Phil Miglioratti interviewed John Bornschein, Senior Director for the National Day of Prayer Task Force
Phil ~ Introduce a first-timer, John, to the National Day of Prayer. How and when did it begin? How is it related to our nation's history? Is it under the direction of the government?
John ~ The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of America’s heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, many national leaders throughout our history have issued such a call, including President Lincoln's proclamation of a day of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" in 1863 at the height of the Civil War. In 1952, a joint resolution of Congress, signed by President Harry S. Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Ronald Reagan, permanently setting aside the first Thursday of every May for the observance. Historically, the President signs a proclamation each year encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. In 2008, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force was created by the National Prayer Committee for the purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances in conformance with Judeo-Christian beliefs. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own values and faith. This diversity is what Congress intentionally acknowledged when it designated the Day of Prayer. They recognized that religions and creeds would not be homogenized, but rather, everyone who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in a way they deemed appropriate. It was in response to that broad invitation to the American people that the NDP Task Force was established in order to provide a Judeo-Christian expression of the National Day of Prayer.
This year, the National Day of Prayer will take place on Thursday, May 7.
Phil ~ In the past 10-15 years many new prayer initiatives have been birthed. Has that been a good step for the Body of Christ in America and how has that affect participation in the NDP?
John ~ It has been exciting to see such an explosion of prayer events, small groups, resources and initiatives. We are thrilled to come alongside these ministries to build on the greater prayer movement. Recently stadiums have been filled with praying and fasting believers. Houses of Prayer have been dedicated around the country and prayer gatherings have become standing room only throughout churches and communities. We are doing our best to fan the flame. It has been truly awesome to see Christians joining together across denominational, ethnic and socio-economic differences to unite hand-in-hand before the Almighty. With this prayer revival has come tremendous growth. The National Day of Prayer website has experienced over 176% growth over last year. Posted events have grown 48% and the numbers continue to climb in resource requests and even prayer requests. We are up over 230% in prayer requests and the interesting thing is that financial burdens are not in the top 10. Rather, we are seeing requests for family members in health, relationship and most importantly, salvation. That is exciting to see. We had over 141,000 people connect through our office to the Billy Graham ministries to hear the gospel message. That is really what it is all about.
Phil ~ The National Day of Prayer has developed way beyond a simple prayer list with the names of elected officials. What programs and resources are associated with NDP and how can they benefit congregations?
John ~ Phil, you are right. The National Day of Prayer is about building a relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer and devotion. That is a 365-day assignment. The first Thursday of May is a rallying point – a gathering of millions to celebrate our multidimensional dialog with the Father and petition Him to heal our land. However, throughout the year, we have much to do. We have an Adopt a Leader program (www.adoptaleader.org), a student ministry (www.freedom365.org), a military ministry to send devotions to soldiers and their families, prayer gatherings and leadership summits, ongoing curriculum and resource development and even prayer training throughout the nation.
With over 30,000 volunteers we have a lot of work to do each and every day to equip and mobilize. We truly believe that communities can be transformed and that happens one family at a time. When fathers pray with their wives and families pray with their children, that is the spark for a spiritual flame. Soon God is working through an entire community and then a nation is restored. We are seeing answered prayer throughout the country and it is exciting to see the hand of God in action. In prayer is where God reveals the deep things of his nature and his plan. For churches, I would encourage you to visit our website at www.nationaldayofprayer.org and click on our Church page. There you will find simple guides for planning a prayer event. In addition, you will find sermon notes, videos, printed resources, downloads and more. Dr. Henry Blackaby even wrote a guide for facilitating a Solemn Assembly. You can find this free guide on our website as well.
Phil ~ The Church needs to pray for then in and then with the community. How does NDP serve each of those needs?
* Praying for the community with the heart of God
Are you prepared to intercede for others? I am often reminded of the dialog between Moses and God in Exodus 32. God had his mind made up and even tells Moses, “Leave me alone, so I may destroy them for their wickedness!” Moses didn’t give up. David tells us in Psalm 106:32, “So he said he would destroy them – had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep His wrath from destroying them.” The Lord relented. In Isaiah 59 and Ezekiel 22, He tells us that He is looking for someone to stand in the gap, to intervene on behalf of the people. Paga, Sode – Intercession is mentioned over 80 times in Scriptures and even in the Greek, Christ referred to God as “The Sending Me Father” – action oriented. What did Moses say to God when he heard of the destruction that was to befall the Israelites, “But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:31) Moses was willing to lay down his life for sinners. There were over 1 million people under his charge and they were no different than the obnoxious neighbor on your street. But, Moses was willing to die for them. What is your heart for your community? Are you willing to come before the Almighty on behalf of the people? There was a time when I thought the battle began in prayer – now I know the battle is in prayer. I challenge you to strap on the armor, remove your shoes, and stand before our God and King in humility and desperation. Plead for the lost. Plead for change. Remove all barriers in your life and you will experience the heart of God – a love for holiness.
* Praying in the community with the eyes of Jesus
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (II Chronicles 16:9) The eyes of our Lord see right through to the core issues and cut to the heart. There is sin in our community. There are specific items we can pray for – abortion, crime, suicide, fatherless families, attrition in the church, and more. Name them and be specific. Find out the current statistics if possible and pray beyond the National Day of Prayer for those issues and watch God work. We track those numbers and know God hears when you pray. We are seeing tragic statistics decline throughout the nation where there are concentrated prayer efforts. We need only faith as small as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:18) The battle is in prayer. Can we tarry with the Lord over these issues? I urge you to stay the course with determination that God will hear and respond.
