WASHINGTON (BP) — Southern Baptist and other evangelical speakers called for, and hundreds of participants prayed for, unity in the church and country during a National Day of Prayer observance May 3 in the U.S. Capitol.
The televised evening event in National Statuary Hall came near the close of the United States’ 67th annual observance of the National Day of Prayer (NDOP). Multitudes of Americans gathered in thousands of location across the country to pray during the day.
Ronnie Floyd, president of the NDOP Task Force and former Southern Baptist Convention president, told the audience, “[I]t is time for the church of America to come together in unity. It is with every fiber of my bone, into the very depths of my soul, I say to you tonight with a growing burden in my heart: ‘A divided church cannot call a divided nation to unity.'”
The theme of NDOP 2018 was “Pray for America: Unity,” based on Ephesians 4:3, which calls for Christians to make “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
“[T]his takes humility,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas. “It takes a forgiving spirit, a willingness to make every effort, taking whatever action is necessary, walking endlessly during all the good times and all the bad times and forward in unity in the church and unity in the nation.
“You know, Jesus is leading the greatest diversity movement in the history of the world, and it’s called His church,” he said. “And even in the midst of our diversity, we should be compelled to do whatever it takes to live in unity and oneness.”
During the two-hour observance, Floyd directed those gathered into times of prayer, first for a full commitment to unity. He invited the audience to gather in groups of four to six people to pray at intervals, sometimes requesting they kneel on the floor if possible.
Throughout the hall, participants offered prayers of repentance at one juncture and requests for God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin at another. Individuals led in prayers for the three branches of the federal government, as well as the U.S. military. Prayers were also offered by Native American, Hispanic, Anglo, African American and Asian leaders in the church.
H.B. Charles Jr. — president of the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference and pastor-teacher of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. — told the audience dependence on God is “the essential key to believing prayer.”
“Prayer will not work without a heart of dependence upon God,” he said in remarks based on the story of King Uzziah in II Chronicles 26. “Prayer is our advertisement of our dependence upon God. As we confess our weakness, we draw closer to God.
“When we acknowledge our weakness, our neediness and our helplessness without God, it not only draws us closer to God,” Charles said. “It also draws us closer to one another.”
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the call to unity “requires repentance, humility.”
“Now is the time to bring an end to abortion, racism, intolerance, hatred and bigotry,” he said. “And now is the time to remember that while we’re waiting for Jesus to come down, Jesus is waiting for His church to stand up.
The name of Jesus Christ “unites us,” Rodriguez told participants. “[W]e need that name to be lovingly lifted up and proclaimed. That name, believe it or not, can save this nation.
“[L]et us repent; let us humble ourselves.”
Donna Gaines, a women’s ministry leader and wife of SBC President Steve Gaines, offered a prayer of repentance.
“Father, we are ashamed and embarrassed to lift our faces to You our God for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown to the heavens,” she prayed. “We desperately need You. Please Father, grant that we may see You as You are in all of Your holiness, truth, grace and love. And may we see ourselves in light of Your glory and humbly repent for failing to love You with our entire being.
“Please forgive us, Your people, as we repent of the apathy and complacency that has gripped us and held us captive,” Gaines said. “Please awaken within us a hunger for You. And call us to prayer and fasting as we repent as a nation for the strongholds of abortion, sexual immorality, perversion, racism, hatred, violence, greed and lack of love for the least of these. Please grant revival for Your church and spiritual awakening for our nation and the nations.
“O Father, we know that we deserve your wrath. But in wrath, please remember mercy. God, grant us one heart and one mind in Christ Jesus.”
Bible Teacher Priscilla Shirer of Going Beyond Ministries said unity is a reason for fervent prayer because the Christian’s enemy, the devil, “is working overtime. He is sending flaming missiles sailing in our direction in hopes that he can break our ranks. He wants our lines to be broken so that we are fragile and vulnerable and weak and exposed to his attacks.”
Unity “is not sameness,” she said. “It is unity of purpose and resolution.”
Floyd interviewed Frank and Sherri Pomeroy, asking them to share how they are doing six months after the murder of their daughter and 25 other members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
They are still in the “learning process” of grief, said Frank Pomeroy, the church’s pastor. “However, at the same time I am also seeing the hope that God has brought from the blood that was spilt. From the ashes, glory is rising. We are seeing a growth in the church.
“There’s been a change — just how there’s cohesion in the community, and there’s cohesion in families. There’s cohesion within our family,” said Pomeroy, who prayed for security in the country. “And it’s stronger now than it ever was before. And it’s through the grace of an almighty God that brought that to be.”
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., a Southern Baptist, told participants in welcoming them to the Capitol, “It is [the church’s] responsibility to see America change through prayer. It is the most powerful weapon that God gave to us.”
The event closed with Floyd leading the audience in reading in unison this year’s NDOP National Prayer for America.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers sang at different points in the observance, which was shown on the DayStar Television Network.
The National Day of Prayer has been held each year since Congress approved a resolution in 1952 calling on the president to establish such an annual event. President Truman inaugurated the observance the same year, and presidents since then have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law to set the first Thursday of May for the observance.