Today, people prayed and sang across the nation as they observed the National Day of Prayer. The theme for this year, drawn from Isaiah 58:1, called for people to wake up and repent. Psalm 58 describes God as distressed by the hypocrisy of his worshipers. They pray and fast, then abuse and manipulate the weak and the poor in their society. God wonders why they think he will hear their prayer. He describes the type of prayer he wants to hear:
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am. ‘
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
As then, so today people pray, then spread slander and falsehood on their social media pages. They hit their spouses or cheat their customers, then sing songs of praise. On this day of prayer, we too need to repent and accompany our prayer with acts that reflect the love of God. Psalm 58’s words speak a relevant message for our times.
Military and civilian employees voluntarily gathered today for the Georgia Department of Defense’s observance of the National Day of Prayer. A military veteran and high school coach called on us to realize that God pours so much love into our lives. It is our responsibility to pour it out into the lives of others. I welcomed the attendees by reading from Isaiah 58:1-10 and concluded the service, after beautiful singing and prayers by Christian and Jewish chaplains, with this prayer:
God of justice and love,
Buildings and bridges decay, creating hiding places for criminals in abandoned buildings and risky crossings for travelers. People sleep on streets on cold nights, vulnerable to assault or theft. Children go hungry. We treat both very young and the elderly badly. Many scoff at standards of morality. As in the days of biblical judges, many believe that only standard of ethics should be that everyone does as he or she thinks right in their own eyes. We have made idols o people we call celebrities; we celebrate them even as many of them delight in shocking us by their behavior. We ourselves sometimes do not evaluate own actions by your will for humanity; we criticize, gossip, and slander. We treat people as less than human when they do not agree with us.
And now we pray. Will you hear our prayer? Will you accept our worship when we do not care for the poor or seek justice for the vulnerable members of our society? Open our eyes that we may see what you see; soften our hearts that we may feel what you feel. Help us to see how we may be faithful and effective messengers for you in caring for the helpless and the victims in our society. With some fear and nervousness, we pray that you will wake us up. Help us to see the hurting. Help us to realize that reality exists, that what is true may not be what we feel or believe. Give us the courage to realize our hypocrisy when we pray, then turn to abuse others. Give us the strength to repent and seek justice while showing mercy to the helpless. Cheer us on as we protect our children and our elderly. Make us your agents of reconciliation. We pray that we may be known as repairers of the breach and the restorer of streets. Wake us up…if it is not too late. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
May we pray, and act, the prayers that God will hear.