Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Day of Prayer and Nehemiah

At my office, we generally participate in the National Day of Prayer. However, as it is a Christian organization and we are praying for our ministries, partners and families, it doesn't have the political, "civic" overtones of the official Day of Prayer across the United States.

Over at his blog, Daniel J. Phillips posted this thought-provoking commentary about the National Day of Prayer and some of the theological problems inherent in it. I largely have to agree with him. There is a difference between the church (regenerate believers) praying and those who deny Christ offering prayers. This whole thing really illustrates the problem between acts of biblical faith and "civic" religion. Or, to put it on other words, having the state mix itself in the matters of the church.

Aside from all that, I had to put my focus on the Day of Prayer for the office. My assignment was to talk about the Day of Prayer's origins and purpose. While researching it, I had to focus on the well known passage in 2 Chronicles, which is often used on the Day of Prayer . . .

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:12-14)

The official Day of Prayer was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Truman in 1952. Reading at the official website, it's interesting that it mentions invitations to those of "all faiths," yet later on in the "bullet points," it's obvious that the intent is Christian. This is a classic example of the problems of a "civic" type religion in light of Scripture. The Chronicles verse says "if My people who are called by My name." I am afraid you can only reach one conclusion by the Lord's statement.

As Dan Phillips rightly points out, it might be a good thing that President Obama is not leading a Day of Prayer event given his actions on matters of great concern to God. Are the prayers of those in rebellion against Him taken into account? Yes. Yes indeed they are . . .

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination (Proverbs 28:9).

That ought to sober us up a bit. The long and short of it is, let's have a Day of Prayer in the church. Let's be repentant ourselves for our sins, while interceding for one another and for the repentance of our nation. Pray for our leaders as Scripture commands us to do. But let's not have any of this nonsense about some sort of "national" prayer of the unregenerate.

Now, what about Nehemiah? How is he related to this subject?

In our Day of Prayer in the office, we looked at a passage in Nehemiah. As usual, something else caught my eye other than what was being discussed -- something about Nehemiah and his character as governor before the people . . .

Moreover, from the day that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I or my kinsman have eaten the governor's food allowance. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them their bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God (Nehemiah 5:14-15).

Hmmm. I wonder what application we could make to the situation in our country at the moment?

And not only in Washington.

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