Pulpit & Pen First Person: Looking Back on the National Day of Prayer 2012
It is once again time for the National Day of Prayer. According to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.” I avoid it. Five years ago I participated in it for my first and only time. Here are some of my recollections.
In 2012, I wasn’t working. This allowed me the opportunity to participate in my county’s planned day-of-prayer activities, which typically involve gathering at the courthouse at noon to pray for our county, state, and country. Every other year, I had heard about the event through an announcement at church and thought, “That sounds nice, but I’ll be at work.” During the spring of 2012, I was afforded plenty of free time. So, I was able to attend. Through the Bartow Baptist Association (BBA), I was invited to a special pre-noon gathering for pastors at county government annex building. My pastor (at the time) had recently introduced me to the other local Southern Baptist pastors through the BBA. That’s how Southern Baptist culture works. A young man feels the call, enrolls in seminary, and is then introduced around to the local professional pastors. It’s a “you’re gonna like this guy, he’s a good fella” type of thing. I was not then nor am I now a pastor, but since I was invited by the BBA, I felt like it was okay to attend the gathering for pastors at the county building. It seemed like the most worthwhile thing for me to do that day. So, I attended the meeting. I sat towards the back of the room, which was in former times (before the building was purchased by the county) the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Cartersville, and tried to blend in. I had attended Sunday worship in that room many mornings as a teenager. It still possessed the aura of a church; the pews and stain glass windows remained. Yet despite being there with what was surely 90% of the pastors in my county, something didn’t feel right.
Ecclesiological standards were out the window at the religio-secular event. An underdressed Southern Baptist seminarian who isn’t really a pastor is one thing but a woman who calls herself a pastor is another. There were several women “pastors” in the room. They seemed to have been invited there by our own Southern Baptist county missionary (DOM). I just didn’t get it. The “senior” pastors were invited to the front of the room. The rest of us were instructed pick one out and go pray for them. Some of the women made their way to the front of the room. I wasn’t about to pretend one of them was a pastor, “senior” or otherwise. I made a beeline for Nathan Sanders, the pastor of the local congregational Methodist church. He’s evangelical and one of the best players in our city’s church softball league. I could pray for him without saying, “Heavenly Father, please lead this rebellious woman from usurping authority and setting herself up as a pastor of Christ’s church.”
The DOM excitedly informed us that 50 planes were scheduled to fly directly over each state capital at noon so that the country would literally be “covered in prayer”. I couldn’t help but think this was ridiculous. What were we to think, “Dear God, thank you for the Wright Brothers, without whom we could not have effectively prayed for our country today.”? That someone went to the great expense of flying 50 planes over America to “cover” it in prayer more than slightly aggravated me. There is a certain mindset that our physical location determines our effectiveness in prayer. These pilots, who according to our DOM were inspired by “national prayer leaders” (whoever they are), seemed to be taking the practice of prayer walking to a whole new level. Perhaps the many Pentecostals in the room were impressed at the feat. I doubt God was
From the county annex building, we marched across the street to the courthouse holding a banner and singing “Amazing Grace”. When we got finished the first verse, a few of us began the second while the rest repeated the first. I am not aware of anyone spontaneously shouting “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!” Not until I saw the picture of the marchers taken by a local new organization did I think about the impropriety of the act of marching. Given the words of the Lord in Matthew 6, I don’t think such public prayer march was appropriate. It seemed like a “look at us” type of thing. Were we presenting ourselves to the county politicians as a voting bloc or an army of Christ?
At the end of the day, I was disappointed. What I expected to be an uplifting spiritual experience, was an exercise in unbridled nationalistic ecumenism. After the event was over, I saw a Roman Catholic Priest in his full vestments milling around in the crowd (I suppose he could have been from some high-church Christian denomination). In other words, I saw a lost person at the county prayer meeting for pastors. What good does it do if American sees some kind of improvement and that man goes to Hell? What was our witness to him that day, “you’re one of us, you’re one of God’s”? The sight of that priest among the preachers sticks with me until this day, a day upon which, Facebook reminded me of the five year anniversary of this event. I gazed upon the picture below. I’m somewhere in the background.
The fellow in the black shirt carrying the banner was given the pulpit at my former church about a year ago. His name is Ray; he’s a Pentecostal. He was new to the church at the time and asked to give a testimony about his finances. The Church’s finances were in bad shape. Ray told the congregation that he had stopped tithing at one time. When he resumed doing so, God blessed him. God even miraculously fixed his broken computer. He then told the entire congregation how much he tithed.
One of the ladies on the far left of the picture is named Maydia. Her husband purports to be an “Apostle”. She purports to be a “pastor”. They are the proprietors of an “All About Jesus Ministries Inc.”. They have parking spaces in front of their church building with their names on them. During one church event, they had a drop party for her new album. They invite all manner of Apostles and prophetesses to preach for them.
What was I doing partnering with these people in a public prayer event? Frankly, nothing I couldn’t have done at home. As sojourners here, ambassadors of Christ, and citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom, I do believe we should pray for our earthly country. We should seek the welfare of the city we are in. But can’t we do that privately or gathered with our own churches? Do we have to make a public spectacle with every heretic in the country to pray for our nation? No, we don’t. So let’s stop.
5 years later, I would be remiss to not think about the results of that National Day of Prayer. Nationally, we again elected Barack Obama. We followed him up with Donald Trump. Locally, my county’s government is overrun with Freemasons who fellowship at their local lodge with many Southern Baptists. As far as I can tell, the preachers who pray at the courthouse aren’t doing anything about the Masons in their midst. I wonder why they honestly expect a revival.
I honestly think the United States is under judgment. If we want God to answer our prayers, as a church, we best start repenting as a church. We can start with our associations. Ecumenical prayers haven’t seemed to do much to move God in America’s favor since Harry Truman signed the National Day of Prayer into law in 1952. Ask yourself if you think one more year of praying national prayers with all manner of heretics and dominionists is going to stir God to act in your favor. Maybe you should call them to repentance instead.
[Contributed by Seth Dunn]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.