America is a great land in the midst of a great divide.
We are torn by war and politics and government intrusion into virtually every aspect of our lives. We are plagued by terrorism and a level of fiscal irresponsibility that threatens to drown our children and future generations in debt. Our families are disintegrating all around us, while the pop culture bombards our sons and daughters with pornography and messages of violence and hopelessness.
Can something -- anything -- be done to unite our nation, restore our families and heal our land?
II Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will 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." (NIV)
On May 3, millions of Americans across the land joined their voices in united prayer and praise as part of what has become a great American tradition: The National Day of Prayer. The message of this wonderful day is powerfully simple: If we who call ourselves believers will humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face and turn from our own personal ways of sin, then God promises to forgive us and to heal our land.
It starts with us -- the faithful. We can't point the real finger of blame at Hollywood, or the media, or the government, or even the terrorists -- the fault of our nation's condition is ours. But God promises to heal our wounds if we first practice what we preach.
I recently had the amazing blessing to attend a small women's prayer meeting led by Shirley Dobson, the chair of the National Day of Prayer. We prayed for many aspects of our country -- for our military, our leaders, the media, our families, our schools and our churches. Mrs. Dobson reminded us that in order to be heard, we must first key in on repentance. One of the speakers, Carol Bauer, explained the conditions for God's help. II Chronicles 7:14 is "crisp and concise. … it is written in covenant language of 'if … then.' It's a 'deal or no deal' contract."
God will forgive each of us as individuals and restore our nation to health ... if we follow the steps:
seek God's face
turn from our own sin
Mrs. Dobson urged every believer to embrace this practice, and to begin with three minutes of silence in which we ask God to reveal our own sin. No matter where you pray -- with your family around the dinner table or alone in your car as you drive to work -- take a few minutes to ask God to first search your heart. Psalms 139 says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me." Perhaps you feel as if you are beyond hope. Perhaps you do not believe there is One who hears your prayers. The Good News is that Christ died for you as you are. He loves you in the midst of your failures, sin and doubts. You don't have to be "good" to come before God -- you just need to be willing. If you dare to pray, to step into faith that he will hear you, God can change you from the inside out.
"My heart has been changed through prayer. If it can change one heart, it can change the heart of a nation." Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts who led his football team to a Super bowl victory this year, testifies of the power of prayer. In a video clip posted on YouTube, he encourages all of us to experience the power that can transform both individuals and nations.
The National Day of Prayer offered a wonderful opportunity to raise our collective voices. But whether or not you participated, we should remember that prayer is to be part of our daily lives. God wants to hear from you -- he wants you to ask, to seek, to knock. He's waiting for you.
The Web site for the National Day of Prayer has many links and articles that can help all of us learn to have constant communication with God. Whether you are a prayer warrior or a novice, the site can encourage and help you understand more about the importance and privilege of coming before the God of the Universe with your confessions, hopes and questions.
The theme for this year's conference was "America, Unite in Prayer." Now you know how.