By Diana Chandler
NASHVILLE — Multitudes prayed in thousands of venues on the 2018 National Day of Prayer, capped with a televised national prayer service scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern today (May 3) in the U.S. Capitol.
Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference President H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., will be a main speaker at the 67th annual observance in Washington. Former SBC president Ronnie Floyd is the 2018 National Day of Prayer (NDOP) president.
“We need a massive prayer movement that will lead us back to God and bring healing to our land,” Floyd has said of the event. “That is my great hope for this date set apart for prayer and national repentance.”
President Donald Trump marked NDOP by announcing a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative “to ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government.”
A chief adviser and support team of community and faith leaders will head the initiative, Trump said in his executive order, but did not release names of the new group. He charged advisers with recommending policy affecting faith groups, identifying faith and community-based partnerships to fight poverty, pointing out federal shortcomings in complying with religious liberty laws, and reducing the “burdens on the exercise of free religion.”
Trump announced the initiative at an 11 a.m. (Eastern) prayer gathering in the White House Rose Garden, flocked by prayers from leaders of various faiths.
Among local events, Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress addressed 200 Middle Tennessee pastors and public servants at a 7 a.m. prayer breakfast in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
“Never before in our history has there been a need for us to turn back to God in prayer as there is today,” Jeffress told Baptist Press at the event. “The global challenges we’re facing from without, the disunity of our country from within, and the spiritual hunger so many Americans are experiencing are all evidence of a need to turn back to God.”
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a FOX News contributor, preached on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthews 18:21-35.
“Nothing will inhibit our prayers, Jesus said, any more than refusing to forgive others,” Jeffress told BP. “Jesus said in Mark 11, if you are standing in the temple and praying, and you remember you have something against your neighbor, forgive. That’s the first thing to do.
“Unforgiveness is a barrier,” Jeffress said, “not only in our relationship with one another, but in our relationship with God.” The chapel of Jeffress’ 13,000-member Dallas church was open for prayer throughout the day, he told BP.
The event was a cooperative effort of Salem Media Group, the Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce, Nashville’s First Baptist Church and others, including the Men of Valor Prison Ministry.
In another Nashville event, about 100 residents attended a noon prayer service hosted by the SBC Executive Committee in Bennett Auditorium, co-sponsored by Operation Andrew and the YMCA. The prayer legacy of the late Billy Graham was showcased in the program that included prayers from local and state government, community and religious leaders.
Trump joins a long line of U.S. presidents to sign an NDOP proclamation for the observance preserved in law since 1952 and officially slated the first Thursday in May since 1988. “Prayer for America: Unity” is this year’s theme, based on Ephesians 4:3.
“Prayer, by which we affirm our dependence on God, has long been fundamental to our pursuit of freedom, peace, unity and prosperity,” Trump declared. “Prayer sustains us and brings us comfort, hope, peace, and strength. Therefore, we must cherish our spiritual foundation and uphold our legacy of faith.”
At this evening’s observance, Floyd will interview First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose congregation suffered a mass murder of 26 worshipers during a November 2017 Sunday service in the small Texas community. Going Beyond Ministries founder Priscilla Shirer, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez and other evangelical leaders will participate in the program.
In 2017, an estimated 2 million Americans observed the event in more than 30,000 events across all 50 states, Floyd said. The 2018 national service will be shown on the DayStar Television Network and nationaldayofprayer.org. Prayer resources are also available on the website.