God is troubling this country to grab the attention of Americans, Tony Evans told participants May 5 in a National Day of Prayer event in Washington, D.C.
Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, was the keynote speaker at the Capitol Hill observance, which was one of tens of thousands of such events across the country. This year’s National Day of Prayer (NDP) was the 65th since the federal government first recognized the occasion.
Ronnie Floyd, Southern Baptist Convention president, attended the Washington, D.C., event and cited the importance of prayer in a message. “On this National Day of Prayer, we need to remember, there is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that has not first been preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people,” he posted on Instagram.
The United States is experiencing societal distress not unlike that reported in 2 Chronicles 15:6, which says God “troubled them with every kind of distress,” said Evans, this year’s honorary NDP chairman.
“[W]hat you and I are seeing in America is what happens when a culture disregards God,” Evans told the audience. “We want God in the vicinity. We want him for invocations; we want him for benedictions, as long as He stays away from the meetings in between.”
When God is dismissed, Evans said, “that creates a vacuum for the viruses of evil to proliferate.”
“So what God has actually done is to allow America to become distressed,” he said. “Because He’s been pushed to the side, He’s allowed the vacuum of evil to proliferate so that He can get our undivided attention. And when He gets that undivided attention, we will cry out and scream out and declare Him at a level He wants to hear it at.
“It’s time now to declare through our prayer and its accompanying action our declaration of dependence.”
Evans urged Christians to be “visible, verbal followers of Jesus Christ,” saying it is “not a time for secret agent Christianity.”
In his National Day of Prayer proclamation issued the day before the observance, President Barack Obama called for Americans to rededicate themselves to the advancement of religious liberty.
Acknowledging this country “was founded on the idea of religious freedom,” Obama said the United States “will continue to stand up for those around the world who are subject to fear or violence because of their religion or beliefs.”
“As a Nation free to practice our faith as we choose, we must remember those around the world who are not afforded this freedom, and we must recommit to building a society where all can enjoy this liberty and live their lives in peace and dignity,” the president said in his proclamation.
At the Washington observance, it was announced Shirley Dobson is stepping down as chairman of the NDP Task Force after 25 years. The wife of author and radio show host James Dobson will become chairman emeritus, and Anne Graham Lotz will succeed her as chairman. Lotz will continue to lead AnGeL Ministries.
This year’s NDP theme, established by the task force, was “Wake Up America.” The Bible verse for this year’s observance was Isaiah 58:1a: “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.”
National Day of Prayer has been held each year since Congress approved a resolution in 1952 calling on the president to establish such an annual event. President Truman inaugurated the observance the same year, and presidents since then have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law to set the first Thursday of May for the observance.
The NDP Task Force is a privately funded group that says the observance is for people of all faiths to participate in but the events it organizes are fulfilled “in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs.”
In years past, NDP observances have been held in as many as 40,000 or more locations.
Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation may be accessed online at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/04/ presidential-proclamation-national-day-prayer-2016.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)