is revival.

For the first time in a long time, the National Day of Prayer comes as most people are already praying. Americans, united in unimaginable grief and uncertainty, have been on their knees for months, driven there by a crisis they don't understand and cannot fix. Men and women who don't even know God -- or before this, cared to -- are turning to a faith outside themselves. They wonder, like the third-grade son of Pastor Steve Klemz, is our world broken? It is, he said gently, but not because of the pandemic. It's broken because of us. The world needs healing, and there's only one way to get it. Prayer. Humility. Repentance.

The ones closest to the suffering need no prompting. When they aren't working, they're praying. On especially hard days, Angela Greaves, walks to the top of her Vanderbilt hospital, staring out over streets of Nashville. She takes a deep breath and shuts her eyes. Sometimes other nurses come, still in their blue scrubs, kneeling on the concrete. "We could feel God's presence in the wind," she said. And then, prompted by something deep inside, she decided to share the pictures with the world -- she and four others, raising their arms over the city. "Know that you all are covered in prayer," Angela wrote.

It was a sign of the unusual times that her pictures started spreading -- and in the least expected places. Media outlets that might normally mock prayer posted the image as a sign of hope. "We just wanted to share the photos to let everyone know we were praying -- not only for our own hospital, but all the patients and families."

For once, America is in something together -- battling the same enemy, hurting from the same pain. Today, seeking the same God. The president, in his official proclamation, called this date a "prayerful tradition" -- one that, until very recently, a lot of us took for granted. Now, under the long shadows that have driven other generations to prayer, we find ourselves in the same position -- privileged to call on God as one people.

"During the past weeks and months, our heads have bowed at places outside of our typical houses of worship, whispering in silent solitude for God to renew our spirit and carry us through unforeseen and seemingly unbearable hardships," President Trump said. "Even though we have been unable to gather together... we are still connected through prayer and the calming reassurance that God will lead us through life's many valleys. In the midst of these trying and unprecedented times, we are reminded that just as those before us turned to God in their darkest hours, so must we seek His wisdom, strength, and healing hand. We pray that He comforts those who have lost loved ones, heals those who are sick, strengthens those on the front lines, and reassures all Americans that through trust in Him, we can overcome all obstacles."

No one knows where this road of struggle will lead. We don't know how long it will last, or who else will suffer. What we know is that we have an all-powerful God whose hand of blessing and comfort is on our nation, even now. In Him, we rest. In Him, we trust.