This Sunday, May 27, Christians from around the world will gather together to join hearts in a coordinated 24-hour prayer effort known as the Global Day of Prayer. Think “Hands Across America” or “Live Aid,” but without the superstar musical acts and celebrity front men.
Actually, the absence of a major marketing effort makes this event more remarkable than the hallmark charity shindigs of the 1980s as there will be large and small gatherings on all the populated continents raising petitions for peace and revival across the world. It’s more or less an organic effort, begun a few years ago in South Africa by a businessman concerned for the plight of his own country and the world. Here in the United States congregations across most Christian denominations will gather in various central locations to participate. My own church has taken the lead in New England coordinating the primary gathering in our six-state region.
I’ve previously conveyed my feelings about the Church’s involvement in the political arena, but this is a different thing altogether. This is precisely the sort of endeavor the evangelical Church should be doing to effect change. The Global Day of Prayer isn’t about a coordinated show-of-force meant to persuade politicians to Christian-endorsed action, but to make a sincere call to God for intervention in our individual nations and around the world where conflict, strife, famine, and corruption are making life difficult for all of His creation.
It’s getting pretty bad out there, if you haven’t noticed. Here in the U.S. we see the stories of war in Iraq, and that tends to be the dominant piece of bad news, but there’s plenty more to be concerned about. There is ongoing violence in places like the Darfur region of Sudan, between Israel and the Palestinians, our near forgotten action in Afghanistan, and a festering situation in the Philippines; there’s famine in places like the Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and North Korea; political unrest in Venezuela, China, Russia, and throughout Africa.
That’s just a taste of it.
Even here in the U.S., where vapid stories about the latest winner of American Idol and a fixation on celebrities both dead and alive would lead you to believe things are peachy keen, there are brewing social, political, and economic problems that have many Americans on edge. Sure, I’d rather wake up in Mattapan or East Los Angeles on their worst days than to face life on the streets of Baghdad, or the slums of Bombay, but that doesn’t mean our own poor are enjoying a picnic here in the Land of Promise.
Most of the world will pay little attention to the Global Day of Prayer. At this writing, a Google News search of the term returns a total of 57 hits, 15 of which are found in religiously focused sites and publications. That meager figure notwithstanding, millions will assemble throughout the day this weekend (Memorial Day weekend here in the States) to exercise their faith in quiet sincerity, unconcerned about cameras and microphones, concerned only that they have prepared their hearts, that their pleas will be heard, and that God will find favor.
My prayer for that day is that the evangelical community will recognize the sweetness in unity, and that the denominational differences that divide us as brothers and sisters in Christ will melt away. Certainly we will return to our usual places and houses of worship when it’s over, but the silly in-fighting over minor doctrinal issues that often results in bad feelings, envy and jealousy, and competition rather than cooperation need to be overcome.
We’ve got to get along with each other if we have any right to expect that we’re sincere in asking for help on behalf of others.