I Don’t Go To National Day of Prayer Gatherings. Here’s Why.

May 8, 2015

Dr. Randy White | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Katy, TX

**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!

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Jerry Chatham

Ouch!……So much for “where two or more are gathered”. I glad my pastor, Dr. Graham, felt led to participate.

    Michael Labate

    Never mind that “where two or more are gathered” is about church discipline and not prayer.

rhutchin

I think one could make similar arguments regarding people joining together for worship on Sunday mornings.

Despite the negatives brought in by those who either don’t understand or seek to manipulate, here are some positives:
1. The National Day of Prayer a public declaration that there is a God in heaven who cares about people.
2. The National Day of Prayer is worship of God (even if some people who attend are clueless and do it for show).
3. The National Day of Prayer focuses on one unique point on which all who attend agree: We ought to be calling out to God in times of distress. God heard the groans of the theologically inept people of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt. Will He not also hear those who come together for a day of prayer.
4. God responds to the few who fear Him even when those few are mixed in with the many who do not.

Given the choice between a National Day of Prayer (with all the faults you note above) and no National Day of Prayer, I say we choose to have a National Day of Prayer. Many people will join together and will avoid the problems you note above, but until the ignorant and clueless bring out the golden calf, I think we should allow them to take part. In the end, it is a day set aside to glorify God and it drives the atheists crazy.

Ben Stratton

“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.”

Amen! So did the Apostle Paul – “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

    rhutchin

    I agree, but…the National Day of Prayer involves people who have different doctrines but I don’t see them using the Day of Prayer to promote those doctrines or causing divisions and offenses by their participation. The Day of Prayer has a singular focus – to pray for this country – with all agreeing that the country is messed up and needs God’s help. Otherwise, the Arminians should go to their church and the Calvinists to theirs.

Max

“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.”

Good Lord! Are Christians not “My People”? I realize that 2 Chronicles was delivered in a place and time with a specific call to the people of that day, but shouldn’t we as Christians in the 21st century also heed that ancient call to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from ‘our’ wicked ways?! Isn’t that counsel just as important to the prayerless masses in SBC pews? To toss this passage aside as not being relevant to New Testament Christians (of whatever age) is like saying that we can’t personalize Philippians 4:13 because Paul was just saying that about himself!

Southern Baptist preachers need to read their Bible and watch the evening news! Rather than debate the teachings and traditions of men (our current distraction) and criticize prayer gatherings (our current need), SBC pastors need to turn their attention to preparing their people for what is coming on the earth. As for me and my house, we will pray for America, claim the nations for God, the protection of Israel and discernment about prophecies given for the last days we are surely in.

    Mary

    Max, it always kills me when anyone claim verses from the OT have no meaning for us today. So God doesn’t hear us when we pray? Or Jer 29:11 doesn’t apply because God doesn’t have plans for his children today? I hope this was just clumsy writing pointing to the fact that “no America is NOT the same as Israel as God’s chosen people” BUT where God’s people pray God listens and can bless. America has historically been blessed by God not because America is God’s chosen nation but because America has been filled with God’s people and through those people He was able to bless. Many people using this verse politically are not praying God’s will for this nation but the opposite of God’s will. God’s will is true despite how some will misuse it for political purposes.

      Max

      Mary, I’m old enough to remember when Southern Baptist churches had Wednesday prayer meetings … every Wednesday. As a child, I sat in the back and observed members of our church weeping at the altar for what seemed like hours … interceding for family, church, nation and the world. In later years, you could find me joining the saints to kneel and pray – it was who we were as a people of God then. This was a common scene across the SBC landscape – at least in my neck of the woods. Most of those Wednesday services have now been canceled for lack of interest. It’s refreshing to see believers in American communities gather around a flag pole to pray, even though it’s only once per year. If SBC churches would become houses of prayer for all nations once more, we might just experience God’s presence again and send what ails us packing.

        Mary

        I’m right there with you Max! I remember those prayer meetings, which moved to “prayer time” with a message from the Pastor, to prayer groups or the option of various Bible Study’s around the church. I also remember two week VBS and Revivals! Training Union, RAs and GAs, WMU! Sad those days are gone. We had a lot of community back in those days.

          Max

          Mary, I’ve heard the young whippersnappers refer to our experience as a nostalgic yearning for days gone by. Too bad they didn’t share that journey with us when SBC and its members were in better spiritual health – they would sing a different tune. These new reformers keep talking about their mission to restore the gospel that the rest of us lost! I wonder where the next generation of Southern Baptists are headed with this new enlightenment? I certainly don’t see the burden to pray as they ought. There are exceptions, of course (e.g., Allen Rea who blogs on this site) … I pray for their tribe to increase. God bless you, Mary.

    Bill Mac

    Southern Baptist preachers need to read their Bible and watch the evening news!

    Amen to the former but not to the latter. It seems, at least in my neck of the woods that watching the evening news takes a huge precedence over reading the bible. Evangelicals around here can’t tell you what the book of Hebrews is about, but they can quote Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity verbatim.

Lydia

The national day of prayer organizers long ago decided that to pray in Jesus’ Name is not acceptable to other religions there. This became somewhat well known back in 2008. Personally, I find the whole thing political not spiritual. What next, a Muslim National Day of Prayer? I don’t see how it can be avoided citing freedom of religion in the public square.

Rick Patrick

While I participate in such prayer events, I can certainly understand and accept Randy’s reservations. If I were in his shoes, I might feel the very same way. Perhaps these observances vary from place to place. We never have music and the only IHOP controversy we face is deciding between pancakes and omelettes.

