Abraham Lincoln was once asked which “side” God was on in the Civil War – which side held the righteous high ground. His response became famous: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
President Lincoln took a principled stand for freedom, but also took a lot of political heat for it. Resolving to go to war in itself must be an overwhelming decision. To take up arms against one’s own countrymen…unfathomable. “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go,” the sixteenth president said. “My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
In fact, Lincoln called for his fellow Americans to join him. He was following a great American tradition established in 1775 when the first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer. Years later, Congress established this annual prayer observance by joint resolution after which Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law in 1952. President Reagan, in 1988, signed a bill amending the law and designating the first Thursday in May each year as the National Day of Prayer.
Our nation has another great prayer tradition: the National Prayer Breakfast. The event, formerly known as the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, began in 1953. Every American President since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in this event.
Denton has followed this godly heritage as well. You will find Christians from all denominations gathering at the Courthouse on the Square on the first Thursday each May to pray for our President, our elected officials nationally, here in Texas, and here in Denton. We pray for our military, our teachers, our police and fire departments. We pray for God’s blessing on our businesses and churches and city. We ask God for his protection.
And on November 15 at UNT’s Gateway Center, Dentonites will come together for the Denton Prayer Breakfast. The purpose of this event is to support the community leaders, elected officials, school administrators, teachers, and the citizens of Denton.
The Denton Prayer Breakfast started sixteen years ago when there were 70,000 citizens in our fair burg. There are 140,000 now. The event is not clergy-driven, but is sponsored by the local Christian business community.
Modeled after the National Prayer Breakfast, the event has a keynote speaker that discusses how authentic Christian faith and excellence in business go hand-in-hand. This year our speaker will be Mary Kennedy Thompson, the COO of the Dwyer Group (a holding company for eleven service-based franchises). She’s a former Marine Captain and an award-winning business leader. Her leadership in the “Hiring Our Heroes” program led to the employment of more than 150,000 veterans and 5,000 more becoming small business owners.
When I started looking into these things, a 2011Gallup poll said that 70% of adult Americans across the political spectrum were dissatisfied with the moral climate of our country and 76% of them believed it was getting worse. The same poll released in January of this year shows they were right – now 72% of Americans aren’t happy about our country’s morality.
Many of us who show up for prayer on the courthouse lawn or for the Denton Prayer Breakfast would probably agree. But don’t misunderstand. These prayer meetings aren’t about policy or one political party over another. At the heart of our gathering is the idea given voice by President Lincoln generations before: Our nation is drifting away from God and we need to get back on His side.
The further we pull away from God, the more consequences we face – some of our own choosing, some unintended. The answer for our nation is moving back to God. And that’s the reason for prayer.
We pray for several reasons. First and foremost, prayer changes things – from hearts to minds to circumstances. Secondly, prayer makes us better people: better fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, students. Third, prayer makes us better citizens: more concerned for our neighbors, better stewards of our world and resources, better employers and employees. And finally, prayer makes our nation better.
So, together we will pray. We will join in unity – across denominational lines – to pray.
And, as Americans have for generations, we will appreciatively express our first amendment rights to freely express our religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of peaceable assembly. We’ll pray for you, too. We would love for you to join us.
For more information or to purchase tickets for your company, check out www.dentonprayerbreakfast.org.
“In His name the nations will put their hope (Matthew 12:21).”