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May 2, 2013

Today is a National Day of Prayer

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

For the past 60 years or so, our nation has taken this Thursday in May to remember prayer. We recognize our frailty as sinful human beings and call on God to forgive and help us. We take this solitary day, as a people of faith, to ask Almighty God for His mercy and grace. Not just us Christians take part, but all people who believe in a higher being.

I’ve never been a fan of a National Day of Prayer.

Why?

I believe, as a Lutheran, that every single day is a Day of Prayer. There is not one day where a Lutheran or a Christian is supposed to cease praying. For our government leaders to set aside a photo op each year to show how “spiritual” they are, it mocks God and mocks what we do as Lutherans as prayerful, concerned, merciful, and gracious sinners who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

I prayed today not because of some Presidential proclamation or Congressional action. Today I prayed because that I what I do as a sinner, as a pastor, and as a Lutheran.

This morning, former LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick sent out his latest Perspectives email, focusing on today being a National Day of Prayer. These are his remarks:

This special observance officially began in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming 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. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan fixed the date as the first Thursday of May.

Early this morning Terry and I will be at St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas, for an observance of this special day. Terry will be speaking on The Importance of Prayer for Family and Brothers and Sisters in Christ. My assigned topic is Prayer in the Public Square.

Terry will most likely mention her fervent commitment to pray for pastors’ wives. As far back as I can remember in our lives and ministry together, she has had a special spot in her heart for these dear women. When she is invited to a Pastors Wives Retreat, she gets very little sleep. Most of the night she’s up talking with, listening to and praying for her dear sisters in Christ.

Like many of you, she also prays every day, by name, for each member of our family. Also on her list are many friends, especially those with special needs or concerns. Praying for family and friends is a priority for both of us and for many other Christian people, including most of you.

My remarks this morning will include reference to the examples of praying in the public square in which I was involved during my time as LCMS president and have observed since then. Yankee Stadium and Newtown, Conn. will be among the notable examples I’ll describe and discuss.

Following the senseless and evil multiple killings in New York and Newtown, clergy from the LCMS participated in community prayer or memorial services. Subsequently our church body received national and even worldwide publicity—some very positive and some quite negative.

When it was negative, one of my father’s favorite sayings—I don’t care what you say about me, just be sure you spell my name right!—simply did not hold true. The negative publicity had a ripple effect of embarrassment for pastors and members of local LCMS congregations, as well as other Christian ministries.

Those who disapproved felt that praying in the presence of church leaders with whom we don’t agree was wrong. Those who approved were thankful that a pastor of our church body was there to offer comfort and consolation for a nation in grief, confusion, fear and despair.

Next week’s Perspectives article will address the topics that surfaced during these two tragic times of national terror and community trauma: unionism and syncretism.

Until then, I invite you, especially today, to join me in echoing what the disciples of long ago asked of Jesus himself: Lord, teach us to pray!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!

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