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Blackaby chairs National Day of Prayer

WASHINGTON (BP)–As the honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer, Henry Blackaby will address hundreds of government officials and other dignitaries on Thursday, May 4.

Not surprisingly, the noted Southern Baptist discipleship leader wants Christians to pray about his upcoming message at the Cannon Office Building, since he considers this year’s observance one of the most crucial in the 54-year history of the National Day of Prayer.

Ominous threats from terrorists and the moral decay of American society are two factors making prayer vital to the nation’s future, Blackaby said.

“I think it will be an astounding gathering that will have far-reaching implications. That’s why I think the message that will be brought will be absolutely crucial,” said Blackaby, whose message will reflect the day’s theme of “America, Honor God.”

Citing increased media exposure and a growing grassroots coordinator base, Shirley Dobson — longtime chairperson of the National Day of Prayer Task Force -– expressed a great sense of anticipation about the upcoming observance.

Among this year’s “firsts” will be events at the base of Mount Rushmore and at the North Pole in Alaska; as elsewhere, people at each locale will intercede for the nation and its leaders, Dobson said.

In addition, she noted that Blackaby has made an impact as honorary chairman.

“His prayer for the nation couldn’t be more appropriate for the culture we find ourselves living in today,” Dobson said. “He has graciously attended to our requests and his book, ‘Experiencing Prayer with Jesus,’ is garnering good attention in the market. Dr. Blackaby is a man of God and [we] have been incredibly blessed by his active support this year.”

Invited to serve as honorary chairman prior to last year’s National Day of Prayer, Blackaby prepared by traveling to the nation’s capital to hear the message by Max Lucado, the 2005 honorary chairman.

Blackaby has since seen that the actual role has more time-consuming demands.

He recently flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., to tape two shows with James Dobson for the “Focus on the Family” radio program to be aired May 3-4. And he will be doing numerous other media interviews in the coming weeks as he strives to enlist participation from millions of Christians.

Among those he has encouraged to get involved are 170 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies with whom he meets regularly.

During his speaking engagements this year, Blackaby has been showing a DVD spotlighting the National Day of Prayer and promoting two related books he has coauthored:

— “Experiencing Prayer with Jesus” (Multnomah Publishers), which he wrote with his youngest son, Norman, the new senior pastor of Marcum Street Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.

— “Fresh Encounter: A 28-Day Devotional Guide (LifeWay Christian Resources), a reformatted version of the popular study by Blackaby and Claude King designed for use in churches in the month leading up to the National Day of Prayer.

Blackaby, the former director of prayer and spiritual awakening for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, said his belief in prayer is strengthened by current conditions, particularly the threat of terrorists unleashing a destructive attack in the United States.

With such tools as a “dirty bomb” and chemical or biological weapons at the terrorists’ disposal, Blackaby considers prayer the nation’s most powerful line of defense.

“That’s why I’m convinced this National Day of Prayer is so urgent, because there’s an immediate danger,” Blackaby said. “Only sincere, God-honoring prayer will cause the hand of God to keep the enemy from hurting us badly.”

In addition to this threat, Blackaby sees a downturn in the nation’s moral, ethical and spiritual life as another key concern.

Whether the issue is same-sex “marriage” or increasing attempts to remove any references to God from the public square, Blackaby said the root of many problems is turning away from the Creator.

Such a practice has serious implications, he noted.

“The nation that honors God, He will honor,” Blackaby said. “When God honors a nation, it is awesome. But a nation that turns from God is in grave danger. He orchestrates the affairs of nations. He raises nations up and brings them down.”

However, Blackaby said the primary call of the National Day of Prayer is to God’s people to repent of their sin and turn back to Him.

Just as the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 for healing of the land was made to God’s people, Christians likewise must get serious about their relationship with God, Blackaby said.

For example, the breakdown of the family — seen in rampant divorce rates and abuse of children by their parents — will only be solved when followers of Christ lead the way, Blackaby said.

“God’s people need to quit divorcing,” he said. “We can’t speak to family life in America unless family life among God’s people returns to a God-centeredness.

“It’s like the Christian community will holler loudly about returning prayer to schools. I would say, ‘You need to return prayer between husband and wife and have family prayer.’ A good number of God’s people don’t have family prayer and the parents don’t pray with one another.”

However, Blackaby is encouraged about participation in this year’s event, saying he thinks God is orchestrating increased involvement: He expects God to draw key prayer leaders from around the nation to Washington, D.C., while, at the local level he looks for businesses to close and other organizations to stop and take time to pray during the day.

In addition, Blackaby hopes to see a significant response in the hearts of God’s people. One sign of God’s stirring will be when spiritual leaders use their influence to direct people toward God’s agenda instead of secular or personal visions, he said.

Since it was established in 1952 through a joint resolution of Congress, Blackaby said the National Day of Prayer has played a significant role in steering the nation’s attention toward God.

“I think it is significant in that it calls God’s people to realize we have a role to play in the mind of God for the destiny of the nation,” Blackaby said. “We need to create a consciousness that prayer in a nation is still critical.”

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  • Ken Walker