It was a National Day of Prayer unlike any other, and not for reasons we’ll ever want to repeat.
As President Donald Trump stepped to the podium on Thursday in the Rose Garden, almost his entire audience was virtual. The reason needn’t even be stated at this point. To a great extent, almost all of our national life takes place through a screen — including our prayer life.
We live with the constant fear of death. We no longer need to fear economic decimation; that’s already happened. We wonder what the future will bring.
On Thursday, the president’s message was clear: Yes, we’re suffering through an array of trials here on Earth the likes of which most of us have never experienced, but there’s a God in Heaven always willing to lead us through them.
“On this National Day of Prayer, America is engaged in a fierce battle against a very terrible disease. Throughout our history, in times of challenge, our people have always called upon the gift of faith, the blessing of belief, the power of prayer and the eternal glory of God,” the president began.
“I ask all Americans to join their voices and their hearts in spiritual union as we ask our Lord in Heaven for strength and solace, for courage and comfort, for hope and healing, for recovery and for renewal.”
There were prayers for “every family stricken with grief and devastated with a tragic loss” and for “the doctors, the nurses and first responders waging war against the invisible enemy.”
There were more than just prayers for these individuals, though. Brittany Akinsola, a nurse and pastor who worked with Samaritan’s Purse at their field hospital in New York City, who according to Trump “worked 13-hour shifts in the intensive care unit for weeks, praying for each patient while giving them the very best care,” also came up to the podium to speak.
She shared Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
“And the harvest that I’m believing for our country is one of restoration and hope. I am believing for healing in the name of Jesus, and I am believing that unity — that unity would thrive during this time,” she said.
Multi-faith prayers were offered. In closing, the Spirit of Faith Christian Center Choir sang “God Bless America.” It was a stirring end to a day made more solemn by the silence required by the crisis we’re experiencing.
Trump said that the pandemic needed to be put into the hands of the Lord: “In every age and in every generation, the prayers of our people and the faith of our families has willed us on to victory. No obstacle, no enemy and no danger can overcome the mighty spirit and soul of our nation,” he said.
“In every battle against poverty, against disease, against tyranny and evil, we have placed our loyalty in each other and our trust in God. And we have prevailed.
“We will continue to prevail. We will prevail again. We will vanquish the virus. We will defeat the enemy. We will not fail.”
In his proclamation to mark the National Day of Prayer, the president invoked 1 John 5:14, which says that when “we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
There are more passages we’d share given the current situation.
There’s 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
There’s Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
There’s Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
And there is the simple command of Romans 12:12: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
This, indeed, is all we can be during the coronavirus pandemic, the most virulent affliction the planet has faced in our lifetime.
Yet we must be joyful in our hope — our hope in him, in the promise of Heaven and the knowledge that our prayers are heard and that God will guide our hand upon this Earth, giving us a true, fulfilling, life-changing relationship with him.
Our fate is in his hands, and they are good. This, too, will pass from the planet.
“Today, as much as ever, our prayerful tradition continues as our Nation combats the coronavirus. During the past weeks and months, our heads have bowed at places outside of our typical houses of worship, whispering in silent solitude for God to renew our spirit and carry us through unforeseen and seemingly unbearable hardships,” the proclamation read.
“Even though we have been unable to gather together in fellowship with our church families, we are still connected through prayer and the calming reassurance that God will lead us through life’s many valleys. In the midst of these trying and unprecedented times, we are reminded that just as those before us turned to God in their darkest hours, so must we seek His wisdom, strength, and healing hand. We pray that He comforts those who have lost loved ones, heals those who are sick, strengthens those on the front lines, and reassures all Americans that through trust in Him, we can overcome all obstacles.
“May we never forget that prayer guides and empowers our Nation and that all things are possible with God,” it concluded.
“In times of prosperity, strife, peace, and war, Americans lean on His infinite love, grace, and understanding. Today, on this National Day of Prayer, let us come together and pray to the Almighty that through overcoming this coronavirus pandemic, we develop even greater faith in His divine providence.”
May we never forget, indeed.