- 2003 29 Apr
The National Day of Prayer 2003 is right around the corner! For many of you, Thursday, May 1, will mark the culmination of many long weeks and months of hard work. You have spent countless hours contacting local officials, coordinating with churches, planning prayer gatherings, making phone calls, and generally "spreading the word" about NDP. In a few weeks, your tireless efforts will pay off as men, women, and children from coast to coast join together to lift our nation and its leaders before the Lord in prayer.
This time of year is incredibly hectic for those of us in the NDP Task Force office, as well. In fact, as the countdown to May 1 continues, our staff is running at a frantic pace! But in the rush to meet deadlines and make final preparations, we must be careful not to lose sight of our ultimate purpose. As we clamor to attend to the practical and technical preparations associated with the National Day of Prayer, we can't forget what a privilege it is in the first place to be involved in the noble work of calling our nation to prayer and repentance.
Indeed, as our culture increasingly embraces immorality and moves further away from biblical principles, we must remember that repentance is an important component of prayer. In fact, the necessity of turning from sin is reflected in NDP's theme and verse for 2003: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). Even as we endeavor to iron out the details of this year's observance, let us also strive to pursue righteousness in our own lives as an example to those around us.
When Solomon became king of Israel, he learned very quickly that there is a relationship between personal righteousness and the welfare of a nation. After completing construction on the temple and royal palace, Solomon received a visit from the Lord. God told Solomon that if the people of Israel continued in their sin, they could expect Him to "shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people" (2 Chronicles 7:13). But God also offered Israel a chance to escape its self-imposed pain and suffering, saying: "If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Later in the same chapter, the Lord takes His focus off of the people of Israel and places it exclusively on Solomon as an individual, saying, "As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne..." (vv. 17-18). On the other hand, the Lord warns Solomon of the dire consequences of failing to live a righteous life: "But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land..." (vv. 19-20).
As followers of Christ, we can learn much from God's personal message to Solomon. This episode serves as a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to stand for the principles of righteousness and to intercede in prayer on behalf of our nation. But in so doing, we must remember that change will not ultimately come as the result of our own efforts. Our part is simply to submit to God in humility, and then trust Him for the outcome.
Even though personal prayer and individual time with God form the foundation of our communication with Him, we must also recognize the power of corporately coming before Him with our requests. That is what the National Day of Prayer is all about! As our individual petitions are joined together and transformed into a mighty chorus, we have the power to usher in a revival that will sweep through our nation. By coming together in prayer, we have the opportunity to answer Christ's call to be "salt and light" in a dark world: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden... let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, 16b). Clearly, by coming before the Lord personally and corporately in prayer, we are shining His light into the darkness.
There is a cyclical relationship between personal righteousness and corporate, or national, righteousness. As noted above - and as Solomon learned - the process starts when each of us submits to God in prayer and pursues holy living on an individual basis. Then, as our lives are transformed by the power of Christ, we are able to share His love and make a positive impact on those around us. The Gospel spreads as a result, and through the personal righteousness of our friends, neighbors, and leaders, our nation itself is transformed.
When our culture collectively embraces biblical values, more and more individuals within society will be empowered to adopt those principles for themselves and, more importantly, to discover the Source of those timeless truths. As new individuals begin to share their joy with others, the process can begin all over again!
The cycle of personal and corporate righteousness begins and ends with prayer. That is why all of your hard work in preparation for NDP is so important. As we gather on May 1 in humility and repentance, we will be unleashing the power of God to transform both individuals and our nation as a whole. Whether you're an NDP coordinator, volunteer, or friend, thank you for all your hard work this year. Only eternity will know the number of lives that have been changed as a result of your efforts to call your fellow Americans to prayer. May God richly bless you for your service to His kingdom!
Mrs. Shirley Dobson is nationally recognized for her leadership skills and contributions to women's affairs, Christian organizations, and the government. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Focus on the Family, and has served as chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDP) since 1991. Through the efforts of her team of NDP staff and volunteers, millions of Americans gather at more than 40,000 prayer events annually on the first Thursday of each May. Mrs. Dobson is also a sought-after speaker on issues impacting families and the culture, and is co-author of Let's Make a Memory, Let's Hide the Word and Night Light. Her new book on prayer, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times, was released in April, 2002.