National Day of Prayer: Our country needs to pray now, more than ever

Our world is in a crisis. You can feel it. The future looks grim—more expensive, more divided, more uncertain, and more dangerous than at any time in living memory. Things seem to be spinning out of control.

What can we do in the face of such a crisis? Looking back, what has tended to bring about the most change in history? You might think it was scientific discoveries, from people like Copernicus or Newton. Or perhaps it was inventions, like Gutenberg’s printing press or Edison’s incandescent light bulb. In our lifetimes, you might point to the personal computer or the Internet or the smartphone.

Would you be surprised if I told you none of those discoveries or inventions has had the greatest impact on the course of history? The most earth-shattering, revolutionary act ever undertaken in history is—when you pray.

When you pray, you get to speak to your Creator. You don’t have to know any incantations or code words. You can talk to Him about anything. In the simple act of speaking to God, you can ask God to bring the hope and renewal our world yearns for but can never produce for itself.

As theologian Karl Barth said: “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” What could be more revolutionary than that?

God has worked through prayer in our nation before. It can start with just one person’s faithfulness. I am reminded of the story of Jeremiah Lanphier, a clothing merchant in New York City.

In 1857, he started a prayer meeting in Manhattan that drew just six businessmen to its first meeting. But Lanphier was undaunted. He kept holding meetings to pray each week. The numbers who gathered kept multiplying.

Then, just a few weeks later, the stock market crashed and New York banks closed for two months. This led to a dramatic increase in the businessmen who wanted to pray. Soon more than 10,000 businessmen were gathering daily to pray in New York City, and similar movements in other cities began. By 1859, it is estimated that one out of every twelve lost Americans had turned to faith in Jesus Christ.

We don’t know what God may do. But we can ask. Prayer isn’t a get-out-of-your-problems free card. But we do know there are some prayers that God always answers.

When we pray, God promises to give us what Saint Augustine called “the framework of true desires.” He will align our hearts with His, teaching us to love what really matters and focus on what is most important.

God can teach us to see the world through the lens of His power and hope. That would be quite a revolution—the kind of revolution that each of us needs today.

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