The news is full of the pros and cons of having a National Day of Prayer. And the disagreement is not necessarily between Christians and non-Christians. Some Christians agree that it does not separate “church and state” as they prefer. Some non-believers do not feel threatened by it and instead have a “let them do whatever they wish” attitude.
So where do you stand? Surely to most Christians, it doesn’t matter. Every day is a day of prayer for us, so what’s the big deal about having a National Day of Prayer?
Historically, the United States was founded by believers who attested to their faith by inscribing our money with “In God We Trust.” They began their meetings in prayer, and even invoked God in their Declaration of Independence. My friend Connie gave me this information:
• In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863 invited fellow citizens to pray.
• The Continental Congress declared a fast on March 16, 1776: "In Congress that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer...."
• Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation, 57 in all.
• There have been 135 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States from 1789-2009.
I recently read God Work by Randy Harris. In it he says, “I’ve got this theory that, generally speaking, the prayer lives of Christians and non-Christians are about alike. I think Christians probably lie more about theirs. But I’m thinking that they’re pretty much alike. I don’t think Christians pray as much as they claim to and I think non-Christians pray more than we think they do. I don’t know, is “Oh God” a prayer? It might be. Most of the non-Christians I know have some sort of prayer life.”
So, accepting that theory, there are many people in the United States who might be interested in praying together even if they aren’t interested in “church.” We are having a prayer service at our church building, hoping to reach at least one or two of those folks in our neighborhood who would like to be part of corporate prayer. We are praying for our community and nation, for the poor, for children, for people to come to faith in Christ, for us to live within God’s will. There will be nothing doctrinal in our scriptures or our prayers; we just want to encourage our community to pray and for the community to know that we are a fellowship that believes in prayer.
We could have testimonials about the power of prayer, but I think that would be distracting. As soon as I hear “that was an answer to prayer,” I think of all the prayers I’ve prayed when things haven’t gone my way. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I do understand that prayer is a conversation with God. I can’t imagine having a friend whose conversation is always about what they want me to do for them. (Well, actually, I have experienced it. But those people stay in the realm of “acquaintances,” not “friends.”) I think He’s OK with my asking for His help with everything from decisions to healing, but I think we need simply to converse also. So maybe this national focus on prayer, even for one day, will lead more people to think about prayer and about God. If so, praise God. If not, praise Him anyway!