June 18, 2013 is a very special date for me. It was the day that I had the unique opportunity to pray at Congress. In front of the chamber with television lights radiating downward, I was given the awesome privilege to offer prayer at the beginning of that day’s session of the United States House of Representatives. Because of living in a constitutional republic which guarantees its citizens the right to the free exercise of religion, I prayed asking God’s blessings upon its people, its government and its military. I also prayed that as a nation we would repent, and turn back to the Lord following the Scriptural words of Joel, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. As a pastor in Culpeper I have had numerous opportunities to pray at public gatherings in this community. Whether it’s before the meetings of the County Board of Supervisors, Human Services Board, National Cemetery remembrances and funerals, National Day of Prayer activities, or even Culpeper Medical Center events where the plaque in the front lobby of the building clearly expresses that the hospital was dedicated to the Glory of God, I have prayed. And it is my sincere hope that one day I will be offered the invitation to pray at the beginning of the Culpeper County School Board Meetings asking God’s blessings, protection and safety upon the students, faculty, staff and administration.
Prayer is a good thing. I realize that there are some who do not practice it or believe in its effectiveness. I realize that that are some who only think it should be done privately. I realize that there are some who are afraid of praying thinking that they are doing it the “wrong way.” But I’m here to tell you that prayer is a wonderful, free, gift of God. It can be done anytime or anywhere, as we are guaranteed that the Lord will hear and respond to our petitions. In fact, Holy Scripture is filled with numerous examples of prayer. We’re told that Jesus frequently went away to a private place to pray. In the Gospel of Luke Christ himself provides us with the framework of the Lord’s Prayer. And the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
When we pray we gain strength, encouragement, and the knowledge that Jesus is with us and helping us in our hour of need and trial. When I was a seminary student years ago in my training to become a pastor my new wife and I had little money to live. So little, that we didn’t know how we were going to eat and pay our bills. So, we prayed. Then one day, out of the blue, this letter came to our apartment with a check. And here is what the note said. “I’m not sure why, but I felt that I needed to send this money for you today.” Answered prayer! Through prayer, I’ve seen people healed. Through prayer, I’ve seen people delivered from darkness. And through prayer, I’ve seen people gain hope and meaning for their lives.
Even though we may live in a world that scoffs at the notion of power in prayer, please do it! If you meet someone in public and they have a need, pray for them right there. If you’re on the phone and someone is struggling, pray for them right there. If you’re online and someone needs direction and comfort, instant message them and pray for them right there. Let us not be inhibited to pray for our governmental institutions, leaders, and other situations, because when we pray, things will happen through the grace of the living God in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As Holy Scripture compels us in II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”