National Day of Prayer — Is this the kind of day God has chosen?

You may not like this post. I won’t write for long. I’ll try to be straight, to the point: I’m not that impressed with the National Day of Prayer.

I just read a blog on Washington Post by Pastor Greg Laurie, Honorary Chairman for the evangelical task force that heads up activities for today, though not affiliated with the government. In it he says America has to choice between judgment and revival, according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. A popular verse – we evangelicals have turned to it many times, as an unfortunate bludgeon to encourage people to turn to God or be damned. The message of the National Day of Prayer is always so simple: “we’re in trouble, we always are, let’s spend a day in prayer to ask God for help.”

I will not discount that this message is good, even in its simplicity. But I think the National Day of Prayer, when boiled down to these parameters, misses its own mark. I humbly suggest we move forward in the Bible, and consider the words in Isaiah 58. Take a moment and read it in it’s entirety here

We rarely hear anyone quote Isaiah 58. It would be more apropos for the rationale behind the Day, dating back to 1775:

The Honorable the Congress having recommended it to the United States to set apart Thursday the 6th of May next to be observed as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence; to deprecate [to pray or intreat that a present evil may be removed] deserved punishment for our Sins and Ingratitiude, to unitedly implore the Protection of Heaven; Success to our Arms and the Arms of our Ally: The Commander in Chief enjoins a religious observance of said day and directs the Chaplains to prepare discourses proper for the occasion; strictly forbidding all recreations and unnecessary labor.” —George Washington, First President of the United States (emphasis mine)

Rarely does anyone invoke Isaiah 58, and for good reason — it demands that we change our ways. In Isaiah 58 God says our prayers are like rubbish because it’s all posturing before a God who clearly sees we’re all talk and no action.

Today, we will pray. Tomorrow will we continue to:

  • Encourage a materialistic economy and vain lifestyle, doing as we please (v.3b)
  • Exploit migrants, blue collar workers and the middle class, squeezing money and productivity out of them to disproportionately transfer it to the rich (v. 3b)
  • Fight in the Congress over nothing, frustrating our political process in gridlock (v.4)
  • Have 20% of American children go to bed hungry, 12% of Americans live in poverty, 8%+ unemployment, and 700,000 people experience homelessness with little help from their elected leaders (v.7)
  • Endure a media that hate-mongers and loves rumors and intrigue, valuing scandal over truth (v.9b)

The list could go on.

We like 2 Chronicles 7:14. We take it to say that if we just ask for help, everything will get better. We get to wipe our hands together and say, “well, we took care of that!”. Isaiah 58 is far more damning. Not only does it say we forgot God, it says we forgot each other, and before you can go to God asking for forgiveness and help, we need to get right with one another. Only then will our light break forth like the dawn, and our healing quickly appear (v.8).

Two thoughts: The 2nd of the two greatest commands is to love your neighbor as yourself. We affront God when we don’t. So much so that Jesus told us to leave our offering behind and get right with our neighbor first (Matthew 5:23-24).

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a National Day of Repentance, Justice & Prayer? A day when we repent of how we hated one another and made specific commitments, legislation and actions to correct social injustices? Then we prayed? Such a day, would be most impressive.

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