**This article was previously posted by Dr. Randy White HERE and is used by permission.
Writing against a prayer gathering is about as safe as preaching against motherhood and apple pie. Nonetheless, I’ll venture where angels may fear to tread.
From the beginning, our nation has been built on a strongly Biblical view of God’s Sovereign nature and man’s dependence upon His benevolent work. Because of this, our Presidents have often and freely invoked the name of God and the Judeo-Christian principles of morality and repentance. Since 1952 a National Day of Prayer has been required by law, signed under President Truman. In the 1952 law, the President was required to select a day for prayer each year. In 1988, congress passed further laws that set the first Thursday in May as the designated day.
I believe that we should pray for our country. I think there is benefit of setting aside a day for extra reminder to pray for our country. However, I don’t go to National Day of Prayer gatherings. I used to. I’ve hosted them at my church and I’ve gone to city-wide events. Today our church opens a room for any who want to come and pray. I don’t go to the big events, nor do I promote them. Here’s why.
The events have become concerts.
I personally don’t think that music is necessary to a good prayer life, and it is possibly detrimental to a good prayer meeting. Perhaps an acapella version of a congregational hymn or song of praise would be appropriate, but I would save the music for other events. If you are going to have a prayer meeting, just pray.
The events almost always are filled with a use of Scripture that I think is malpractice.
It seems like most of these events claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people….”) and other scriptures that were not directed to modern Americans. The meetings are filled with “claiming the nations” (Psalm 2:8), claiming protection (Psalm 91), and claiming prophecies (Isaiah 9:10) that have nothing to do with the United States of America. If I preach the Word literally and accurately, and then tell my people to go to these events, I will be part of a work of confusion.
The events are a theological mish-mash of every kind of Christianity and Biblical perversion imaginable.
Unity is possibly the most-cherished value in today’s neo-evangelical church. At the local gathering in my community, there are Baptists (Southern and Independent), Full-Gospel pentecostal, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Vineyard, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and all manner of churches and organizations that are indiscernible in theological conviction. While most say, “Isn’t this wonderful that we are all coming together,” I say, “Isn’t this terrible that we don’t know or value our distinctives!” I think that prayer is deeply theological, and doctrinal differences matter.
The events often have associations with the International House of Prayer and it’s Fire on the Altar initiative.
International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City is sweeping the Christian world with it’s New Apostolic Reformation brand of kingdom-building and mountain-claiming. This new form of post-millenialism is charismatic at its core and unBiblical on many counts. Almost any community-wide gathering today has risk of being influenced by IHOP teachings and IHOP initiatives like “Fire on the Altar.” I reject the foundational presuppositions of IHOP in totality.
The events are unnecessary.
I think prayer is best done individually and in the local church. I encourage you to pray. If your local congregation has a prayer gathering, I hope you will support it. But I think that when the National Day of Prayer becomes event driven, it has already lost its focus, and the event will likely be a warm-fuzzy meeting of doctrinal error.
As I said at the beginning of the article, this will not be a popular position in many circles. I hope that those who are defenders of the National Day of Prayer events will consider these objections and challenge me if I am Biblically wrong. I am open to such challenge. However, I will not accept the argument that says, “As long as we are praying, none of these objections matter.” I think that because we are going before an Almighty, sovereign God, these objections matter!