By Nikolas Grosfield
Abraham Lincoln is often credited—erroneously—with commencing America’s days of national thanksgiving and prayer in 1863. In fact he did prompt these important days to occur more often, but the Continental Congress started it fourscore and eight years earlier. U.S. law has obliged the President to declare a national day of prayer each year since 1952, and since 1988 specifically on the first Thursday of May. This year that means May 7.
National prayer trends also exist elsewhere. The Canadian Parliament has held a National Prayer Breakfast nearly every year since 1964 (this year it will be online, due to the coronavirus). Great Britain famously held a National Day of Prayer in 1941 during World War II. And what began in South Africa as a national prayer movement in 2001 has become a series of global prayer events, with countless participants in virtually all countries.
Australia’s prayer effort deserves special attention. In addition to their annual Day of Prayer and Fasting over the past decade, Australians have prayed for America an extraordinary seven times! They called on the world in 2019 to join them “in three days of prayer and fasting for the United States of America.” This is far more than any American I know—starting with me—has done for Australia!
Furthermore, their agenda was not our politics, economy, or health. Instead, just as for their own land, they chiefly prayed for “revival and reformation…more of Jesus [and] that Jesus would be magnified.” This sounds like Psalm 70: “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified!’” (italics mine)
These selfless brothers and sisters around the world offer Christian Americans three things. First, we are not alone; we are merely part of the universal Church. Second, we need not over-focus on politics; bigger prayers often hinge on spiritual crises and joys. Third, a tongue-twister, Christian non-Americans praying for Christian Americans should help Christian Americans to do the same for Christian non-Americans. (Paul said it better to believers far away in Philippians 1—“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”)
This fits well with America’s 2020 National Day of Prayer theme, “Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth.” The key verse is Habakkuk 2:14—“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” A marvelous prophecy every Christian awaits!
On the journey from the flag to the cross (i.e., devoting oneself less to politics and more to faith), here are some possible prayer priorities for May 7—or any other day of the year. Whomever God sets on your heart, be they near or far, friend or foe…it is good to pray for their health and safety; it is better to uplift their relationships and responsibilities; it is fantastic to pray for their salvation and sanctification; and it is best of all to pray that you and they might glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
Such prayers transcend borders and defeat biases. They place people and country above self, and God at the top. Yet they are just reflections of the divine and eternal boundaries Jesus crossed on His way to redeeming helpless sinners like you and me.
Please join us for the National Day of Prayer – for more info on how to join CLICK HERE.