May 4, 2023: the National Day of Prayer is a Time for America to Humble Herself Before God
The Stream’s Nancy Flory recently spoke with Mark Meckler, President of Convention of States Action (COS). According to a statement on the COS website, the COS is a “national movement to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution, restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.” In light of the National Day of Prayer, observed tomorrow, the two discussed the history of prayer in America, why it is important and how Americans can pray for our nation in today’s culture. The interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Nancy: Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. What is COS doing to observe the day?
Mark: Last year for the first time, we helped sponsor a National Day of Prayer event at the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I actually think it’s probably the most important monument in America and nobody knows about it. It’s the largest freestanding granite monument in the United States of America, 81 feet tall. And the core piece of this monument, at the very top, is a figure, a female figure pointing to heaven, pointing to God by the name of faith. It represents the idea that you can’t have a just and righteous government that is based on anything except for God’s laws, except for your faith in God.
And then this monument, it goes down and there there are figures on four sides of it representing the pieces of a just, righteous government. And so it has our Judeo-Christian heritage, our Christian heritage, running through the center of it. We refer to it as the touchstone of liberty.
If you ever want to know how to put a government together that works well based on Christian principles, you’re gonna go view the Monument to the Forefathers, and it will always point the way back to a good government. That way is always through God.
Nancy: Why is a national day of prayer important?
Mark: Well, I think when you look at the history of our country, it is impossible to deny unless you deny reality that this is a country founded fundamentally on Judeo-Christian principles, primarily by Christian families. And so the idea that we would turn to God is in keeping with our history and our heritage: we turned to God in coming to this land, we turned to God in founding this nation, we turned to God in all the difficult trials and tribulations of our country early on. And I think especially now in our history, when so much of the country is turned away from God and we are suffering so greatly because of it, now is a good time to turn to prayer and turn back to God.
Nancy: Can you talk a little bit about how the Founding Fathers prayed?
Mark: I would go back even further than the Founding Fathers, and I think this is a mistake that we sometimes make, is that we don’t go back far enough in our history to understand how fundamentally this country is based on a belief in God and prayer to God and humility before God. And that is going back to the pilgrims and the way that the pilgrims came across the ocean, came to this country and set up a system of governance based on the way the Israelites governed themselves. This is what they were taught by their pastor, Pastor Robinson. And obviously prayer was a big part of that.
They were driven from their country because they got together in secret and prayed, and they were separate from the Church of England. So they honored God and they lived according to their conscience in praying to God.
So the roots of prayer go deep in America long before the founding. And then I would move forward to men like George Whitfield, who traveled across the country prior to the American Revolution, both preaching and leading the American people in prayer before there was a United States of America. And if you look at the language of the founding era, much of that language can be found in the sermons of men like Whitfield. And so we don’t have a country without people resorting to prayer. And then if you wanna go to the founding era, I think there are a couple of very famous examples that come to mind. One would be the very famous portrait of George Washington on a knee praying next to his horse. And of course, that’s an iconic piece of American history and Washington was known to go off by himself and pray.
I think that’s in keeping with Christian tradition throughout the Bible. And then I would say the other piece that is really interesting to me is Benjamin Franklin, during the Constitutional convention, exhorting the members of the convention that during the fight for independence, when they had gathered in the first Continental Congress, they prayed every day before they started. And he noted that they had not been doing that during the Constitutional Convention, and he exhorted them to start each meeting with prayer. That they needed to go to Almighty God if they were to succeed. And ultimately they ended up praying — most of them individually, separately in their own congregations. But they ended up praying before every meeting. And of course, ultimately we end up with the United States Constitution out of that.
Nancy: What is the takeaway that we can learn from their prayers?
Mark: The most important thing that we can learn is humility before God because they understood that the mighty hand of Providence was in everything that they did. And that without God’s intervention, none of the things that they believed were good and righteous could come to pass. And so, if you read the prayers of the founders and the framers and all the way back to the pilgrims, it wasn’t that they saw God as a vending machine, which I think is very often a modern view of God. I go to God and I tell Him what I want, and then I get those things. They understood that God was in control and that they were to go before God and humble themselves before God, and that God would then work His will in their lives.
Nancy: How do we pray for America now?
Mark: I would say to do it exactly like that. In other words, to humble ourselves before God and to ask that His will be worked in America. I think one of the things that we struggle with as modern Americans is the idea that America is inevitable. That we are now and have been for a long time, the most powerful nation on Earth. And that will always be that way. And I think even Christians believe, often wrongly in my opinion, that that’s inevitable. That we’re the best nation on earth, and so we’re good and we’re righteous. And so it’ll always be this way. Number one, we don’t know God’s plans and we can’t know His plans. And so the idea that America is inevitable is not correct. America’s only inevitable so far as God sees it to place His favor upon America.
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And that that may not be God’s plan. We don’t know. So we have to humble ourselves before God and let Him know that we take a knee or we go to our knees and we know that whatever His will is is what we actually want to be done. And that we’re willing to be His instruments in the exercise of that will. I think that’s how the country needs to pray to God. And number two is, I think very seriously and severely we need to be praying for forgiveness. One of the things that concerns me the most in our relationship as a nation with God is that there is a lot of evil in this nation. And when we go to God and we ask Him to show favor to our nation, we have to ask ourselves — I think it’s important if we’re being humble and honest with ourselves — we have to ask ourselves, why should God show favor to our nation?
We are a nation that has committed the largest genocide against the unborn ever known in human history, over 63 million babies now killed. We are a nation that is now, I would say at least half of the population here now, kind of celebrating child sacrifice in the form of abortion. We are a nation that is celebrating the destruction of the idea, the definition of men and women. And so God has every reason to not be thrilled with us right now. And so I think we should be very careful at presuming that God sees America favorably right now.
Nancy: What are the effects of prayer on politics?
Mark: I think the effect of prayer on politics is profound. And we’ve seen it in our own efforts through Convention of States. One of the things that some of our state teams do is they have a habit of doing prayers for all of the legislators. And when I say all of the legislators, I mean our opponents, both left versus right. Usually it’s Democrats who are opposed to Convention of States, but also Republicans that oppose Convention of the States. We have a process that some of the state teams go through. Texas does this very well where they have a prayer they go through, they have a prayer team that calls every legislator’s office, lets them know that we’re praying for them during the legislative session and in the off session and asking them if there’s anything that we can pray for them specifically in their families, in their offices, in their staff.
I think one of the things that that does is very human as opposed to being inwardly spiritual. In other words, people appreciate it when you pray for them. And it helps to create relationship. And God wants us to be in a relationship and a positive relationship with other human beings. And so, when you pray for other people, it puts you in closer relationship with other people. That’s one of the things that I’ve seen politically, is if you can bring yourself to pray for people who might be in political opposition to you, it improves your relationship with them. And I believe that’s what God wants for us.
Nancy: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think readers should need to know about the National Day of Prayer?
Mark: I think that one of the biggest things is that we shouldn’t be afraid to, and we should always encourage praying publicly. Because of the attack on faith in this country, we’ve become afraid, I think a lot of people, to pray publicly. And the National Day of Prayer is a public demonstration of prayer.
An example is, you know, my wife’s habit of praying before our meals. When we’re in a restaurant, we’ll bow our heads and we’ll pray. I can’t even tell you how many times people come up to our table when they’re leaving the restaurant and say, ‘Hey, you know, it was really great seeing you guys praying together.’ We really appreciate that. We don’t see that very much in public. So I think the National Day of Prayer is important as a public expression of prayer because I think it encourages other people to both pray and pray publicly.
Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.