The National Day of Prayer is slated for May 4. From sea to shining sea, prayer rallies will take place at public venues as well as in churches. It will be the fifty-fourth consecutive year that the observation has been held.
By Kelly Boggs
The National Day of Prayer is slated for May 4. From
sea to shining sea, prayer rallies will take place at public venues as
well as in churches. It will be the fifty-fourth consecutive year that
the observation has been held.
In 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law a
bill that established an annual National Day of Prayer. It specified
that the President select the day each year on which the event would
In 1988, Congress introduced legislation calling for
the National Day of Prayer to be held on the first Thursday in May. It
was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
Prior to the codifying of the National Day of Prayer
as law, days of prayer have been conducted intermittently throughout
America’s history. Two of the most notable occasions were in 1775, when
the Continental Congress designated a time of prayer in forming a new
nation, and Abraham Lincoln’s resolution that called for a day of
fasting and prayer during the Civil War.
There is no doubt that our nation is in constant
need of prayer, so an annual day of prayer is certainly appropriate. I
have participated in the National Day of Prayer for more than 20 years
and even helped to organize a few events. However, as I pondered this
yeaṙs observation, I could not help but wonder if it is possible that
symbolism is supplanting the substance of the event.
At almost every National Day of Prayer program,
someone will read or quote, If My people, which are called by My name,
shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from
their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their
sin, and will heal their land (II Chronicles 7:14).
Never has our nation needed to follow the
prescription for revival the Lord provides in the aforementioned
passage. We who follow Christ need to realize to whom we belong and by
whose name we are called. We need to turn from self-sufficient
arrogance and cry out to God for mercy. We need to seek His glory and
repent of lifestyles that, if George Barna is correct, fall woefully
below God’s standard.
I believe strongly in the need to apply the truth of
II Chronicles 7:14. However, could it be in our zeal to state the
principles set forth in the passage that we have overlooked the
application of the context in which the prescription is found?
The context in which God communicates the principles
for revival is the dedication of Solomon’s temple. It is the Lord’s
response to the king’s prayer that He dwell in the structure built for
In verse 12 of II Chronicles 7, The Lord assures
Solomon that He has chosen this place to Myself for a house of
sacrifice. Then in verse 13, He gives the king instructions that
concern the future. The Lord tells Solomon, If I shut up heaven
that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land,
or if I send pestilence among my people.
Verses 13 and 14 are trouble-shooting verses. In
other words, God tells Solomon that in the future when overwhelming
difficulties come upon you situations over which you have absolutely no
control, your only hope is to turn to Me.
In the time that God spoke these words to Solomon,
drought, insect infestation and disease would be circumstances that
would produce an attitude of desperation among the people of Israel.
I believe that Verse 14 of II Chronicles 7 loses its sense of urgency
when divorced from verse 13. What we need in order to properly apply
God’s prescription for revival is a sense of desperation, an
understanding that the situation we face in America is totally out of
our control and God is our only hope.
As long as we believe that we have the answers to our nation’s
problems, symbolism in prayer will supplant substance and revival will
remain a fantasy.
Desperation for revival cannot be quenched with an
annual day of prayer. It can only be satisfied by a constant crying out
to God and a daily dose of His prescription for revival.
While a national day of prayer is not a bad thing,
and quoting and calling attention to God’s principles for revival is a
good thing, is it possible that after fifty-four consecutive years of
the National Day of Prayer we have become content with the symbolism of