The National Day of Prayer

  Twenty-eight years ago I sat in a car in a darkened driveway and in a flood of tears called out to God to take me the way I was. At that moment he changed the White House "hatchet man," the Nixon tough guy, the ex-Marine captain -- and turned me into a new creation. Does God answer prayer? Some people say he doesn't, but I know better! For he certainly answered my prayer that day, feeble and stumbling though it may have been. As a result of that simple prayer of commitment, God has used my life to touch the lives of thousands of others. And I experience God's fulfillment today in ways I could never have imagined during my White House years. So, how do we pray, and what should we be praying for? I am attempting to answer that question in my address today to members of Congress and others at the National Day of Prayer in the Capitol. I think we are taught to pray on three levels: for ourselves, for our nation, and for the Church. The primary purpose of our personal prayers, however, is not to change God's mind or to seek personal blessings -- though he may give us that. Rather it's to ask him to change us; it's to say, "not my will, Lord, but thine." I discovered this truth during Watergate, when I prayed that I could be spared prison. God did not answer that prayer the way I'd hoped. But I now see it was God's will that I go to prison so that he could then use me for this ministry. We must also pray for our nation. The great British abolitionist William Wilberforce and his brothers in Christ prayed three hours a day for reforms in England. At the same time, they were working diligently to abolish the slave trade. The result? The slave trade was abolished, and there was a complete reformation of manners (that is, a moral revival) in England. It was known as the Second Wesleyan Awakening. Now, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often cited as a model for a prayer for the nation, but it's not. The verse says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land" [NIV]. The nation referred to as "my people" was the Jewish state. But today, according to 1 Peter, the holy nation is the people of God. So, we must be praying for the people of God -- the Church. We must first repent of idolatry, of having embraced the false gods of modern times, like materialism, power, success, and personal autonomy. We must also repent of the sin of not caring about our neighbor. Today, so many people live in gated communities. We want to sweep people off the streets who are a bother to us and put them in institutions. We tend to be insular, protected, caring only about ourselves. We need to repent for our attitude of ingratitude. God, for whatever reason, has given us abundance and freedom and hope that people elsewhere lack. We ought to be sold out for Christ when we look at what we've been given. We will soon celebrate Memorial Day, remembering all the men and women who were willing to die for the freedoms we enjoy in America today. If we're grateful to them, how much greater should our gratitude be for the freedom we have in Christ: freedom from sin, and eternal life with God. On this National Day of Prayer, across this country let us pray that God will reveal how we might truly live our lives to please him, that he will change us, and that we might learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our prayer should be that God will forgive our sins of idolatry, indifference, and ingratitude -- and grant us the courage to serve, as he's called us to do.


Chuck Colson


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