On September 1, after Hurricane Harvey decimated Houston and the south Texas coast, United States President Donald Trump declared September 3 a day of national prayer. He called on Americans “of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers … for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, including people who have lost family members or been injured, those who have lost homes or other property, and our first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and medical professionals leading the response and recovery efforts.”
As the president pointed out in his proclamation, national days of prayer have long been a tradition in America. They go all the way back to June 12, 1775, when the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of prayer following the battles of Lexington and Concord at the start of the American Revolutionary War. When faced with hardship and calamity, Americans have a history of coming together and crying out to God. And in many cases, undeniable miracles have followed.
When Sunday came, there was a religious showing across America. The president and his wife attended a church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Texas governor Greg Abbott also attended services at a church in Texas. He had already declared Sunday a day of prayer in Texas prior to President Trump’s national proclamation. Churches all over America held service for the victims, and untold thousands of Americans undoubtedly came together to pray.
However, it seems that instead of a miracle, America got another disaster.
On Wednesday morning, another hurricane, the biggest ever recorded in the Atlantic, plowed into the Caribbean, tracking straight toward Florida. Hurricane Irma caused massive devastation throughout the Caribbean. “Barbuda right now is literally a rubble,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda told an interviewer with abs tv/Radio Antigua. Americans in Florida are fleeing for safety.
The question must be asked: What did the National Day of Prayer accomplish? It seems clear that God did not answer those prayers to bless America. Certainly God has the power to change the path of the hurricane. Why wouldn’t He do so after all those prayers?
If you consider yourself a Christian, these are questions you need to be asking.
As President Trump quoted in his proclamation, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This is indeed a promise from God, straight from Psalm 46:1. So why isn’t He helping America?
A Republic of Miracles
America’s history shows that God has repeatedly been a very present help when the nation cried out to Him. You can track those miracles back to that first national day of prayer in 1775. The fledgling 13 colonies went on to win numerous miraculous victories over the better-trained and -equipped British Army through the course of the Revolutionary War. America truly was a republic of miracles.
The nation’s first president, George Washington, understood that. In his Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789, he stated, “[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.”
Washington understood that there was a Being who ruled the universe. He understood that God is the one who brings success to a nation.
There are other examples of God intervening after days of national prayer. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that the Union was on the verge of losing the war. He declared March 30, 1863, a day of national prayer. A few months later, the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg, turning the tide of the war. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 30 to be a day of prayer. World War i had been dragging on for years. A spring offensive by the Germans had come dangerously close to breaking the Allied lines. Russia had just quit the war, and German troops from the East were pouring into Western Europe. Paris was in danger of capture. But following the day of prayer, something miraculous occurred. The United States Marine Corps saw its first major engagement of the war at Belleau Wood. The battle lasted from June 1 to 26, immediately after the day of prayer. There the Americans won a stunning victory over the Germans. Alan Axelrod, author of Miracle at Belleau Wood: The Birth of the Modern U.S. Marine Corps, stated that while the Battle of Belleau Wood did not win the war, it prevented the Allies from losing it.
Similar miracles happened for Britain during World War ii. A day of prayer was called on May 26, 1940, for Britain. The British Expeditionary Force had met disaster in Europe during the early days of the war, and it found itself with its back to the sea. The jaws of Hitler’s war machine were closing in on the beaches of Dunkirk. It could have been a bloodbath for the British forces. Yet after the day of prayer, the miracle of Dunkirk happened. A storm rolled in to give the British cover from the German Luftwaffe; the English Channel calmed; the German general decided to halt his advance. All this just days after a day of prayer in Britain.
These are all miraculous examples of when God has intervened when the nation came together in prayer.
Why not this time? Why not in this situation?
A Stark Difference
If you compare Mr. Trump’s proclamation to every other proclamation of national prayer, there is one stark difference. It boils down, really, to one word: repentance.
In every one of these cases where God intervened, the leaders of America not only called on their citizens to pray and beseech God to intervene, but to fast and to repent of sin.
There was no mention of repentance of sin in Mr. Trump’s proclamation. To him, the nation is suffering “the consequences of this terrible storm.” To America’s forefathers, consequences like this would have been considered punishment for national sin.
