This Lent marks the beginning of the sixth year of the international campaign of 40 Days for Life, where half a million people have prayed, fasted and peacefully stood outside abortion facilities praying for the moms and dads going inside, the unborn children whose lives hang in the balance and for the end of the procedure that has taken over 55 million little lives since Roe v. Wade.
There is much suffering and sadness in our society, so much loss of life and human dignity every day. We all see it and it always leaves us with a hanging and perhaps nagging question: How do we respond?
Standing outside an abortion clinic for 40 days was truly a radical idea when we first came up with it – and many Americans would still say it is, even those who have participated in the 40 Days for Life observance. But those magazine covers, newspaper stories and polling data can only tell one so much about the abortion issue after 40 years of legalization.
The prayers of many are being heard, and heard in unlikely places – on the sidewalks in front of abortion facilities where volunteers stand at all hours of the day and night, in rain, shine, snow or sleet.
Just as in those times of suffering, when prayer to God can be really lonely, there are days when standing outside an abortion clinic feels exactly the same. Watching a woman walk inside, while her partner cries in the car, is heartbreaking. Yet we still continue to pray and reach out to those walking into that facility to offer hope; and after they walk out, to show compassion and love instead of judgment.
Yet there have been some truly amazing stories of prayers answered during (and after) the many 40 Days for Life campaigns. We have chronicled several in a new book called “40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What He Can Do”; but here are just a few:
A woman in California jumped off the abortion surgical table, ripped the IV out of her arm, and ran to the peaceful volunteers outside of the Planned Parenthood who were praying for her. The volunteers took her to lunch, and she chose life for her baby.
Two hesitant men stood out in the rain to pray for strangers and were the only witnesses for a young woman going in for an abortion after her pastor canceled an appointment to meet with her. She went to the abortion appointment, saw the men praying in the rain, and chose life for her baby.
Two women who have had abortions teamed up to lead campaigns that have helped save babies and prevented women from making the same choice they made decades earlier.
40 Days for Life has spread immensely over the past five years. There have been over 2,000 individual campaigns in 481 cities, and over half a million people have joined together in a truly historic display of unity to pray and fast for an end to abortion. Seventy-six abortion workers have experienced a change of heart, quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry, while 6,749 lives have been spared from abortion – those are just the ones we know about.
From women finding healing after abortion, to a mom leaving Planned Parenthood and choosing life for her severely handicapped baby girl, to former abortion facility managers praying in front of their former workplaces, prayers are being answered.
God is listening and He does hear us, even though it may not seem like it at times. This world is hurting, and we experience suffering every day; but abortion does not solve any of those problems. The growing hope and the answered prayers are a witness that we are not helpless when it comes to the abortion issue, and thousands on their knees in their homes and outside abortion clinics are refusing to give up fighting for the women who are facing unplanned pregnancies, and for their unborn children.
David Bereit and Shawn Carney are authors of “40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What He Can Do” (Capella Books, 2013); www.40daysforlife.com.