I do grow a bit concerned that the flagpole ceremony is so public. I worry that it seems religiously pretentious to pray in the town square with the cameras rolling. I remember reading something one time about shutting a door to a prayer closet and praying in secret. Our gatherings are pretty much the opposite.

    Wayne Ward

    Yes, and then it is only two who know the truth in how we pray – God and me, or God and you, or God and whoever goes to that closet for that purpose…

Scott H

“We never have music and the only IHOP controversy we face is deciding between pancakes and omelettes”

My IHOP controversy is between pancakes or biscuits & gravy.

“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.”

In a serious vein, I find it greatly troubling that some Christian leaders and teachers do not feel 2 Chronicles 7:14 has application for God’s people today. How can one preach that and say that passage only has meaning for ancient Israel when the concept of God’s blessing being restored after repentance is found throughout Scripture. What exactly in that passage will God refuse to do if his people repent? ( Is God going to say: “MY PEOPLE REPENTED AND RETURNED TO ME – I SHALL SQUASH THEM LIKE BUGS ANWAY AND THE SQUASHING SHALL BE GREAT UNTO THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION) I understand these people may be wanting to avoid the theological failure that is the prosperity gospel, but when we start tossing Scripture to the side to avoid that error, then you enter a whole new error. That’s like tossing out the Holy Spirit because you are afraid of the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements (as some Baptists have egregiously done over the years). It just doesn’t make sense.

I may not be able to interact much over the weekend with follow-up comments, but will try to respond if I can.

    Michael Labate

    Short answer, the promise is not for us because America is not the new Israel. As Christians (the people of God, called by His name), where is the land we are supposed to hold so that His law will be carried out so He will bless? Our land is reserved for the future when the creation is redeemed and we abide in a restored “garden”. As a Christian I do not care if America is healed, I care if the Gospel is proclaimed and people are saved. America is not a Christian nation, never has been, it is a nation that has Christians in it; we are to live as strangers and aliens in the land.

      Scott H

      Mr. Labate,

      Your reply does not make sense to me as I don’t believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 somehow teaches that America (or any other country for that matter) specifically is some sort of new version of Israel. I’m not sure where that idea is coming from. The principles of 2 Chronicles 7:14 would be applicable to Christians in any country of the world not just America. Also, as a Christian, I do want to see God do a great work in America and in every other country of the world – I can’t comprehend not wanting your country to be healed. As for your statement about America not being a Christian nation, an accurate reading of history will show that while it is wrong to say America was a Christian nation in the sense that the vast majority were saved people, one would find the percentage of saved here being much higher than most countries at various points in the past (i.e. 1st & 2nd Great Awakenings, Prayer Revival of c.1857, World Wide Revival of c. 1904-1906 to mention significant revival periods aone);and many Christians had an enormous influence on the country over the years (Pilgrims, Puritans, Christian Abolitionists, common folk in the church pews over the years, various Christian Presidents, Christian authors, Dwight Moody, Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, this could go on for a while if I don’t stop this list) thus making America a nation with enormous Christian influence. To say it was never a Christian nation, doesn’t really convey the true story of America.

        Michael Labate

        My reply makes sense in that 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not directly applicable to our country today. No matter how many Christians are involved, no matter how many Biblical principles our government is supposed to operate by, America is not a Christian nation. It is a nation that has had many Christians in it, but not a nation by the Christian for the Christian.

        I want to push back against this idea of my country being healed. What does that look like? When in our history has our country acted Christianly? Perhaps when we partook of vile chattel slavery? Was it when we treated men, women, and children like cattle in brutal late 19th century early 20th century factories? Maybe it was during the mid 20th century where we constantly questioned: authority, truth, or anything. None of those attitudes were Christian, yet all were widespread during our history, we are not a Christian nation, we are a nation that has Christians in it; sometimes with better influence than others.

        So what does God healing our land look like? I have no idea and neither does anyone else because we have never been Christian. Israel knew what their healing would look like: good crops, protection from enemies, etc. They were charged by God to be His witness at the crossroads of the world through their nation. We are charged to be His witness as we go through the work of our churches and personal witness.

        Jim P

        Scott,

        You are correct about the great influence Christianity has had on this nations and yes particularly by Baptists. But like the Jews not able to distinguish God’s work in the world through them and their physical nation, Baptist have fallen into the same quagmire.

Greg Roberts

It seems that the king of Nineveh certainly followed the prescription of 2nd chronicles 7 even though it wasn’t written to the Assyrians. I do agree there is a mishmash of theological errors present at the meetings and that is the main reason we don’t participate in these type of meetings.

    Scott Shaver

    Greg:

    The comments of both you and Jim P are appreciated and well-taken. Thank you.

Jon Estes

The witness to see people committed to stop in their busy lives… taking prayer seriously… not worrying about what others may think… doing it because we can… gathering to pray is powerful.

Living in a Muslim dominated culture, I am impressed (but sad for the lostness) at those Muslims who are committed to stop – pull out their prayer mat – pull along side the highway and see a bus empty because the riders are now about 20 feet into the sand on their knees praying.

I am not speaking of the falseness of who they pray too, rather the commitment to pray, regardless of the heat. who may be watching. I am impressed

If only SB’s of the USA would be as committed. Maybe, just maybe there would not need to have a national day of prayer because we are praying daily and God is answering and America is changing.

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