Scan the headlines these days, and the bad news because of the coronavirus seems to get worse and worse:
- April’s unemployment is described by The Wall Street Journal as “the largest one-month blow to the U.S. labor market on record” (5/3/20). The worst job loss ever.
- “Universities across the country are being hit with lawsuits by students who aren’t satisfied with the refunds they’re being provided after being told to leave campus” (Campusreform.com, 4/27/20).
- As one of six workers are suddenly out of a job, hunger is a growing problem. The AP reports, “Before the pandemic, food policy experts say, roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to stay fed. Now as many as one out of every four are projected to join the ranks of the hungry” (5/4/20).
Amidst all the bad news, is there any hope? Does America still have a prayer?
Yes. Last week, on Thursday, May 7, was the National Day of Prayer. And do we need it — always.
America, it could be said, was born in prayer. We can even see an example in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where there are eight large paintings dedicated to aspects of our history.
One of them shows the Pilgrims having a prayer meeting with a large open Geneva Bible. The Pilgrims experienced one setback after another. But they also experienced answers to prayer.
For example, when they were finally settled in the New World in 1621, after a disastrous winter where half their number died, they planted their crops. But then they experienced a great drought.
The parched conditions threatened their first crop of corn, and it looked like the year’s harvest was all but dead. But the Pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer. By the end of the day, it was raining.
The rain saved the corn, which miraculously sprang to life. The harvesting of that corn was part of what they celebrated in the first Thanksgiving.
A couple of paintings in the Capitol rotunda have George Washington as the central character. Although modern scholars like to discount the notion of Washington as a man of prayer, there were many contemporary witnesses who said otherwise. In our book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, Dr. Peter Lillback and I document that Washington was a dedicated Christian who read the Bible regularly and spent much time in prayer.
Washington often said that as a nation we should be grateful for God’s repeated help. He once said, in reference to God’s help during the War for Independence, “The hand of Providence has been conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” (Letter to Thomas Nelson, 8/20/1778).
Susie Federer has written two books on miracles in American history, Miracles and Miracles II, based on the research of her husband, Bill. He is a bestselling author and speaker.
Bill Federer describes a time — not unlike these days and times — when there was a plague of sorts ravaging the land in the mid-19th century. President Zachary Taylor declared a National Day of Fasting and Prayer, July 3, 1849, during a cholera epidemic:
“A fearful pestilence which is spreading itself throughout the land … it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been in His protection should humble themselves before His throne … acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy. It is earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.”
The Federers note that soon after that day of prayer, the cholera epidemic in America tapered off.
Many of our presidents throughout our history have called on God and have called on Americans to set aside a time (usually a day) of prayer. For example, FDR, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, called for 1/2/1942 to be, “a Day of Prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.”
President Truman even systematized the day of prayer as an annual event. Thus, the first Thursday of each May is the National Day of Prayer. Truman declared in his proclamation (6/17/1952): “from the earliest days of our history our people have been accustomed to turn to Almighty God for help and guidance.”
If ever America needed God’s help and guidance, this would seem to be that time — now and for succeeding days, weeks, and months — as the coronavirus crisis continues.
We need to pray and repent and seek His face. May He provide a vaccine soon. May He heal our land.