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National Day of Prayer is May 7

by Bob Shillingstad
| May 2, 2020 1:00 AM

“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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” — II Chronicles 7:14

Our National Day of Prayer calls on all people of different faiths in the United States to pray for the nation and its leaders. It is held on the first Thursday of May each year.

Through the efforts of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, more than 35,000 prayer gatherings will be conducted by about 40,000 volunteers across the United States. In 1775 the Continental Congress allocated a time for prayer in forming a new nation. Over the years, there have been calls for a day of prayer, including from President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Ronald Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer.

Here are some prayers of our presidents in times of crisis:

George Washington: “Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart,”

Abraham Lincoln: “Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.”

Franklin Roosevelt: (D-Day Prayer): “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy Kingdom.”

These are inspiring prayers but Chuck Swindoll tells the story about Dr. Donald Barnhouse, greatly admired American pastor and author, who once came to the pulpit and made a statement that stunned his congregation. “Prayer changes nothing!” You could have heard a pin drop in that packed Sunday worship service in Philadelphia.

His comments, of course, were designed to make Christians realize that God is sovereignly in charge of everything. Our times are literally in His hands. No puny human being by uttering a few words in prayer takes charge of events and changes them. God does the shaping, the changing; it is He who is in control.

Barnhouse was correct, except in one minor detail. Prayer changes me. When you and I pray, we change, and that is one of the major reasons prayer is such a therapy that counteracts anxiety.

There is a prayer that was alleged to have been found on a Confederate casualty in the battle of Gettysburg. It goes like this:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

Take time every day to pray for our country in this crisis. Not only for those who are sick or for families that have lost loved ones but for the 26 million who have lost jobs or the tens of thousands who may lose their business.

Pray for our leaders and our country, not just this Thursday but every day. Ruth Bell Graham said it best: “Pray when you feel like it, for it is a sin to neglect such an opportunity. Pray when you don’t feel like it, for it is dangerous to remain in such a condition.”

Finally, on a lighter note. Churches may now be open if they abide by the guidelines issued by the state. Here are some new guidelines regarding music: Prohibited Songs — “We Gather Together,” “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

Instead, here are some recommended songs: “I Come To The Garden Alone,” “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” and “Trust and Obey.” We want to thank those in charge for this guidance.

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“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

— I Timothy 2:1-2

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Bob’s religion columns appear Saturdays in The Press. Email Bob: bjshill@mac.com

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Shillingstad