Billy Graham believed in the world-changing power of prayer. Did you know that he encouraged Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, and Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas, to champion a bill to designate one day every year for Americans to unite in prayer around the country? On April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 82-324, which stated that one day a year, the president of the United States would declare a National Day of Prayer. On this day, Americans would be called upon to turn to God in prayer.
Thirty-six years later, the law was unanimously amended by the U.S. Congress, setting aside the first Thursday of May for a nationwide observance of prayerful intercession for America. President Ronald Reagan signed the amendment into law on Thursday, May 8, 1988.
The greatest thing you can do for America right now is pray. And on Thursday, May 6, spiritual leaders and prayer warriors from across our nation joined together to pray for America during this year’s National Day of Prayer.
This was truly a special day. From sunrise in Maine to sunset in Hawaii, thousands of volunteers—from small towns to state capitals to Washington, D.C.—organized prayer observances for our nation. People huddled in prayer for the nation—in schools, businesses, churches, homes, county courthouses, the steps of city halls and on state capitol grounds. They prayed for America’s government leaders on every level, military and law enforcement personnel, first responders, health care professionals, educators and ministry leaders. Missionaries and others from around the world joined this prayerful assembly. The National Day of Prayer mobilizes unified public prayer for America and its territories—centered on Jesus Christ our Lord.
America Needs Prayer
The need to pray has never been greater. Mobilizing unified public prayer may be the most important thing we can do for our nation right now. America is broken. Division is undeniable. Racial tension is alarming. Lawlessness and security threats abound. Reconciliation seems impossible.
Government cannot fix us. Politics will not heal us. America needs to return to God in repentance and cry out to God in spiritual desperation for mercy upon our nation. It is prayer that precedes and forwards the advancement of the Gospel. It is prayer that ushers in any great movement of God, the revival of the church, and the next great spiritual awakening.
The National Day of Prayer is a multi-church, multi-denominational, multi-ministry, multi-generational, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual movement of prayer for America. It is not owned by the nation itself or by any one denomination or church. With over 300,000 churches across the U.S., the potential to petition Heaven through humble, sin-confessing, heart-rent prayer is unlimited. Jesus’ words to His people are important for all of us: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” (Mark 11:17).
The footprints of Jesus across this nation are the local churches. Each church is called upon to become a house of prayer for the nations. The National Day of Prayer is a great day for churches to congregate and pray for all persons of all ethnicities. Churches gather with their congregations or join with other churches to be a witness before the watching world about the belief and commitment to unified public prayer for America.
I assure you, there is never enough prayer occurring across America for our nation. So, lead the way! Even after the National Day of Prayer, you can organize a prayer meeting. Your own observance may last a brief time in a small gathering or as long as 60 to 90 minutes in a large event in your community. Whether the group is small or large, your participation in prayer can make a difference.
The National Day of Prayer opens doors for individuals and churches to join with others to pray for America. Many of our fellow citizens love their country, and many who may not even be Christ-followers will be willing to join a prayer service for America. Only God knows who among them might hear the Gospel or inquire about the reason for the Christian’s hope.
Of course, the desperate need for prayer goes beyond an annual observance on the calendar. Imagine the healing and restoring our country might experience if Christians redoubled their efforts in daily personal prayer and weekly corporate prayer.
The Greatest Action We Can Take
The greatest action we can take for America is to pray. Prayer is not inaction; prayer is our greatest action. Now is the time for us to bring prayer back into every setting and segment in American life.
When we believe that God can do anything at any time with anyone, we will pray like it really matters. When this happens, we will discover that our God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime. ©2021 Ronnie W. Floyd
The Scripture quotation is taken from the Christian Standard Bible.
Ronnie W. Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and past president of the National Day of Prayer. He is the author of several books on prayer and is also pastor emeritus of Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas.
Photo: David K. Morrison/©2020 BGEA