Today is National Day of Prayer and it could not come at a more needy time as events remind us once again how vulnerable we are; how fragile life is. A little boy lies silent beside his ballet-dancer sister who has lost her legs in a heinous act of terror. Dozens of families in Texas instantly homeless as an inferno vaporizes a neighborhood. Our president and others in government targeted with a deadly poison. And still too fresh in our memories, iconic names such as Newtown and Aurora. It is a shame that it takes tragedies and threats such as these to drive us to our knees, but at the same time it is an incredible blessing that we know who to turn to when our hearts are so heavily burdened.
National Day of Prayer traces its origin all the way back to our first president, George Washington. It was formally designated by Congress in 1952 as a day for people across the nation “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” This year, the theme chosen for this special day is “Pray for America,” highlighted by the verse, “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:2 NIV)
From the very beginning, our nation was founded on biblical principles of justice, equality, and compassion and has been bathed in the prayers of righteous, godly people. When the first convention to craft our constitution stalled due to divisiveness among the delegates, Benjamin Franklin proposed “prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business." When the first Senate convened in 1789, one of its first acts was to appoint a chaplain. And I am convinced that our nation’s position of leadership and influence throughout the world is due, in part, to the millions of Christians who pray daily for their nation, their leaders, their military, and each other.
So today we recognize what many of us do every day. Millions of Americans will attend more than 35,000 gatherings across the land to pray specifically for America. As a nation, we face enormous challenges that sometimes seem beyond our human ability to resolve. In my space, it’s unwanted, abused, or ill-cared for children. In yours it may be gun violence, poverty, the environment, or education. As we work diligently to bring Christ’s hope and healing to these challenges, let us never forget, in the words of the songwriter Joseph Scriven, to “take it to the Lord in prayer.”