WASHINGTON (BP)–America has been, and continues to be, a “nation of prayer,” President Bush said May 4 in a White House observance on the 55th National Day of Prayer.
“It’s impossible to tell the story of our nation without telling the story of people who pray,” the president said in a morning event. “[The first pilgrims] stepped boldly onto the shores of a new world, and many of them fell to their knees to give thanks.
“At decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables, we are a people humbled and strengthened and blessed by prayer,” he said.
The observance was the sixth consecutive year Bush has spoken in the White House on the National Day of Prayer. The president also issued a proclamation on the National Day of Prayer on May 3.
An observance was held in a House of Representatives office building the afternoon of May 4, and people gathered in communities across the country to pray.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force estimated more than 40,000 events would occur as part of the observance, which this year was marked with the theme “America, Honor God,” based on 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor me, I will honor.”
“Prayer is a gift from Almighty God that transforms us, whether we bow our heads in solitude or offer swift and silent prayers in times of trial,” the president said in an eight-minute speech to those gathered in the East Room of the White House. “Prayer humbles us by reminding us of our place in creation. Prayer strengthens us by reminding us that God loves and cares for each and every soul in His creation. And prayer blesses us by reminding us that there is a divine plan that stands above all human plans.
“In the stillness and peace of prayer, we surrender our will to God’s will and we learn to serve His eternal purposes,” Bush said. “By opening ourselves to God’s priorities, our hearts are stirred and we are inspired to action — to feed the hungry, to reach out to the poor, to bring aid to a widow or to an orphan or to the less fortunate.”
Southern Baptist author and conference speaker Henry Blackaby prayed at the event, using the “Prayer for the Nation” he had written for this year’s observance. Blackaby was the honorary chairman for this year’s National Day of Prayer. A few weeks prior to the day of prayer, he told Baptist Press he considered this year’s observance one of the most crucial in history because ominous threats from terrorists and the moral decay of American society threaten the nation’s future.
Rebecca St. James, the National Day of Prayer’s musical ambassador, sang a theme song, “America, Honor God,” at the White House event. St. James is a member of The Peoples Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Franklin, Tenn.
Other Southern Baptists attending the White House event included Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and former SBC President James Merritt, an Atlanta-area pastor.
At the Tennessee Prayer Breakfast in Nashville May 4, Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, asked God that government officials on the national, state and local levels demonstrate the obedience of Abraham, the humility of Moses, the worshipful attitude of David, the courage of Elijah, the perseverance of Paul and the tenderness of John.
Franklin Graham, also at the Nashville prayer breakfast, recalled Jesus’ warning that in life there would be “wars and rumors of wars,” and Graham cited four specific wars in the world today: a war with terrorism, a war with HIV/AIDS, a war with culture and a war for the souls of men. Prayer is the solution to each war, he said.
“God created us, but we have sinned against God,” Graham said. “… God created us with a free will, but Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and sin has entered the entire human race. That’s why we have war and terrorism. That’s why we have HIV and AIDS because we have rejected God’s plan for sex. That’s why our culture is rejecting God. Why? Sin.
“But the Good News is found in John 3:16 -– ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to save everyone everywhere. You say, ‘What about the Muslim people? What about the Hindu people? What about the Buddhist people?’ When Jesus died on the cross, He died for each of them and all of them.
“No matter who we are, if we want to stand before God, if we want forgiveness, if we want to go to heaven, then we must come to the cross,” Graham said. “… But I must ask you personally: Do you know Jesus? You say: ‘Well, I go to church and sit in the church service.’ That doesn’t make you a Christian. I mean, if a guy sits in his garage, does that make him a car? No. You need to turn from your sin and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.”
Throughout the nation, people gathered at churches and public venues to pray for the nation, government leaders, media, churches, families and schools. Activities ranged from prayer breakfasts, Bible reading marathons, concerts of prayer, rallies, church prayer vigils, student flagpole gatherings and observances held in sports stadiums.
“At a time when so many principles found in Scripture have been rejected by society, it’s all the more vital that God’s people stand firmly in defense of the precepts He’s laid out in His Word,” National Day of Prayer Chairman Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, said. “As we wage this cultural battle, however, none of our efforts are assured success without consistent, fervent prayer for God’s intervention.”
Congress established the National Day of Prayer as a yearly event in 1952. The law was amended in 1988 to make the first Thursday of May the day of the observance.
Compiled by Erin Roach, with reporting by Tom Strode & Kenyn Cureton. A transcript of Bush’s remarks and a text of the May 3 proclamation are available at www.whitehouse.gov/news.