Thursday, May 6, 2010

The 2010 National Day of Prayer

I just finished attending our Hot Springs National Day of Prayer service at the Convention Center. A bunch of people crowded in a small room and beseeched the Almighty for mercy and favor on our nation. (I’m sorry if that last sentence sounds a bit pious for me, but I did just come from the event.)

The conveners said at the service that this was the 60th anniversary of the Day of Prayer. I’ve been in the pastorate for 29 of those “days” and I’ve never been to one of these things before. Here’s why: based on who was putting them together I always figured (right or wrong) it was more of a political rally than a prayer meeting. Now I’m not opposed to Christians being active in politics, but political action has just never been my bag. A lot of church members over the years have tried to make it my bag, but I’ve stubbornly resisted, telling them that unless God leads me to take up that banner, I’m not taking it up. If they want to do that—more power to them. But I have never felt any Spirit-promptings in that direction.

In fact, I’ve never even been comfortable with the American flag in a Christian sanctuary or with those big blow-out patriotic services so many churches have around July 4. As I read the New Testament, Jesus said the church’s mission is to make disciples, not patriots. I’m certainly not against patriotism. I do love our country, and I cast my ballot when the voting times come. But God has given me a job that transcends geographical boundaries and political agendas. He’s called me to be an ambassador for Christ and His kingdom. So I try to put my focus there.

Anyway, when asked to participate this year, I told the woman who asked me that if the event was really just a political rally in disguise, I wasn’t interested. I talk politics with close friends, but I’m not interested in going public in that regard or in aligning myself with a group that’s pushing any particular political agenda or candidate. She assured me it was only about prayer. So I said yes. I had to leave the service a bit early so I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing, but I do appreciate the heart and the spirit of those who offered their prayers to God in behalf of our nation. Their prayers encouraged me and challenged me to be more fervent in praying for our nation.

Each pastor who prayed was assigned a topic: youth, media, branches of government, our city; you get the idea. I was assigned a more general topic: “Prayer for America.” I spent time this week praying through what I would say to God in such a public setting, hoping that it would be a prayer and not a sermon (occupational hazard, you know). My prayer sure didn’t sound as fervent as some of the other prayers today—I pray kind of quietly and reserved. But I trust I gave God back words He gave to me. So on this National Day of Prayer, I offered these words to the God who hears our prayers. If these words help you find your own words to pray for our nation, then I’m grateful.


We praise you, our Father, because you are a great God. You spread out the heavens like a tent and rest your feet on the earth like a stool. You are sovereign over the whole wide world. You do anything you chose to do, any time you chose to do it, without seeking the counsel of any of us. Nothing happens that takes you by surprise. You know everything there is to know. You are the one true God. There is no one greater. You are God and we praise you.

Forgive us when we forget just how great you are. Forgive us when we ascribe supreme power to the kings and rulers of this world, forgetting that the only power they have is the power you give them. They are but drops in a bucket to you. You set them in place, and with the puff of your breath, you can inflate them to glorious heights or blow them away like chaff. So forgive us when we consider the trying times in our nation and forget that those are not the hands of world leaders on the wheel of history; your hands are on that wheel. You are large and in charge, so forgive us when we live in panic instead of in the peace that passes understanding. In these confusing times, we need you, Father. We pant for you as a deer pants for water. And so on this Day of Prayer for our nation we come to you in humility and need.

We thank you for our nation. You have been kind and patient with us beyond measure. Were we to count our blessings we would need more than a day of prayer, we’d need a lifetime.

• You have blessed us with freedom.

• You have sent rain and sun in such proportion that farmers have crops in the field, grocers have food on their shelves, and families have dinner on their tables. And thank you that even with all that there is still enough food to feed the needy in both our nation and the world.

• And thank you also for a government that allows every citizen a voice and an opportunity to be a change agent for good.

Thank you, Lord, for these good gifts.

We also give you thanks today for brave men and women who have gone before us and for those on the battlefield and the home front even now who have paid or are paying the highest price for our freedom. We are debtors to them all. Thank you so much for those who “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” Watch over them and bless them today. We thank you, too, for visionary leaders and unselfish citizens who have served well and sacrificed much for our country in every avenue of life. And we thank you that we have used many of our blessings to bless so many others in need around the world. We are so thankful for our country.

But we confess, our Father, that all is not well. You have given us freedom and we have turned it into license where many do what is right in their own eyes. The moral decay so evident in places high and low betrays our freedoms and raises a fist to your face.

• You have given us amazing natural and financial resources and we have been greedy for more, wasteful with what we have, and arrogant about it all.

• You have given us a society built on the family unit and we have forsaken our vows, broken our promises, and broken our children to pursue selfish ends.

• Forgive us also when we have made truth a casualty, sex a god, and the value of human life dependent upon convenience rather than principle.

Our nation’s sins are legion, Father. Please, forgive us, and would you cast out Legion once again? Help us to repent in dust and ashes.

And your church is not guiltless either. Forgive your church in this nation when we contribute to the problem rather than the solution by living and behaving no differently than those who don’t even claim to know and love and follow you. Help us repent in dust and ashes too.

You teach us in your Word that you put leaders in place and that we are to pray for them, so we pray for them today. Would you please give them common sense and a great big dose of your wisdom so that they will govern wisely and well? And we pray other things for them too.

• Would you help them to seek the good of the state above personal gain, party favor, and private ambition?

• Would you help them avoid compromise with the truth, and to seek to serve rather than be served?

• Would you purge them from greed and selfishness?

• Would you teach them how to be fiscally responsible in the wake of overwhelming deficits?

• Would you show them how to wage peace instead of war so that the world can be a bit safer and our soldiers and their families can be together again?

• And maybe above all, Lord, when they get too big for their britches would you humble them; would you please help them feel so helpless that they will seek help in you?

Finally, Father, we pray for the church in our nation—for everyday folks like us gathered in this place and in other places around the country today.

• Teach us to be your church and not just another political action committee.

• Make us a praying people, a serving people, a Spirit-empowered people, a unified people in Christ.

• Help us to be humble and to be Christ-righteous rather than self-righteous.

• Help us to love one another, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us.

• Help us to share your word with love and boldness with every nation, tribe, and tongue within our borders.

• And since you have called us the salt of the earth and light of the world, would you please make us the salt that creates a thirst for Jesus in the lives of the lost? And make us a light so bright that as we let it shine, our nation will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven—for yours is the kingdom and power and the glory for ever.

We pray these things with one heart in the name of our crucified and resurrected Savior—Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. John, I was there and I thought you did a phenomenal job. I echo your sentiments about politics. I have my position, but I don't feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit for that to be my public platform. I believe our call is to work with the church to advance the Kingdom of God and make disciples of Jesus.

    Excellent prayer. Excellent words. And I say "Amen" to it all.

    (By the way, the rest of the event was very well done. Definitely not a political meeting - truly focused on prayer and revealing the Kingdom of God.)