- - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Culture challenge of the week: Complain or pray?

How often do you gripe about high taxes, stupid laws and bad politicians? It is incredibly easy to become discouraged about the direction our country is heading. When you are discouraged, it’s even easier to start blaming and complaining.

But why is it that we are so quick to complain and so slow to pray?

Whether we feel it is justified or not, all our grumbling ends in anger, bitterness and discontent. Any parent understands that complaining isn’t simply unproductive; it is counterproductive. Yet it comes so naturally when things don’t work out the way we want them to.

Most Americans claim belief in God, but we just aren’t that into prayer. If we really believed in God, if we really believed in his goodness and his power, wouldn’t prayer be a top priority?

Hosea 7:14 says, “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds.”

What a powerful image. We are so quick to complain — to wail upon our beds — and so slow to take our complaints to the God who has the resources and ability to fix what is broken.

Abraham Lincoln eloquently explained the American sentiment toward prayer:

“We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

Awesome things happen when we unite to pray. Consider:

In 1775, the Continental Congress requested that the Colonies pray to God for guidance. Soon afterward, our great country was formed.

In 1863, after the Union Army lost to Confederate forces at the Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln declared a national fast day. He asked all Americans to take part in the time-tested strategy, and it saved the country.

In his proclamation appointing the day of fasting, Lincoln summarized why it is crucial that we pray for our nation: “It is the duty of all nations as well as men to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

Congress and President Truman declared an annual National Day of Prayer in 1952. President Reagan signed a bill into the law in 1988 officially setting aside the first Thursday in May for the observance.

Today, the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NationalDayOfPrayer.org) heads up the movement toward national prayer. My wonderful friend Shirley Dobson leads the effort and does so in a humble, powerful way. I encourage you to take a few minutes to look over the website and consider joining the effort to bring our nation to prayer this year.

How to save your family: Participate in the National Day of Prayer

The 63rd annual National Day of Prayer falls on Thursday. Don’t miss this opportunity to join millions of others to humble ourselves before a powerful God and ask for his healing, protection and blessing on this great country we love.

This year’s theme, “One Voice, United in Prayer,” is inspired by Romans 15:6, which says, “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The official observance in Washington will be broadcast live on the National Day of Prayer website from 9 a.m. to noon. There is a great lineup of speakers for the event, including the Rev. Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz; James and Shirley Dobson; and former Rep. Bob McEwen.

Even if you cannot physically be with others to pray that day, I encourage you to carve out a bit of time to approach the throne of God on behalf of the nation, knowing you are not alone in your prayers.

At noon, groups and individuals across the country will read the following prayer, written by Mrs. Graham Lotz, honorary chairwoman of this year’s event. So take it with you on your lunch break and take part in the healing and redemption of America:

Lord of the Universe. Lord of this planet. Lord of the nations. Lord of our hearts. On this National Day of Prayer, we look to You.

In the darkness, You are our Light.

In the storm, You are our Anchor.

In our weakness, You are our Strength. In our grief, You are our Comfort.

In our despair, You are our Hope.

In our confusion, You are our Wisdom. In time of terrorism, You are our Shield. In time of war, You are our Peace.

In times of uncertainty, You are the Rock on which we stand.

We make our prayer to You using the words of the prophet Daniel:

“O Lord, You are the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments. You are merciful and forgiving. You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame because we have sinned against You, and done wrong. We have turned away from Your commands and principles. We have turned away from You.”

Yet You have promised in 2 Chronicles 7, that if we — a people identified with You — would humble ourselves, pray, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways, then You would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.

So we choose to stop pointing our finger at the sins of others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin — our neglect and defiance and ignorance and even rejection of You. This day we choose to repent.

In response to our heartfelt repentance, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Father of Jesus Christ, in keeping with all Your righteous acts and according to Your promise, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from the United States of America. Hear the prayers and petitions offered to You on this National Day of Prayer, as we give You our full attention. Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.

For the glory of Your Name hear our prayer, forgive our sin, and heal our land.

We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ who offers us salvation from Your judgment, forgiveness for our sin, and reconciliation with You through His own blood shed on the Cross. Amen.

• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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