by: Dr. Ronnie Floyd
Once a year, on the first Thursday of May, millions of Americans across all 50 states gather together for a public day of prayer for our nation. It’s the National Day of Prayer, and it’s coming up this week.
The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer. Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation, and this Thursday President Trump will follow in this great tradition.
Unique among all observances in America’s national calendar, the National Day of Prayer is an opportunity for us as a nation to come before God and seek his guidance. This year, we are praying for something that has been painfully absent in America lately: love.
If you look at the life of Jesus, you learn love was important to him. “Love one another. Just as I have loved you,” he said to his disciples (John 13:34). In another verse, he said loving God and loving our neighbor is the most important commandment in the entire Bible (Matthew 22:36-40). And yet in another, he said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
You quickly get the point he was trying to make – there is no greater calling in life than to love God and one another. With that in mind, here are four ways you can pray for America this Thursday.
1. Pray for Americans to love one another.
If you watch a few minutes of news on television or read the newspaper headlines, you know we live in a world where people don’t act out of love but out of hurt. Author Dr. Sandra Wilson aptly observed, “Hurt people hurt people.” So much of the outward violence, anger, and division we see is because people are hurting within. People who have not experienced love do not know how to love. God calls us to love one another unconditionally, just as he loved us. Let us pray God will move in our hearts and replace hate with love, division with unity and criticism of each other with love for one another.
2. Pray churches in America may be unified by love.
You would be surprised to know how many different denominations exist in the world (hint: it’s more than 30,000). Of course, there are differences in belief, tradition and doctrine. But while we may differ on secondary matters, if we hold the Bible as God’s Word and believe Jesus is the only savior of the world and his gospel, then we are in this together. Love must begin in the church if we are to call a divided nation to unity. This Thursday, pray that churches across America may be unified by love.
3. Pray for love to be at the center of our families, workplaces and communities.
Our national problems are really a reflection of the microcosmic problems in our communities. Love begins in the home, but today many children are growing up without one parent and many marriages are broken. When people do not learn love at home, they carry their emptiness into their workplaces and communities. As you pray, petition the Lord to help our families, our workplaces, our communities and our cities to choose love, forgiveness, restitution, healing and unity so we can have a transformed future together with unconditional love. You can get a map of your neighborhood and pray for the specific streets as you reach out and touch them with your hands. Or get in your car and drive down the streets or walk through your neighborhood praying specifically for each house, family and person.
4. Pray for love to overcome hate and racism and bring healing between ethnicities in America.
Every human being is made in the image of God. Period. Because of this fact, every human life has intrinsic, inalienable value. But this truth seems lost in America as unborn babies are aborted and racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism seem on the rise. This is not how God wants us to treat each other. Ask God to help tear down the walls that divide and separate us and to open up a new path of love for one another. We might even need to ask God to reveal if there is any area where we need to repent from our past mistakes. Our nation needs God’s transforming love to change America until the day when righteousness fills our land.
Wherever you are this Thursday, you can participate in the National Day of Prayer. If you don’t know where to go on this day, you can find a prayer gathering near you or create your own. Even if you are by yourself, you can join us for the National Observance, which will be streamed live from the U.S. Capitol on our website and Facebook page. I hope you will join us and pray for America with us.