Thursday’s National Day of Prayer

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A National Day of Prayer has been a part of this country’s history for as long as there has been an official United States of America and even before.

In 1775, the Continental Congress, the forebears of our federal government, saw the need for a day to be set aside for “public humiliation, fasting and prayer.”

Although that might not surprise anyone, there has been a movement for many years to disavow the faithfulness of those early shapers of our country’s politics. Revisionist historians today would like to make the claim that our country was not founded upon the common ground of faithful fathers and mothers. That is simply not the case.

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I will acknowledge that there may not have been an agreement on all the aspects of faith. There wasn’t then and there is not full agreement today. But to say that those who sought to create a new and free country in North America were adamantly opposed to expressions of faithfulness to God is not true.

George Washington’s prayer journal is plain as day for anyone who might want to read it. As you know, he was the father and first president of the United States of America.

The second president, John Adams, on May 9, 1798, issued a proclamation for “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer,” during which people of all faiths were asked to pray “that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it.” Not a bad idea then and now.

Once again, I am not trying to say that all of our ancestors were Godly men and women. I would not try to paint a picture that the United States of America was a perfect union, in politics or in spirit. The only perfect place I know is heaven and the only perfect One is God.

Yet, there was some common ground upon which they stood. There was a unified purpose in the hearts of those colonists.  They knew that freedom was important, that it would not come easy, and that when the times were overwhelming, there was no better place to go than to the God of this universe. I’m not so sure that all of those statements remain the same today.

Certainly it would be hard to find a unified purpose today. Freedom still seems to be important, but that freedom has taken on a more individualistic tone. In other words, it seems to be everyone for him or herself. Nothing comes easy anymore and times are tough; that’s still the same, but I’m not sure we are ready to humble ourselves before the God of this universe.

That word, humble, is important. It will be read or said more times than can be counted during Thursday’s National Day of Prayer as the familiar scripture 2 Chronicles 7:14 is used as a foundation for the prayer services all over the country.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will 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” (NIV).

Those are the words of God as He answered the prayer of King Solomon.

Although David is revered as the greatest of the Israelite kings, his son Solomon seems to have been given the greatest opportunities. King David fought the wars, won the peace and consolidated the tribes into the nation. In words that we might understand, David handed his son a great kingdom on a silver platter.

Without wars to fight, Solomon was able to build up the city of David, Jerusalem and make it one of the premier cities of the world. Although Solomon’s palace was larger and grander, the most famous of all the buildings in Jerusalem was the Temple that Solomon built for the presence of God. Many lists of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World include the Temple of Solomon.

Solomon was wise, though and he knew that all the prosperity that he enjoyed was by the grace of God and of a temporary nature. He knew human nature, also, and knew that at some point, the grandeur and faith of the people would fade. At the dedication of the Temple, he prayed that when the rains would not come, when the sicknesses of the people would seem overwhelming, and when the people would stray in their faith, if they would turn their faces toward this great Temple and remember the One from Whom all blessings flow, would He listen?

God answered in the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name, will 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.”

Those words show God’s promise to anyone who calls themselves a child of His. He says, “Yes, I will hear.” Some say that the words are only meant for the Israelites and that countries, like the United States of America, are misappropriating them. I don’t feel that way.

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he writes of my opportunity to become a part of God’s family. He writes that I will even be able to call God by the precious name, “Abba, Father” (Daddy). That means I am called by His name.

Thursday, all of you who are called by His name have the opportunity to humble yourselves, to pray and to seek His face. You may do it in the privacy of your home or you may join us at Willis Park on the city square at noon. Then, the promise of God is that He will hear, forgive, and heal. I believe that. Do you?