"Prayer is the hope of our nation."
The lovely lady at the podium spoke these words softly, but with such confidence it was as if she had shouted them from a mountaintop.
But she had not. Her manner was gentle and graceful. It was the truth of the words she spoke that electrified the audience, perking up the ears and touching the hearts of even those seated way in the back of the room.
It's funny how the truth has a way of grabbing your attention.
The beautiful woman was Shirley Dobson, the chairman of the National Day of Prayer that occurs this Thursday, May 1. I was attending a convention when the master of ceremonies of the event asked Mrs. Dobson, who was also in the audience, to take a few minutes to remind us of the importance of the day.
Mrs. Dobson was an attendee of the conference, and had no notice that she would be called on to speak before the gathering of some 500 people. Yet, she approached the stage with certain purpose – it was evident that her belief in the importance of the National Day of Prayer pulsates within her like the breath and blood that gives her life. She doesn't just chair the event, she champions it as a key element in securing God's blessing and protection for our nation.
And she is right. As the website of the National Day of Prayer outlines, II Chronicles 7:14 is very clear regarding the future of nations:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land."
The theme of this year's event, based on Proverbs 14:34, is "Righteousness Exalts a Nation … but sin is a disgrace to any people." There couldn't be a better time in our nation's history for us to hear these two verses from Chronicles and Proverbs.
As we make our way through wars on terrorism at home and abroad, it's crucial that we understand that it is neither might nor power that will save our nation in the end. Although our current battles are just and necessary to protect the innocent, free the oppressed, and protect freedom, it will never be the actions of man that will save the souls of individuals, and the soul of our nation.
As Mrs. Dobson has stated, "We should pray, 'God bless America.' However, our prayer is incomplete if we do not say, 'God bless and forgive America.' We have disobeyed God, ignored His moral laws, profaned His name and embraced many behaviors that stand contradictory to God's standard of morality. In fact, our survival and well-being as a nation rests solely on our willingness to live according to His purpose."
Mrs. Dobson is focused on building into our lives an understanding of the importance of prayer well beyond what she does to promote Thursday's event. Her book on prayer, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times, has had a tremendous impact on my own life in helping me to understand the importance of meeting God throughout my day.
As Mrs. Dobson points out so well, prayer is intensely personal, and in America, our constitution protects the opportunity to pray in the public square too. The National Day of Prayer provides a forum for the community of faith to take advantage of our freedom to worship together in a collective statement of our belief in God and His standards, wisdom, love and forgiveness.
It was President Ronald Reagan who said, " If we forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under."
And, it was John Adams who declared, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
Read the statements by Shirley Dobson, Ronald Reagan and John Adams again, and think about what they mean – about how they reflect the truth of the verses in Chronicles and Proverbs quoted above. The importance of our nation joining in prayer becomes very clear if you set aside the distractions of life and focus on the simple truth.
People of faith are gathering by the millions all around the country this Thursday in churches, stadiums, homes and parks to pray for our nation. A simple visit to the website of the National Day of Prayer will provide you with details of events and gatherings in your area. If you don't see information online for your town, call 1-719-531-3379 for details. And if by chance your town is not listed, why not call a few of your friends together for a time of prayer?
If you can't physically join others this Thursday in prayer, then take a few minutes wherever you are and remember to call on God on behalf of our nation. As we gather in His name – no matter where we may be – our prayers will be heard.