NASHVILLE (BP) — The responsibility of healing the nation rests with Christians in prayer, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page said Thursday (May 2) at a National Day of Prayer breakfast in Nashville.
“The fault for what’s happening is not the White House, the courthouse, the statehouse, the schoolhouse; it’s the church house,” Page told the 300 gathered at the Renaissance Hotel. “That’s where the problem is.”
Page delicately told the audience of the 2010 suicide of one of his three daughters and offered the apostle Paul’s example of earnest prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 as a Christian’s first resort when trouble comes.
“The first reaction ought to be ‘Father, we need You,'” Page said. “Trouble comes to everybody. It may not be a suicide, but trouble comes. Burdens are great and some of you in this place today are burdened deeply and you may have come in with a great smile and a wonderful look on your face, but there’s deep hurt in this place today.”
Generations have understood the importance of prayer, Page said in joining with diverse national voices marking the national observance established in 1952.
“Every great man or woman of Christian history prayed first, not last, first,” Page said. “All of us should go to the Lord first, not last.” God always offers His best in response to prayer, Page assured, referencing Paul’s experience with a thorn in his flesh.
“[Paul] prayed for the removal of the thorn. He did not get removal; he got renewal,” Page said. “In the praying that he experienced, he experienced something far greater than he ever would have had if the thorn had been removed.
“Sometimes our Father knows best to say, ‘I think I’m just gonna leave that in there,'” Page said. “I’m gonna answer you with a ‘no,’ because the ‘no’ is what’s best for you. God said, listen son, I’m going to give you something better. I give you grace.”
Page’s book, “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide,” co-authored with Lawrence Kimbrough will be released June 1.
“I told many people when our daughter died, God didn’t give us more grace than we needed, but He never gave us less than we needed,” Page said. “God said, ‘I’m gonna give you something that every time you realize your weakness, you’re going to see My strength.’
“That’s what we need in this world today. We need a dependence upon the Lord God Almighty that points to Him, not to us, that says, ‘God, Your strength is what we need.'”
Page quoted J.W. MacGorman, namesake of the MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
“He said the way to the throne room is through the thorn room,” Page said. “The way to experience the power of God is by recognizing who He is and we’re weak. We’re failing. We have foibles. We struggle and life has beaten us down, but we serve a God who’s great.
“We serve a God who is strong. We serve a God who in our weakness shows up and manifests Himself.”
Dove Award winners Point of Grace performed at the Nashville breakfast, sponsored by First Baptist Church and one of an estimated 42,000 National Day of Prayer events throughout the United States.
President Obama issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation May 1, saying of prayer in American life, “In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.”
The president also urged Americans to “give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.”
Obama encouraged prayer for those affected by the bombings in Boston; the shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn.; and the explosion in West, Texas. He also requested prayer for police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel as well as members of the military.
As has been the Obama White House’s custom, it did not host a National Day of Prayer event. Instead, the president has hosted an Easter prayer breakfast during the years of his administration. This year’s breakfast took place April 5.
Congress passed a resolution in 1952 calling on the president to establish the National Day of Prayer as an annual event. President Truman initiated the observance the same year, and presidents since have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law to set the first Thursday of May for its observance.
President Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation may be accessed online here .
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Baptist Press Washington Bureau Chief Tom Strode contributed to this report. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress ), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp ).