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Tuesday
May122015

An Inspiring and Sobering National Day of Prayer

Last week all across America 43,000 prayer gatherings of many shapes and sizes took place on the National Day of Prayer (NDP).

I was in Washington, D.C. for the events--the 64th consecutive National Day of Prayer and 27th since the NDP was established by Congress and signed by President Reagan as the first Thursday in May. The United States is the only nation in the world that has an annual National Day of Prayer.

That's inspiring.

But America is in grave trouble--spiritually, morally, economically, and internationally. And this week Pew Research announced that for the first time in the history of the United States, people professing to be "Christian" is less than 75% (an 8 point drop in eight years) and those calling themselves "Unaffiliated" (atheists, agnostics, and nones) is above 20% (a seven point rise).

That's sobering.

So which way is it, America?

My housing in DC was directly across the street from the Supreme Court, who, in June, will rule on the constitutionality of homosexual marriage. A friend of mine who knows the justices intimately was walking with me one day behind the Supreme Court building. He pointed up to two windows above us where he said there was a conference room where the nine justices cast their votes on the various cases and assign the writing of the rulings.

"Ron," he lamented. "I believe that [the same-sex marriage] decision has already been made behind those windows above us. I believe that our prayers could still change hearts, but in all likelihood, the die has already been cast."

(The picture above I took with my phone on May 7. You can see four windows in the main building with the columns. The top two windows contain the conference room we're talking about.)

Later that day, we prayed with a small group of leaders on the steps of the Supreme Court. That requires a special permit because they don't want crowds getting close to our temple of justice. Kind of symbolic of the unusual power these justices now wield to dictate matters of life and death and even human sexuality upon the American people--without their consent.

From 9am to 1 pm the main gathering of the National Day of Prayer took place in the ornate Caucus Room of the Cannon Office Building. About three hundred were in attendance under the 2015 theme "Lord, Hear our Cry."

Here are some of the highlights: 

  • Rabbi Daniel Lapin called the people of God in America to "build an ark of deliverance" through our prayers and actions. The shofar was blown and another Messianic rabbi declared that God had "heard the prayers of His people."
  • Judge Robert Rigsby shared his incredible story of conversion and service for God within the military courts of America.  We prayed with passion for the judiciary.
  • Congressman Louie Gohmert spoke on behalf of the legislative branch of government. Over 100 congressmen and women are a part of a "Congressional Prayer Caucus" that regularly seeks for God's wisdom and leadership. But Congress is divided and divine intervention is necessary. We prayed with great burden for the legislative branch.
  • For the seventh year in a row, the executive branch (the Obama White House) declined to participate in the national event. President Obama issued a proclamation, as did the governors of all fifty states, but he declined to have a prayer meeting at the White House or send a representative to the Cannon event. He is the first president in our history to not participate.  We got down on our knees on the floor and prayed for a move of God in the current Administration.
  • Dr. Ben Carson, the former John Hopkins neurosurgeon who is now running for president, was one of the highlights of the day. He shared his gripping story about coming to faith through the perseverance of his inner city Detroit single mom. He admonished the audience that "the baton of freedom is now in our hands." Will we use it to see a spiritual re-birth in the United States?
  • Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of a 40,000 member Southern Baptist church in Plano, Texas, was this year's honorary chairman of the NDP. He said that this was a time for "crying before God:" 1) A Humble Cry - as we repent of our personal and national pride, 2) A Fervent Cry - for revival in our nation, 3) A Holy Cry  - as we repent of our own sins and get right with God, and 4) A Hopeful Cry - that God will hear us, forgive our sins and heal our land. He encouraged all in attendance to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

One of the highlights of this gathering each year is hearing from Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and now head of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I've known Dr. Dobson for about 25 years. His wife, Shirley, has been the national chair of the NDP Task Force for the past twenty-four years--an incredible run of faithful service to the national prayer movement.

I have never heard Dr. Dobson so concerned and burdened for America. It is from his remarks that the word "sobering" was lodged in my being. These are serious times where the Church both needs to repent and prepare for what might lie ahead.

Pierre Bynum, a prayer leader at Family Research Council (FRC), described Dr. Dobson's words this way:

"At NDP, Dr. James Dobson warned of the consequences of a bad Supreme Court ruling on marriage. FRC, too, has repeatedly warned that such would signal the end of religious liberty in America. Faithful Christians will be targeted for punishment by homosexual activists in and outside government, as they were in Indiana."

"Ministries that take a public stand for biblical and scientific truth about marriage and human sexuality will be priority targets. Christian photographers, bakers, florists, wedding planners, wedding chapels, Knights of Columbus Halls, private wedding vendors and churches that rent out their facilities for weddings will face demands to facilitate homosexual weddings."

"If they refuse, they will face not just pressure, but government investigations and discrimination lawsuits. States need quickly to pass bills like one now being considered in Louisiana, which specifically protects business people from activists who seek to punish believers with discrimination charges. But the problems do not end there. That is only the beginning."

Sobering words. The group once again went to its knees to call out to God in prayer.

Later in the day, believers gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol for the capital region celebration of the National Day of Prayer. In light of the racial tensions in America, and especially the riots and looting that recently took place in Baltimore, a city just sixty miles to the north, this gathering was a breath of fresh air that God is looking to his people to bring back his blessing to the United States.

Inspiring!

Here again are highlights:

  • Pastors and spiritual leaders of every color imaginable joined hearts and hands and cried out to God to heal the people of America across racial and economic lines.
  • Worship ascended to heaven from a beautiful rainbow coalition of people that were a glimpse of that heavenly choir "from every kindred, tribe, people and tongue" (Revelation 5:9).
  • Many people wept over the sins of the nation and asked God to give us a spirit of repentance and change--beginning with the people of God.
  • Dr. Jack Graham, led the gathering in praying to God to rend the heavens and rain down on our citizens a spirit of reconciliation, forgiveness, humility, and appreciation of our differences.
  • Senate Chaplain Barry Black prayed that God would heal the wounds of the nation through our prayers, tears, love, and renewed covenant with each other. He said, "In these days we need to make prayer as normal as breathing."
  • Scores of Christian leaders prayed over and commissioned the younger generation to pick up the torch of renewal and restoration in the inner cities of our country.
  • African-American co-chairs of the event, Dr. Corinthia Boone and Dr. David Anderson, encouraged the crowd throughout the three hour prayer meeting to passionately walk with God, to love one another, and demonstrate to the world that only God's power in His people can turn the tide of poverty, division, and despair.

At the conclusion, the hundreds of people in attendance, from all across the racial, political and economic spectrums of the nation, joined their voices as one to invite the Holy Spirit to "bind us together with cords that cannot be broken."

So here's the dichotomy:

Inspiring - God's people coming together across ethnic, political and denominational lines to repent, pray, worship, love one another, and evangelize the lost.

Sobering - our rebellion against God, national moral decline international weakness, and need for repentance in the American Church.

So which way is it, America?

Only time will tell.

 

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