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The National Day of Prayer

Dear Christian Friend:

Thank you for coming to the National Prayer Network for assistance in obtaining the greatest spiritual good from the National Day of Prayer.

The National Day of Prayer is a tremendous opportunity for large numbers of Christians to focus prayer and intercession on the protection and healing of America. Yet the primary emphasis of the National Prayer Network is not just to stimulate and organize quantity of prayer, but to help purify and deepen prayer. This is because God insists that the prayer that comes up to Him be quality prayer. Insincere prayer, without complete humility, He considers as vain as a Tibetan prayer wheel, mindlessly revolving. (Isaiah 1:11-20; Proverbs 28:9; James 5:16; Micah 3:4; Job 35:13; Psalm 145:18)

Yes, God hears the prayers of all who are sincere, from the most spiritually primitive or uneducated, such as the ancient Ninevites in the time of Jonah and the thief on the cross. God accepts everyone who comes to Him in good faith according to the light he or she has.. But God will not be mocked by the prayer of those who have had much light yet are double-minded, no matter how many gather on the National Day of Prayer. If a person, or even a congregation gathers on the National Day of Prayer, yet is materialistic, grudge-holding, without any real love for God's truth, unwilling to pay a price to uphold it, such prayer will be in vain.  

Not Enough Faith

In the time of Elijah, 7,000 faithful Israelites languished under drought and Baal-worship, refusing to bow the knee to Baal.  Yet Jesus tells us candidly that, because their faith was weak (none would risk death by identifying with God and Elijah on Mt. Carmel), He could do no mighty work of deliverance for them. The only real worthiness He found, except for Elijah’s was in a gentile, Sidonian woman. Because she alone valued God, truth, and the life of God's prophet more than her own and her son's, she was found worthy of answered prayer.

My father, brother, and I had the privilege of playing a critical role in a re-establishment of the National Day of Prayer under President Reagan (click "About the National Prayer Network"). We are acutely aware of how the National Day of Prayer movement has been mightily used by God. Yet statistics, including those by Barna Research Group, reveal a progressive lowering of religious and moral standards during the last twenty years since the National Day of Prayer was re-instated on February 12, 1982.

There is much elation in the church today that, largely through the assistance of telecommunications, we are experiencing the greatest outreach of the gospel in history. Some also believe the church today is favored by God as a uniquely blessed generation preceding His second coming.

If so, our generation of Christians is also unique in that none other in the history of Christianity ever lost 86% of its young people to the world after high school graduation. Our generation also exceeds the incidence of divorce in the world. Barna statistics reveal no other generation is as untutored in the essentials of Christian doctrine, or is as influenced by the relativistic ethics of secular humanism.  

Eroded Foundations

Such erosion of the spiritual foundations of evangelical Christianity causes us to ask: How many of the thousands in America who have observed the National Day of Prayer are in the same spiritual condition as the 7000 in Israel? Scripture says "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Ps. 66:18) How many are in this category, knowingly indulging sins of the flesh? Could it be that the reason the church remains unable to cast off the Philistine yokes of abortion, pornography, evolution, secular humanism, homosexuality and gay rights laws, is that there is a lack of "salt" in the church that causes it to be "trodden under the feet of men"? (Matt. 5:13).

It is critical then, that if the National Day of Prayer is to have meaning, it must be participated in by Christians who are not on the spiritual level of the 7000 in Israel. Instead, they must be Christians who, by the purity of their hearts, are living in God's favor and thus are capable of moving God to mighty acts of deliverance.

How can we know for sure that God has a higher opinion of us than of the 7000? To answer that, we have to know two things: what God is really like and what He wants of us.  

What is God Like?

What is the primary characteristic of God? Power? Sovereignty? Creativity? No, it is His holiness. God's holiness is above our comprehension, yet we may attempt to describe it as a state of perfect love, goodness and kindness within the Trinity, without the slightest rebellion or discord. God has always existed in such a state and, apart from His present allowance of evil on Earth as a tool to test man, shall exist in such a state forever.

What does God want from us? For us to please such a holy God and thus get our prayers answered, we must also be without rebellion and disloyalty toward Him. We must die to our own rebellious way. We must trust Him without doubting, as a child poised four feet above the concrete relaxes in its mother's arms, gazing with confidence into her eyes.

God does not primarily want anything from us - good works, study, liturgy, fasts, pilgrimages, etc. - except simple, childlike trust, a trust united with obedience. There is no simpler recipe for assurance of salvation, peace with God, and confidence that we are not among the ineffectual 7000. The person who continually trusts in the Lord and obeys Him to the best of his ability is brought into a place of confidence before God not only concerning his salvation but also that his prayer will be heard and, according to the will of God, answered.  Just as Christ, because He was one with the will of the Father, knew that His Father heard and answered, so we, by trusting in Him daily to the best of our ability, can enjoy the same oneness, love, and lack of discord of the Trinity itself.

