The National Day of Prayer is coming up this Thursday, May 7, 2009. Anything that has been done for 58 years can become just another religious routine through which many people go, no matter how powerful it was in the beginning. For those of you who are in planning and leadership roles for the observance of this day, it may seem that it’s too late to make any changes for this year’s activities, but please allow these words to challenge you – at least for the future.
In the early days of the Wendy’s food chain, their commercials had an elderly woman with a fairly shrill voice who would buy a competitor’s hamburger, only to find almost no meat between the two sides of the bun. Her line was simply, “Where’s the beef?” Then, she would go to Wendy’s and find the meat filling the bun completely. It was easy to conclude that Wendy’s burgers lived up to the promise of the size of the buns, while the others didn’t. What does this have to do with the National Day of Prayer?
Where the National Day of Prayer is concerned, I re-phrase the question to, “Where’s the prayer?” I have had wonderful experiences of prayer with others on these days, but in the last many years, these times have been confined just to my home or with a few of my local church members. Many years ago, though, I also experienced times of powerful prayer with complete strangers from all walks of life as we gathered on the steps of City Hall to pray at noon – no program involved. In those times, we prayed for our nation in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and we left that place knowing much had been accomplished for the kingdom of God. As the years have gone on, the corporate gatherings have become more organized, with the emphasis being the inclusion of many pastors from all variety of churches to speak during the designated hour. The problem with this is that the time is consumed by the many speakers, as well as music. Very little time is allotted for the actual purpose of our gatherings – prayer!
Humans, even well-intentioned humans, see a good thing happening and decide to make it “better” by organizing it, programming it. In organizing the NDP to be “better,” however, at least at the local level, we have organized the flow of the Holy Spirit right out of the programs, reducing, if not eliminating, the impact of the gatherings. If we pray, led by the Holy Spirit, in true unity, the effect is much more far-reaching than just the day and hour in which we pray. Those prayers continue to work in the realm of the spirit until the work is completed. First, we have to pray, though!
Many people do pray and intercede for this nation on the National Day of Prayer. I still issue the challenge, however, for each of us to take seriously the theme of this year’s NDP, Prayer – America’s Hope. If prayer is truly America’s hope, then let us ask the question in those places where we gather, “Where’s the prayer?” If we find only a little here and there, but it’s not the main focus, let’s be bold in requesting more emphasis on prayer – and be willing to lead out, if asked. May it then be said in the future that there is no doubt about the purpose of our gatherings; that we meet to pray for our nation.
“Where’s the prayer?” Right here, Lord! Right here!