2016 Was a Year of Prayer: Reason to Hope in 2017
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
For all the social media chatter about 2016 being the “worst year ever,” those who care about American mores should remember the year with fondness. No, more than fondness. A more appropriate sentiment would be relief — mixed with a healthy dose of wonder and awe. There’s no denying we’ve been spared any worst-case scenarios. Here’s one reason why: 2016 was an unprecedented year of fasting, repentance, and prayer.
Pastor Franklin Graham began 2016 by kicking off a massive “Decision America Tour.”* For months, the Evangelical stalwart traveled to each state capital, hammering home the message of the Gospel and its relevance to a nation in a state of moral crisis.
“Because Jesus Christ is the only hope for America, we call our nation to God and pray for His forgiveness and blessing and for the liberty and freedom to continue to proclaim His Name until He returns,” Graham said, explaining the mission of the tour.
In addition, Graham issued a pledge, which reads in part: “I pledge to pray fervently and faithfully for America.” The pledge was signed by nearly 120,000 people.
Throughout the year, many other Christian leaders and organizations followed suit with their own formal calls for prayer.
In October, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and charitable organization, called on all “its members and other Catholic Americans” to pray daily for the nation during the nine days leading up to the presidential election. The Knights of Columbus currently boast 1.9 million members, including yours truly.
A good many Catholics also joined together for a 54-day “nationwide prayer campaign called the ‘Novena for Our Nation,’” a daily Rosary “from the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7.”
“We are living in extraordinary times,” the Novena for Our Nation website explained:
Presidential executive actions, US congressional and state legislation as well as court rulings at all levels up to the Supreme Court are in conflict with God’s laws; especially the disregard for the rights of the unborn, elderly and weak in our society and the attacks on marriage and family values. At the same time society and government are becoming more intolerant towards biblically based religious belief and practice. In conflict with First Amendment constitutional rights, persecution of traditional religious expression has reached unprecedented levels. We are in a Spiritual Battle.
Father Frank Pavone, President of Priests for Life, called for a nine-week novena. “We thank you for your law, which our Founding Fathers acknowledged and recognized as higher than any human law,” he wrote. “Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world, but rather a community of faith renewing the world.”
At the beginning of 2016, things had just gone from bleak to alarming. The left had for years been slowly, incrementally picking away at America’s essential mores and social institutions.
The prayers intensified as election day approached. “We pray because, in our own wisdom and strength, we’re insufficient for the challenges we face,” wrote Christian author and radio host Eric Metaxas in “How to Pray for Our Nation.” “While one of the most appealing things about American people is our indomitable ‘can-do’ spirit, the fact is, sometimes we ‘can’t do’! We have nowhere else to go, except to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Kneeling before God in times of overwhelming crisis is also a part of our American DNA.”
The Bullet We Dodged
There’s no doubt that 2016’s outpouring of prayer was overdue. As I outlined here at The Stream on election day, the history of the previous eight years looked like a long checklist of anti-Christian objectives, while the Democratic Party Platform promised to deliver another series of big green check marks starting in 2017:
- Stir up hedonism by pushing “gender theory” propaganda in schools and normalizing perversity in the media — ultimately lining up sexual vices and their attendant drugs and “surgeries” (not least of all abortion) for taxpayer funding and even the coerced support of Church organizations despite religious objections.
- Cover up and downplay the historic news of Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in preborn human body parts, smearing the Center for Medical Progress’s undercover videos in the media as “deceptively edited” while government officials raided and ransacked whistleblower David Deleiden’s home, but dragged their feet on investigating the illegal activity he exposed.
- Conspire to “plant the seeds of a revolution” in the Catholic church by creating leftist front groups to undermine resistance to government encroachments on religious liberty.
These efforts culminated, of course, in the nomination of Hillary Clinton, and the adoption of her Democratic party platform. It explicitly promised to ramp up the above efforts by
- Signing into law the “Equality Act,” a bill which, as I wrote, “would be the last nail in the religious liberty coffin of Obergefell, criminalizing the rights of religious employers to, say, refuse to hire gay rights operatives as Catechism teachers”;
- Increasing Planned Parenthood’s federal funding and repealing the Hyde Amendment, forcing taxpayers to directly finance abortion on demand; and
- Appointing Supreme Court justices who would pursue a “progressive vision of religious freedom” that excludes key rights of believers as “the misuse of religion to discriminate,” in the words of the Democratic Party Platform.
At the beginning of 2016, things had just gone from bleak to alarming. The left had for years been slowly, incrementally picking away at America’s essential mores and social institutions. Now it simply tore off its mask.
We must not forget the alarm that moved so many of us to fervent prayer. And while we thank the good men and women without whose tireless work and strategic brilliance we might not have been granted this reprieve, we should also thank God for the grace we so completely rely on today.
In 2017, let’s work and hope in a manner worthy of St. Augustine’s famous injunction: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
*Keep your eyes on The Stream for a special James Robison interview with Franklin Graham.