It seems to me ... our fears for the National Day of Prayer may cause us to appeal to the wrong court!
Along with most of you, I am a huge supporter of the National Day of Prayer. I am privileged to serve on America's National Prayer committee, the members of which are collectively stewards of this vital spiritual enterprise. As director of the National Pastors' Prayer Network, I have annually promoted the event and encouraged pastors' prayer groups across the country to meet on that day and pray fervently for the future of our nation. I have enjoyed the Chicago NDP prayer breakfast in my home city and attended several national rallies on the first Thursday of May in our nation's capitol.
The NDP has been catalytic toward greater expressions of the unity of the Body of Christ in cities and communities in every state of the union. Though not yet more popular than Valentine's Day, the National Day of Prayer has accomplished much in calling America to recognize oits Creator. Similar to the nation of Israel's feasts and solemn assemblies, an annual day of prayer reminds us how desperately we need repentance and must humbly petition our eternal Judge to heal our land and restore justice. Long live a national day of prayer.
Suddenly, more than in years past, opposition is rising. Voices have always spoken critically, especially since Congress officially recognized a day for prayer. But this year, for the first time in memory, our judicial system has joined the antagonists. Many, even some Christian leaders, fear the end of a national day of prayer. And I, for one, certainly hope that does not take place.
But what if it does?
Christians have responded quickly to this threat. Some appeal to constitutional rights or legal precedence. Others seem incredulous that our society wants to vote prayer out, so to speak. A few sound genuinely fearful, as if the Church of Jesus Christ will tumble without government permission and protection. Of course we have the right, even the responsibility, to champion for our rights like every other citizen . . . but I wonder if our bottom-line concern is motivated more by the potential loss of the comfort and ease we've experienced as Christians living in America. As the NDP faces new threats, is our defense based upon American tradition or political connections in high places? Will we appeal more in courts of law or in the court of heaven (Ephesians 2:6)? If what we know as the National Day of Prayer disappears, what, really, has changed? Yes, our comfort (no small issue) and maybe one day our safety but hopefully not our commission and calling and commitment.
What if the growing anti-NDP movement in our country is in reality an answer to decades of praying for revival? Maybe the Lord knows that our desire for an awakening is sincere but that our capacity to refocus our lives and reformat our congregations is in need of a serious challenge. Not a political or legal challenge but one that causes us to individually and corporately become radical Christians. And maybe the Lord knows that can only be accomplished by those things that cause us discomfort; a jolt that shatters our Christianized status quo.
Believe me, I am not inviting discomfort or cultural disapproval nor am I courageous enough to welcome a purifying persecution. The threat to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion are life and death issues (at least they were at one time in our nation's early history). Like you, I have read chilling reports of persecution in other nations and watched news clips of the hardships and even killings endured by fellow believers in other lands. No thank you. I am enormously grateful to live in the land of the free.
But this is also the home of the brave. And if Congress or the courts one day delete a National Day of Prayer from the calendar, our calling to pray has not been altered one iota. Our permission to gather is rooted, not in a legislative decree but, like millions of brother and sisters in Christ throughout history and across the globe, is in our Lord's commands. Maybe the real test is not legislative nor judicial (and certainly not political); the real test may be spiritual. How committed are we, and to what extreme will we risk our comfort or safety, to make certain Christ-followers in every town and village, community and city gather to pray for our nation? Is it possible that the court of heaven would actually hear from more desperate American Christians if NDP was rescinded? Could the God of heaven be asking us to move from one day of national prayer to 365?
It seems to me, our fears for the National Day of Prayer may cause us to fight the wrong fight and appeal to the wrong court; God forbid!
Pastor Phil Miglioratti