The National Day of Prayer served as an outreach opportunity for First Baptist of Nashville for several years.
This usually involved renting the local convention center, securing a speaker and musical personalities to help us build a crowd, enlisting an army of volunteers to host tables, invite the public, serve as greeters and more.
It was a lot of work resulting in very little prayer and some pretty impersonal outreach. We got what we deserved.
We wore ourselves out and decided to give it a rest last year. For anyone who doubts the existence of modern-day miracles, be it known that a Baptist church painlessly ended something that it began.
Yet the first Thursday in May is fast approaching again.
No matter what your political preference, our nation is in need of prayer. We don’t need another expensive breakfast to attend. We don’t need a best-selling author to be our keynote speaker or an award-winning Christian artist to pull off the day. We just need to pray. Really pray. Maybe even fast and pray.
A visit to the website of the National Day of Prayer will give you more information about the history and background of this significant bipartisan event.
According to the website, every U.S. president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation. Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Jews, women and men make up the historical support and leadership of the effort.
It may be one of the few things we can point to today where we truly join hands with others with whom we may otherwise disagree for the purpose of asking for God’s guidance and blessing.
I’ve invited our church to join me for a time of prayer for our nation in our chapel beginning at noon on this first Thursday in May.
There will be no meal. Instead, participants are encouraged to observe a midday fast on this day as we join our hearts and pray for our nation, our governing leaders, our women and men in uniform, first responders, churches and more.
We will lift prayers of gratitude along with prayers of confession and repentance. I don’t know how long the prayer service will last. I hope that we will last until it is over.
If you’ve attended a Baptist gathering recently, you know that we are not known for the discipline of fasting.
A short fast provides an opportunity for those involved to experience a temporary sensation of hunger, which in turn reminds us to whisper a prayer voicing our hunger for God, our dependence on God and our trust in God.
Participants will sense this hunger during the afternoon after our prayer time is over, giving us the opportunity to pray wherever we are until the fast is broken with the evening meal.
People who are not able to join us in person can join us from wherever they are on this National Day of Prayer.
Depending on diet requirements and daily medication needs, most can eat a normal healthy breakfast and easily skip the midday meal.
It’s wise to drink plenty of water during the morning, but from noon until the evening meal, we are asking those who join us in prayer not to eat. No snacks, no midday meal, just a spirit of prayer strengthened by fasting
Consulting your healthcare provider and encouraging other participants to do so prior to participating in a fast are wise.
We are living in days where the gospel makes more sense than it ever has for the needs of our world. We are desperate for God as a nation, whether we know that or not.
As the National Day of Prayer approaches, let’s find a way to engage it meaningfully.
Frank R. Lewis is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served since 1997.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about the National Day of Prayer (May 4).