“National Prayer Days Aren’t What They Used to Be”
In her article entitled, “National prayer days aren’t what they used to be,” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 7, 2014), Christine Wicker says that we’re observing more national days of prayer (there were six last year: Thanksgiving, the National Day of Prayer, Memorial Day and three days commemorating 9/11—Sept. 5-7), but, she went on to say, the “fervor of presidential prayer proclamations has cooled considerably.” Presidents used to encourage us to pray, to mediate, to ask God for forgiveness, and even to fast. Abraham Lincoln even urged “humiliation”; in 1861 he called for a “Day of National Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting.” He actually told Americans to “get down in the dust.” On one occasion he suggested that the Civil War was God’s punishment on the nation: “the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.” Similarly, George Washington told Americans to “beseech Him [God] to pardon our national and other transgressions.” Our first president also urged his fellow countrymen to pray to be preserved from “the arrogance of prosperity.” In his 1908 Thanksgiving proclamation, Theodore Roosevelt condemned greed evident in the country: “That life is wasted, and worse than wasted, which is spent in piling, heap upon heap, those things which minister merely to the pleasure of the body and to the power that rests only on wealth.”
However, now days things are different. Presidents don’t say much about humiliation and fasting. Jimmy Carter did little more than give a nod to fasting, suggesting that fasting “might be good idea for those who wished to” (Wicker’s words in quotes). Ronald Reagan did ask Americans to fast on Nov. 24, 1985, to show support and concern for hungry people throughout the world, but the purpose for the call to fast was perhaps more for fundraising than religious sacrifice.
Presidents today—and their constituents—are more than willing to talk about thanksgiving and good will, and tolerance and diversity. Appeals to serve our fellowman are more palatable than appeals to serve God. When presidents do mention God, He “is not nearly so fearsome as [H]e once was. He’s rarely demanding or punitive….The sense that you gotta pay attention to God or even that you oughta is utterly absent,” according to Wicker.
You and I, of course, lament this trend but many, including Wicker, do not. Not only does she think this trend will continue, she feels that this is what the founding fathers would have wanted: “Maybe having lots of days, inviting everybody to pray or meditate or think good thoughts, directed toward God, or the Universe or One’s Own Self is exactly how the founders would have hoped matters would resolve themselves.”
But what the Bible says about all this will be proven true. According to Psalm 9:17, “All the nations that forget God” are “wicked” and will be “turned into hell” (KJV), or will “depart to Sheol” (RSV). A king’s throne is “established in righteousness” (Proverbs 16:12; 25:5). “By justice a king gives a country stability” (Proverbs 29:4 NIV). “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” (Proverbs 29:2 KJV). The king that God approves of rules “with righteousness” (Psalm 72:2).
And, to be sure, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12 KJV).