"No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also." 1 John 2:23
You may be guessing, by the title of this post, that I am going to rant about how unfair it is that there is a debate about whether or not we can have a National Day of Prayer, and how the stupid federal court system is actually entertaining the idea that this day is unconstitutional, and how the President cancelled the annual Presidential prayer service this year, or how Franklin Graham got disinvited to the Pentagon because of his remarks about Islam being violent. But I'm not. I am going to talk about something a little different than those things (and "those things" can be rightly dialogued about by others).
It might be weird to say that I don't really care about the National Day of Prayer or what happens to it. So I won't say that.
What I will say is that I don't have a ton of emotional capital tied up in this day, and I will explain why.
First, it is the National Day of Prayer...not the National Day of Christian Prayer. The idea from President Truman, which was formally adopted by Congress and stated in a declaration on June 17, 1952, was to "turn to Almighty God for help and guidance." I think it is great that we live in a country where that type of declaration can be made legally and within the confines of our political system. But the Almighty God to whom President Truman is referring is not necessarily the Almighty God to whom everyone else in 2010 is referring. The country at that time (1950's) was much more homogeneous, specifically the religious culture. Not so today. We are a broad swath of faiths/religions/spiritualities/non-religions. And while it is great to live in a country that can make these declarations (which are consistent with the fouding of our country), it also means that this same sword can pierce the sword-bearer as well. This country can also declare a "National Day of Non-Prayer" theoretically. The bottom line - I just don't think it is the job of government to make religious policy because it usually turns out to be a rather toxic stew.
Second, the idea that the government had in doing this (be it President Truman, or later President Reagan who formalized the actual first Thursday in May as the official day) was, to quote President Reagan, for the "citizens of this great nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of hearts of all mankind" (bold, mine). Sounds great at first glance. But even though the sentiment is nice (as well as politically expedient), it is not consistent with our understanding of God the Father as revealed in Jesus. Can you picture it? A gathering outside the City Hall in each city where American Muslims, American Hindus, American Mormons, American Buddhists, American Wiccans, and American Christians all take time to pray for the unity of hearts of all mankind. Obviously, as Christians, we have a responsibility to live peaceably with our neighbors and to show them the love that the Father showed the world through His Son, Jesus. In that sense, this would be a good thing. But, here is where I say what nobody wants to say, and what would be termed as highly politically incorrect: We would not all be praying to the same G(g)od.
From the politician's stance, I could see where they would say "so what?"
From the media's perspective, I could see where they would say "well, I guess it couldn't hurt anything...it's nice to see people getting along."
But from the Christian's perspective, it disturbingly muddies the waters of the gospel - a gospel that says that we can only know God through His Son, Jesus Messiah (Christ).
Now, I say all of that to simply give some context as to why I don't rant about the goings-on surrounding the possible expulsion of the National Day of Prayer. I am glad it exists today, and I have participated in the event formally and informally over a number of years (praying to the Father as revealed in the Son through the power of the Spirit). I don't even wish it to go away, as I rather appreciate the privilege to pray in public with others. But this type of thing isn't the job of the government (though I appreciate the sentiment from which it came). It is the job of believers, specifically in my faith context, of Jesus followers. Who we are as Christians should never get lost in a sea of political ecumenism for the sake of "unity". I am Christian because I love, follow, and embrace Jesus as the revelation of God to us - the Messiah of Israel and the true Lord and Savior of all men and nations.
I don't need prodding from the government (be it mine or anyone else's) to pray to Him. Our very existence is tied up in Him, so prayer is not some formal exercise needing to be buttressed by Congressional and Presidential declaration - it is the lifeline for the believer and should be engaged every day.
So, by all means pray. Pray today on the National Day of Prayer. Pray, as I have, for our President, other political leaders, families, churches, soldiers, and anything/everything you want to pray about/for. But pray for these things/people, not because you have one day to do so, but because you have a relationship to the Father through His Son, Jesus, everyday.