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A reflection on National Day of Prayer

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.

By Pastor Chris Wheatley, Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual observance in the United States since 1952.
Now on some level, a day dedicated to prayer is not unusual. Every November, we celebrate a national holiday dedicated solely to giving thanks. And days of prayer are routinely declared based upon the needs of the country, such as President Obama’s day of prayer for peace in 2012 or President Trump’s day of prayer around COVID-19 early last year.

The unusual part about the National Day of Prayer is that it very intentionally does not have any subject attached to it. In fact, the legal code behind it is only a single sentence long: "The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals."

It is left intentionally vague. We "may" pray, but it doesn’t ask us to. We might be in groups, but might not. And what are we praying for or meditating about? No guidance is given.

Even when the President actually issues the proclamation each year, it almost never provides any more direction. Last year’s proclamation mentioned the pandemic in passing, but didn’t ask us to pray about it.

Light for the Way seriesPart of it, no doubt, is that it would be very difficult to find any subject of prayer upon which every citizen and resident of the United States could agree. And part of it is that even when the government is recognizing the importance of prayer to its citizens, it maintains a separation of church and state.

But allow me to suggest that, intentionally or not, our day of prayer actually does something very important by setting aside a national prayer time without further suggestions: it reminds us that the only two people who really know what you and God need to talk about today are you and God.

Maybe you have something that is weighing on your conscience, and you need to confess it to the One whose sacrifice is bigger than any sin. Maybe you are stressed, and you need to let out all your worries to the One who holds the future. Maybe you are filled with joy, gratitude and relief, and haven’t mentioned that to its Source yet. Maybe you are lost, and just need to stop and listen.

Whatever you and God need to talk about, this is the day. We have been asked by our nation to pray, not for this and not for that, but just to pray. Let us celebrate this privilege by finding time today to talk with the One who matters most.

Pastor Chris WheatleyRev. Chris Wheatley serves PHS as Senior Director of Pastoral Care Services. He is an ordained Lutheran pastor and has served in hospice, eldercare, hospital, HIV/AIDS and congregational settings. He and his wife Nicole are perpetually outnumbered by cats and Dobermans.

 Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

Find more in the Light for the Way series:
Through scars and stories: my return journey to faith
Confidence in our witness of Christ
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website

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