* Praying with the community with the power of the Spirit (as opportunities develop)
As leaders in our community, it is important to sound the trumpet and to call a sacred assembly. Just as Joel and Ezra called the people to pray, we, too, need to recognize that as Christians we have the spiritual authority to gather Americans to pray. Those in attendance will be blessed by the presence of God. I imagine prayer events must look something like Solomon’s temple when the Holy Spirit is present. People from all the nations would gather just to see and feel the presence of the Lord there. When we gather the people, we are on Holy ground and lives will be changed. Don’t deny them this blessing. Yes, it is work. But it is a blessing that has eternal reward. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
Phil ~ The National Pastors' Prayer Network has always encouraged, even challenged, our Pastors' Prayer Groups to meet together on the NDP. How can this benefit both the PPG and the praying of the Church?
John ~ The National Day of Prayer Task Force has been blessed by the leadership and ministry of the National Pastors’ Prayer Network. We are honored to serve alongside each and everyone associated with this incredible community. Every single prayer event makes a difference. Just imagine what over 3 million people praying before the throne of our God and King must sound like. What a sweet aroma to his nostrils, indeed. Praise and worship through our prayers is something that honors God – something He seeks and desires. Together we can lift up a voice that will reside in His chambers for all eternity. The National Day of Prayer is at least one day when we know that millions of believers are praying in one accord almost simultaneously on a Thursday of all days. The spiritual unity that is stretched across our land is something that is truly awesome. It is the end of one prayer season and the beginning of another. Many prayer groups see this day as the Super Bowl of prayer events. It is still the largest, designated day of prayer in the world. I would encourage you to join with prayer warriors around the nation on May 7th.
Phil ~ Take us through a dream-day - If you had the ability to design a community's or city's expression of the National Day of Prayer, what would it look like?
John ~ It is really hard for me to design the dream-day event because we know that where two or more are gathered, there He is in our midst. It is not about anything but being humble before Him in praise and adoration. That is all we are calling people to do. If we can even ask you to step outside of the church walls and pray in your local park, business or on the capitol steps, then you are taking part in a demonstration that Yahweh is still God over this land. Touch the ground you are praying for. That is powerful. I guess if I were to design the perfect day of prayer, it would go something like this. In the morning, I would set-up a meeting of all the community pastors. We would have a sacred assembly of God’s spiritual leaders. There we would remove our shoes, wash our brethrens’ feet and partake in the Lord’s Supper. Then, we would leave the room after spending time in the Spirit with the Lord and gather the people, together, in prayer at a local stadium or park. Thousands would gather because they wouldn’t want to miss one the most important days of the year. It would be standing room only. After a designed time of fasting and prayer, we would march down the city streets proclaiming that Yahweh was God and King and by the blood of Jesus we have life eternal. There would be singing and dancing in the streets before the Most High. It would be the kind of worship that David would shout from the highest tower. From there we would make our way to the capitol steps where the city leaders would seek blessing from the pastors and humble themselves before God to guide them as they are caretakers of His land and His people. From there, we would march to the land marks, one by one and ask forgiveness for our sins touching each corner of the city – a long journey – but one of great significance. Along the way we would pray that God rebuild the city walls of holiness and that He would permeate every dwelling place and that every home would cry out in repentance. The evening would culminate with great praise and worship at the center of the city. I think in my mind, this is what the Feast of Tabernacles may have been like when first celebrated. We know the day is coming in the New Jerusalem, but in the meantime, I would encourage public events, prayer walking, Bible-reading marathons, prayer gatherings at every influential area of the city, fasting and neighborhood invitations. We have dozens of ideas on our website at www.nationaldayofprayer.org Remember, where two or more are gathered. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just intentional.
Phil ~ John, please write a prayer our readers can pray, asking for God's help in recruiting and resourcing leadership to call their congregations to prayer...
Heavenly Father, as your servant I will go where You lead me. I dare not build the house without your blessing without you as the rock, my foundation. Direct my path, oh Lord, and make clear the way in which I should journey. I have a deep burden for my neighbors, my community and even my nation. My heart aches at what you must see. We have lost our way and we have thrown dirt on your mirror. Help me Father to unite your people and lead them in life-changing prayer. Help us to understand the relationship you had with Enoch and walk in your ways. Truly, Father, I long to know you better. My soul thirsts for you. Give me courage and passion and may they be contagious. Give me the words to speak and the tools to equip. I know money is no barrier to you. I need only to cast my line into the water and draw up a fish to find the coin needed. Give me that faith. Help me to trust when I am weak and tired. Please bring an Aaron alongside me to keep me lifted up when my heart is faint. At times, I feel alone but as you told Elijah, I know there are others. Father, I humbly ask that you bring people with a love for holiness into my life and may they have your heart to bring people together on holy ground. I need help and resources, my Lord. Prepare me for what you are about to do. Refine me that I may be your instrument. I depend on you for all things and I thank you for all you have provided. If you give me five talents, I shall make it five more with you favor and blessing. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen
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Prayer...America's Hope! Psalm 33:22