May 2 is the National Day of Prayer when we pause to thank God for our nation, seek forgiveness for our sins and ask his guidance in the future.
There were at least two major proclamations before the event was formalized. The Continental Congress called the colonies to pray in 1775, and President Lincoln asked the nation to pray in 1863. Our modern observance was created in 1952 under President Truman and amended under President Reagan in 1988 to fall on the first Thursday in May. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.
Some Christians have expressed their unease when the government calls for prayer, but, in reality, Christians asked the government only to recognize this day, not to mandate it.
It’s true that religion and politics have a testy relationship. Jon Ward wrote “Camelot’s End,” a book about the Kennedy challenge to the Carter reelection campaign in 1980. The book reminded me of the John and Robert Kennedy tragedies, how Sen. Ted Kennedy wrestled with the lingering questions from the Chappaquiddick episode of 1969 and how America reacted to the former governor of Georgia, a Baptist deacon, declaring he’d been “born again.” A majority of evangelical voters supported Gov. Carter in ’76 but turned to Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1980.
We had another uneasy time in the ’90s when President Clinton was embroiled in moral crisis. I told our church at the time that Christians condemn this conduct while we pray for our president. I recall a member of our church taking me to task for “mixing politics and religion!” I never could get him to understand we were speaking about different issues.
We all have political opinions. But whether one is Democrat or Republican, we’re exhorted to pray for “kings and all those in authority over us” (1 Timothy 2:2).
For what should we pray?
First, we pray for peace. The most demanding role of the president is commander-in-chief. The nuclear codes are always nearby in a briefcase euphemistically called “the football.” Armageddon can begin in half an hour. Perhaps this is the reason our presidents seem to age so markedly in office.
Chaos prevents the church from evangelizing and serving in an optimal manner. A society of peace is the best environment for the church to do her work.
Second, we pray for wisdom for those who lead. We ask that all our elected officials seek God’s leadership, turn from graft and serve the people who elected them.
And we pray wisdom for all citizens as we approach a significant election in 2020. We need God’s direction as we vote.
I hope everyone will schedule time this week to pray for America.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.