“What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” Joseph Medlicott Scriven penned those simple but profound hymn lyrics in 1855.
The United States Congress, by Public Law 100-307, calls upon the U.S. President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.” Today is that hopeful day, and our President has issued America’s annual proclamation.
But … a solace where? Though I greatly appreciate President Biden’s continuance of this time-honored tradition, I must admit that I am disappointed that his proclamation today never mentions God. Not even once is the Creator of heaven and earth referred to by name. I understand the desire of government leaders to be inclusive, which can be a noble objective under the appropriate circumstances, but I fear that we are attempting to honor “prayer” and “faith” without honoring God.
What is prayer? There is no inherent power in prayer! What is faith? There is no inherent power in faith! There is power only in the Sovereign God to whom we pray. There is power only in the object of our faith. Any other religious notion is sheer folly. Any day devoted to such folly would be better spent at a video arcade.
Today’s proclamation “celebrate[s] our incredible good fortune,” and well we should. America has been blessed beyond measure! But from whom has that “good fortune” come? It clearly has not come from us.
The proclamation of 2021 feels desperately humanistic, at a time when America’s secular humanism has been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Is the strength really in us? Is the hope really in us? Biden’s proclamation includes a reference to “the divine” in a quote from the late John Lewis, but the quote itself exalts humanity. Within that context, “the divine” is open to a world of possible interpretations blowing in the wind. Mr. President, we don’t need nebulous. We need God.
This omission of God is grievous to me, and from my little corner of Western Kentucky I call upon the leader of the free world to consider, and take to heart, the grave dangers of such an omission. Perhaps this was an oversight, but my hope is that President Biden will correct it with haste.
The drafter and signer of our Declaration of Independence, and the third President of these United States, Thomas Jefferson, humbly observed: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Like every other chapter of our history, Jefferson’s private and public life was marred by sin. But he acknowledged a fear of God. We could learn from that example.
My hope is that President Biden will recognize this critical opportunity to be more precise in his language and that the Lord of every nation will breathe fresh hope into the hearts of a weary people. Before my critics assail me, I clearly acknowledge that this responsibility falls much more squarely upon this nation’s pastors than its President. And I publicly repent of my own equivocations as a leader and plead unto Almighty God that He would, by undeserved grace, restore my own soul first.