Today was the “national day of prayer” which was recognized in a variety of ways all across the country. I can remember being part of something connected with this emphasis as a pastor in a small town. It was important to many of the locals, and was held in the city council chambers where they also hosted loud and boisterous town hall meetings. I chuckled at the irony of what was happening in the backdrop of a political forum.
President Obama has received criticism for not making a big deal out of this event. His predecessor did, and the expectation was that he would do the same. Obama did, however, make a proclamation as was expected of him.
My immediate reaction to the story is that I don’t need the government to tell me when to pray. I feel like every day should be a national day of prayer where each of us as individuals pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Any call to prayer should be done by churches whose function includes being “a house of prayer.” So, I don’t have the emotional reaction to this decision by the President as some Christians do. I do expect the President to keep us safe and conduct the affairs of this nation on the domestic and international fronts.
Jesus cautioned the religious people of his day against praying “in order to be seen by others” and instead encouraged his followers to find their closet to pray. It is in that secret place of prayer that the Heavenly Father hears us and we can commune with Him. I also believe that Christians should pray corporately as the gathered church on Sundays and Wednesdays, as is our practice as a local body of believers. It is a great blessing and privilege to be able to gather in freedom and pray without coercion or politicizing the practice.
Let’s set aside the critiques on President Obama’s spirituality. We shouldn’t depend on the government to lead us in spiritual matters. That’s the work of the church. We are the ones who should be “salt and light” and setting about to change this world for Christ. May we work to that end.