If we are accused, or even if we, like Peter, momentarily look downward and away from Christ, there is always, in an instant, peace and confidence by looking up again at Christ, knowing that Christ assures us that 'he that cometh to Me (in simple trust) I will in no wise cast out." (Jn. 6:37). When we walk in the context of such faith, hectic as our physical lives may be, God will keep us from rebelling against Him, as Paul says, "If we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16)  

Producing Spiritual Power

Denial of our self-will and child-like obedience and trust in God thus provide full assurance that our prayers are heard and respected by God. But faith also brings spiritual power, power which the 7000 did not possess on Mt. Carmel when Elijah asked the decisive question, which might have ended in death, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him." But the people answered him not a word." (I KI. 18:21)

What is spiritual power?

We live in an age when much of the church and its leadership are economically tied to the material organization of the church. It is thus vital that no ideas or ventures be entertained that might jeopardize the crucial cash flow which sustains modern evangelicalism. This obligation often prevails from the level of the local church to the height of Christian education, publishing, and broadcasting. Truth then or crusades by the church in defense of truth and against evil are accepted or rejected according to the criteria: Will this offend someone whose financial support is crucial to our ministry? Will it possibly incur persecution by the government, the media, society? Christ made it clear that truth does divide, incurring alienation and persecution. "Think not that I am come to bring peace. I am come to bring division, yea, rather, a sword.  I am come to set a man against his brother." (Luke 12:51-53)                  

Yet truth is not an option. Truth is the lifeblood of Christianity, necessary for its barest survival. Yes, we may think that in a blip of history  - during our half-century when "we must be positive; we must be respectable" is the credo of the church  - that we can omit those political or doctrinal truths that might offend and create controversy. We may think such truths are "non-essential" for salvation. Yet in the end, a church, which has omitted the savory, sometimes stinging salt of fearless truthtelling is a church that will be destroyed by evil from within and without. Like weeds and brambles which are neglected because the gardener has more "positive" things to do than uproot them, so sin within the church and society will, in time, become so entrenched that it is impossible to dislodge it.

When, according to statistics, the morals of the evangelical church have become nearly indistinguishable from the world's, it is time to admit that the modern church has become overrun with tenacious spiritual weeds. By not being able to do any more to save society from sin than the world can, the church is now in moral bankruptcy and has become a laughingstock which has lost its original reason for existence.  

What can we do?

What is to be done? The National Day of Prayer is God's invitation to Christians to do two things. II Chron. 7:14 says, "If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and forsake their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will heal their land."

The first remedy is to truly humble ourselves before God by dying, to the best of our ability, to our own self-will. This is not an option, but a necessity of salvation. Heaven is only for the pure in heart, not for those game-players who claim a 'born again' experience can guarantee their eternal security even though they live a life disloyal to Christ. Yes, Jesus writes in His book of Life the names of those who have trusted and continue to trust in Him. Yet Revelation 3:5 makes it clear, His pencil has an eraser on it. Failure to abide in the true vine by continued trust and obedience to Christ, the source of spiritual nutrition and life, can cause Christ to erase our names out of His book, and we, as branches once engrafted into the vine, can be cast away and burned in hell (Rev. 3:5; John 15:6).               

II Chron. 7:14 also describes the second crucial activity of those who participate in the National Day of Prayer: repentance, turning from our wicked ways. We must, of course, repent of and forsake every form of sin. But in particular, the church must turn away from and rebuke the church's pervasive desire for safety and respectability rather than regard for truth and the law of God. Such expedience, for the last fifty years at least, has been a blight on the spiritual power of the church to redeem a darkening world.

A love of physical security makes slaves of Christian leaders to the purse-strings of their parishioners, excludes the possibility of sound doctrine and reproof in the church, and drives outside the church those who would tell it the whole truth. In short, the love of respectability increases fear of men, decreasing fear of God. The result of this great misplacement of values is that the church has erected an idol in the sanctuary of the Lord - the idol of guidance by man and money, rather than by the Holy Spirit.

Unless laity and leadership make use of the National Day of Prayer to repent of the materialistic, man-pleasing spirit that pervades the church today, National Days of Prayer will continue to be held, and probably increase, while teen alienation, fornication and divorce rates also increase in the church. Yet if the church truly fulfills the purpose of the National Day of Prayer as General George Washington intended it, as a day of national humiliation before God in the fullest sense of the word, then we can expect God to "hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land." 

©2007 National Prayer Network, Inc. All rights reserved.