By Diana Chandler
WASHINGTON (BP) — From 45,000 or more venues including public parks, courthouses, churches, community centers, government buildings and the like, concerted pleas went up to God for America on the 66th annual National Day of Prayer.
“O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act!” was the organized cry drawn from Daniel 9:19 today (May 4), that birthed perhaps hundreds of thousands of individual prayers for various aspects of society, including governmental sectors and leaders, families, media, businesses and religion, according to event organizers. “For Your Great Name’s Sake,” also taken from Daniel’s prayer, is the national theme.
Local events are scheduled in every state today in advance of the National Day of Prayer Task Force official service from 7:30–9 p.m. Eastern Time at National Statuary Hall, offered through livestream and Direct TV, said Dion Elmore, the task force’s chief communications officer.
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines called Christians to prayer and offered “A Prayer for America” available in today’s Baptist Press.
“As Southern Baptists, we believe that we should pray and ask God to bless our nation and its leaders,” Gaines said in introducing his prayer. “We should pray for our leaders and for every citizen of our nation, asking the Lord to forgive our sins and to guide us in His will in the future. We should also confess the sins of our nation and beseech the Lord to be merciful and gracious to every person in our country.”
Gaines, senior pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., also scheduled a midday prayer event at his pastorate today.
Anne Graham Lotz will deliver the keynote address in Washington as this year’s event chairperson.
“All of us can agree that our nation needs healing, and God promises to do so, but on the condition that we pray humbly, seek His face and turn from our own sin,” Graham Lotz said in a recorded invitation on the event’s website. “Will America be healed? We won’t know until we join together and pray. So please, join me in prayer on behalf of America. Invite others to join us.”
Others on the program for the evening event include Ronnie Floyd, SBC immediate past president and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas; event co-sponsors U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas); U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black; National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, and vocal artist Wintley Phipps.
Previously held during morning hours, the evening event will potentially draw a larger livestream and Direct TV audience than ever, Elmore told BP.
“I’m anticipating it’s going to be much greater than we’ve ever had in the past,” Elmore said. “In the past we’ve had over 500,000, but that’s been during the morning time, 9 a.m.–noon for a three-hour program.
“Being that it’s only an hour and a half and it’s prime time, it could be double to triple that,” he said. “We’ll know how many people have watched it livestream, but then the Direct-TV gets out a lot farther through cable.”
Local events in the neighborhood of 45,000 are also an educated estimate, Elmore said. While many local events are listed on the task force website through self-registration; many are not.
“We have a lot of churches and a lot of volunteers out there that never put their events on the website,” Elmore said. “We estimate between 45,000 and 50,000 events across the nation, and that’s everything from church auditoriums to city halls to state capitols.
“One of the things we have is over every state capitol we have this group called Prayer Flight,” Elmore said, “and they literally bring prayer warriors and they fly over state capitols and pray, for every single one in the nation. Then we’ve got thousands and thousands who just join together with their friends at work, or at home, or in the Public Square, and come together to pray.”
The task force hopes the event will achieve unity, Elmore said, causing people to use their religious liberty and “stand in the gap” for America and cry out to God for His namesake.
“What we hope to achieve is unified public prayer for America, that we would have the ability to unify and bring people together like no other day,” Elmore said. “It’s the only prayer day that exists, that we’re aware, that’s attached to a public law.”
Congress established the national event by a joint resolution in 1952 under President Harry S. Truman, amending the resolution in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan to set the annual event on the first Thursday in May. Every annual observance is accompanied by an official proclamation by the sitting president, this year President Donald Trump.
“By doing that, he rallies our nation,” Elmore said. “So we are rising up Believers in the God of the Bible, and we’re going to pray for our nation.”
Religious freedom is not common, Elmore said.
“We have the freedom in our nation to gather, to assemble and to pray publicly. Most nations in the world that are under persecutions wish they had that freedom. We have religious liberty.”