“I just wanted to let you know that I will be praying for you.”

What amazing threads of strength and comfort are woven into the tapestry of these few simple words! Prayer does amazing things for the one who offers it, and for the one for whom it is offered. Recent medical research notices the benefits of prayer.

Healthline.com notes “prayer can improve a person’s mental health, such a reducing anxiety and stress.” The article continues by mentioning it can translate into better physiological functioning, like lowering blood pressure and improving immune health.

The article doesn’t even address God answering prayers. While prayer impacts the individual, communicating with God can do similar things for a nation.

The National Day of Prayer will be offered to God this coming Thursday, May 6th. Signed into law in 1952, the legislation sets aside a day when people of all faiths are asked to pray for the nation of the United States. The law reads, “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

While the process was formalized into law by President Harry S. Truman, the practice of praying for the nation grows deep within our roots. In the New England colonies, even while still under British rule, traditional observances in late fall called for prayer and thanksgiving, while formal moments in the spring or summer expected prayer and fasting. President Lincoln formalized the fall observance as Thanksgiving in 1863.

Many churches in our area participate in the celebration through activities and announcements for prayer to their members. Some churches will have special ceremonies, others will open the church building for members to come in and pray. The Salvation Army traditionally holds a community gathering, having leaders from a variety of backgrounds publicly pray on behalf of the people in Southern Indiana.

The community is invited to attend the prayer service at noon on Thursday, May 6th. The program lasts about 40 minutes and will be in the gym of the Salvation Army of Southern Indiana at the facility on Green Valley Road in New Albany.

The event normally attracts 150 to 200 people. The setting will be socially-distanced and masks will be required. Last year, the prayer service was virtual because of the pandemic. Meeting in person will be a highlight of the event.

The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer is “Lord, Pour Out Your Love, Life and Liberty.” Prayers will be offered by a variety of community and church leaders and will touch upon prayers for churches, media, non-profits, business, health care, arts, education, social services, military and the government.

Do you struggle with knowing what to say and how to say it in your prayers? Many times we feel that we are not very prepared and the prayers are not worded well. Here are a couple of principles that might help.

First, remember the prayer of a righteous individual accomplishes much. When I was young, I thought that meant God listened more closely to Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. But none of us are righteous, not one. We are declared righteous through our faith. God listens to the prayers of His people. That accomplishes much!

Second, pray with sincerity. The words we choose to use — whether they are flowing or awkward — does not matter. Speak from the heart, in the language and style that you use. Share with God what is on your heart. Listen with your heart to what God has said and is saying.

Third, pray expecting an answer. We tend to think that God is not listening if we don’t see an answer in front of us quickly. God never says, “We’ll see” or “Maybe later.” He might say, “No.” Sometimes He says, “In a year” or “In a decade.” There are even times when He says, “Not until you get home.” But He always listens and He always answers.

Finally, realize that God already knows. Did you ever have to talk to your parents — confess a mistake or ask for large favor — and struggle with how and when to ask, only to find out that your parents already knew the circumstance before you talked to them? God knows our needs, and understands that our biggest need is for forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.

Not everyone will be able to attend Thursday’s prayer event in person. Many of us do not have 40 minutes to spare and drive to New Albany at lunchtime. But most of us can pause at noon and join in prayer. Would you commit right now to do so? Mark it on your calendar. Get a notification from your cell phone. Have Alexis yell at you when it’s time.

Attend the service at the Salvation Army if you can. Pause to pray where you are at noon regardless.

Lift your hands — literally or figuratively. Bow your knee. Pray for as long as your spirit and your schedule will allow. A minute, five, or 40. Pray for what you know and for whom you love. Ask for, and expect, God to work — in mysterious ways, for the good for those who love Him, and far beyond what we can even hope or imagine.

We have seen several times over the last year, the effects — both good and bad — that can happen when large groups of people get together. Isn’t it time that the nation witnessed what will happen when God’s people virtually join hands, humbly honoring God, and petition for His blessing?

Tom May is a freelance writer who has held paid and volunteer ministry positions at several churches in the tri-state area. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com.

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