By Dr. Lou Shirey
Signed into Congressional legislation in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, the National Day of Prayer is held annually on the first Thursday of May. Prior to that time, the National Day of Prayer existed but fluctuated on different dates of the year.
The National Day of Prayer has grown significantly in the past years. Under the masterful leadership of Mrs. Shirley Dobson for the past 25 years, the Day of Prayer has flourished throughout the United States and even to 60 nations around the world. In 2016, in more than 45,000 places, people gathered to pray for our nation, leaders and places of worship. Some of these gatherings were attended by only a handful of people and others had thousands of people assembled in stadiums and arenas. There were many unique gatherings including reports of 50 private plane operators who flew over their state capitals with people praying for their states!
This year, Mrs. Dobson stepped down as Chair and Mrs. Anne Graham Lotz assumed leadership of the Day of Prayer. She is the only the third leader since Mrs. Vonette Bright served from the inception of the prayer day to 1991. Mrs. Lotz will provide her own strong form of leadership as she calls our nation to prayer.
It was a privilege for my wife, Becky, and I to represent the IPHC at the activities of the Day of Prayer in Washington, DC. Over the years, we have met wonderful people who attend the activities from a multitude of states. The gathering in Washington, DC begins Tuesday night and culminates on Thursday with the Day of Prayer in the Cannon Congressional Office Building. The prayer day lasts from 9 a.m. until shortly after noon. Each branch of the government is represented by someone who serves in that area and then a time of prayer for the branch is led by a designated prayer leader. This year, Dr. Tony Evans served as the honorary Chair Director. His keynote address was a powerful call to repentance for the churches in the United States.
This year’s event was characterized by a deep sense of the presence of God and a brokenness of our spirits for the need of God in our nation. We are fractured in seemingly every significant aspect of our nation.
At a national event such as this, the major speaking sessions receive most of the recognition but for me, often the seemingly insignificant comments and phrases of an event capture my attention. Let me share two experiences from the days of prayer.
On Wednesday night, a special tribute was given for Vonette Bright. This dear lady of great influence died in December 2015 and was loved throughout the international prayer community. Her son shared with the group that the last few days of her life were difficult. On the last day, he had a brief conversation with his mother. She said to him, “It is difficult being two places at one time.” She was moving back and forth from this life to the afterlife!
On Wednesday morning, Bruce Wilkinson spoke to a group of about 75 men. He stated that 16 years ago he attended to the National Day of Prayer. At that time, his book, The Prayer of Jabez, had just been released. He asked the publisher to send enough copies of the book to Washington, DC so that he could give the book to those attending the National Day of Prayer. When he arrived, he was not sure if copies of the book had arrived in time for the event. At the registration table, he noticed some boxes off to the side and realized the boxes contained his book. He presented one of the books to the lady who was manning the registration table and asked if the copies could be given to all attendees. The lady looked at the small book and asked him if Jabez was a Democrat or a Republican. After some persuading, he was able to convince the lady that Jabez was in the Bible. Within days of the Day of Prayer, Wilkinson’s publishers asked him what had happened. The demand for the new book was astounding. The publisher accused him of asking every family member he knew to purchase a copy. No, the word from those attending the National Day of Prayer had jump-started book sales. Now, millions of copies of this book have been released.
God continues to call our nation to prayer. We are witnessing a growing unity among believers of all groups. We desperately need a spiritual awakening in our land and a revival within our churches. We know that the answers to our situation can only come from God. Pray with anticipation of what God wants to do within us and through us.