All across the U.S. today, Christians will be participating in public gatherings in state capitals and local churches to seek God on behalf of America. While the National Day of Prayer was officially enacted in 1952, solemn assemblies for prayer, meditation, fasting, and seeking God’s guidance have dated all the way back to the Revolution. I’m grateful that we still have the opportunity to express our faith publicly, and in this instance, sanctioned by the government. But I am still concerned about the Church’s ongoing commitment to prayer…or lack of.
Prayer is something we all talk about…we know we should do it…but how many of us actually have an ongoing, passionate, fervent, desperate relationship with Christ? If the average Christian was totally honest, the admission would be one of inconsistency and indifference when it comes to intimacy with the Almighty. That’s with our personal lives. But what about our corporate responsibilities?
The Church in America is in so many ways event driven, even when it comes to intercession: the National Day of Prayer, beginning each year with a Week of Prayer, See You at the Pole, etc. I read this status update in my Facebook newsfeed: “NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER…Knee time for our nation and President.” My response…by all means pray for America, our President and government, and the military…but what about May 6?
The recent death of al Qaeda’s leader conjures up many memories of the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Our pastor had called our congregation to pray for America that evening, an action repeated by pastors all across the U.S. But where were the intercessors on September 22, 2002?
We fuss, complain, and protest over apparent attacks to our faith and the limiting of our constitutional rights. I remember all the complaints when President Obama cancelled the National Prayer Breakfast. Then the state of Wisconsin declared the NDOP to be unconstitutional. OH NO! WE’RE BEING PERSECUTED!!! Oh please. Like we even know the meaning of tribulation.
The Church trashes atheists and liberal academia over the removal of prayer in schools. But I wonder, what can really stop a committed Christian teenager from praying in school…whether walking through the halls or sitting quietly in a remote place? Limiting our right to pray? Why is it that prayer meetings and services in our churches are the lowest attended gatherings in our weekly schedules? Who cares about the schoolhouse. What about the churchhouse? What about my house?
We are currently taking a second stab at a 24/7 prayer center here at the University of Illinois. While it has been well attended, we still haven’t found 168 students who are willing to pray an hour shift during the week…and that’s on a campus with 3,000 Christ followers, not including the young adults in our community.
Christian leaders demand lawsuits and legislation against those who would threaten the heart of our faith practices. Heart? Really? I propose we bring lawsuits and legislation against Christians who don’t pray. Man, we’re so quick to bellyache when our rights are limited, but don’t hesitate to limit other people’s. Another topic for another time, but we aren’t called to demand and seize our rights…rather to surrender them. How about this…let’s take advantage of the freedom we have before complaining about our limitations? Can we get out of defensive, hostile mode long enough to realize that prayer starts one-on-one with God, then moves into corporate participation? And can we open our eyes long enough to realize that the greatest threat to prayer is not the world around us…but our own apathy, complacency, laziness, and lethargy?
So yes, please do pray on this the National Day of Prayer. But just don’t forget about the other 364 days until the next one.