June 12, 1775, was indeed the day that started the long tradition of national days of prayer in America, as President Trump stated. But it was more than just a day of prayer. The Continental Congress, under President John Hancock, declared:
Congress … considering the present critical, alarming and calamitous state … do earnestly recommend, that Thursday, the 12th of July next, be observed by the inhabitants of all the English colonies on this Continent, as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, that we may with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent and merciful disposer of all events, humbly beseeching Him to forgive our iniquities.
That is more than just praying for God to bless America. That is recognition that curses had set in because of sin.
When President Lincoln declared a day of national prayer, he recognized that God was cursing America because of the many sins of the land, including slavery. He too called on Americans to repent:
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
During World War i, while millions of men were going through the meat grinder of trench warfare, President Wilson declared similar sentiments:
I, Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, the 30th day of May, a day already freighted with sacred and stimulating memories, a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, and do exhort my fellow citizens of all faiths and creeds to assemble on that day in their several places of worship and there, as well as in their homes, to pray Almighty God that He may forgive our sins and shortcomings as a people and purify our hearts to see and love the truth, to accept and defend all things that are just and right, and to purpose only those righteous acts and judgments which are in conformity with His will.
When Britain’s army was on the brink of destruction on the beaches of Dunkirk, King George vi took to national radio calling on the British people not only to plead for divine help, but also for them to turn back to God in a spirit of repentance.
There was no such call in Mr. Trump’s proclamation. No mention for repentance of sin. No exhortation for the people of America to turn from their wicked ways. Just pray for the victims. After all, America is a “righteous people and a righteous public,” as he stated in his Inaugural Address.
Rather than telling Americans to turn back to God, he essentially told them to keep relying on themselves in the present crisis. He stated, “As Americans, we know that no challenge is too great for us to overcome.”
Is that the attitude God wants from a president when he declares a day of prayer? Will God answer the prayers of someone who says, God, please bless America, even though we don’t really need your help because there’s no challenge too great for us Americans to overcome?
As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry brought out in his Trumpet Brief from Wednesday, America has a show of religion, but it is twisting Scripture to distract from the real solutions that would end the tragedies we see all around us. He wrote:
One of the top leaders in the United States government has been active in recovery efforts. He stated how this land could be healed, and he quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14. One of my fellow ministers heard him and explained that this politician said if we humble ourselves and pray, God will heal our land. But he omitted the most critical part of that verse! …
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That is an absolute promise! Do you believe God?
But that American leader misquoted the verse. He left out the part about turning from our wicked ways.
Is that too strong for a politician to state? Do we have wicked ways we should turn from? If you understand the Bible, and what is happening in our nation today, you know that we do!
This has become the norm for America when it comes to talking about the Bible. People quote bits and pieces of Scripture to comfort themselves and give a sense of security, but fail to submit themselves to the plain but difficult solution the Bible gives to these many problems. Mr. Flurry continued,
In a crisis, people do begin to talk about seeking God. But they’re not getting deeply enough into the Word of God.
When you see such horrific problems like Hurricane Harvey, you have to ask yourself, Is God blessing America? We sing the song “God Bless America” all the time in this nation. But is God hearing our prayers? Is He healing our land? Or is it the opposite?
With Hurricane Irma causing such devastating destruction and bearing down on Florida, it should be clear that God isn’t hearing those prayers. That’s because we are not doing our part. As 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, God can heal America ifwe turn from our wicked ways. But will the nation heed?
The all-merciful God doesn’t want to bring calamity on mankind. Scripture shows that He desires man to prosper and be in health (3 John 2). But there is a penalty that comes from rejecting His law. As Mr. Flurry wrote, God is trying to wake us up! “He is telling us how to heal our land and avoid such horrors and curses!” he wrote. “But if we continue rejecting His Word, then there won’t be a good outcome.”
God’s message to this world is to repent of sin. Sin is the transgression of His just and holy law (1 John 3:4; Romans 7:12). The politicians of America may try to sugarcoat what the Bible says, but this is what God is trying to communicate. It is not an easy thing to admit we are wrong; in fact, it’s the hardest thing for any human to do. But it is the starting point to developing a relationship with God; to receiving the blessings of God; to having God as “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
While God might not respond to America’s national day of prayer, He will respond to individual, heartfelt prayers of repentance. He may already be responding to personal prayers from some of those who suffered the tragedy in Houston.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
If you want to know what repentance even is, be sure to request our free booklet Repentance Toward God. It will guide you down the path to having a real, dynamic, energetic relationship with God that will last forever.