Tomorrow, Christians from across Texas will gather in Houston’s Reliant Stadium for a day of prayer and fasting. Titled “The Response,” the event is hosted by Governor Rick Perry. The gathering has drawn both support and criticism.
Many of us are convinced that spiritual renewal is the greatest need of our day. As our nation wages war with radical Islam, we face growing economic challenges, historic drought, and other grave issues. More than ever we need to turn to the only true King of the Kingdom. His wisdom and power alone are sufficient for our problems.
Some are criticizing the event as a blurring of church-state separation, since it has been convened by a governmental leader rather than a church or minister. Others find fault with some of the groups who are helping stage the event. Some complain that all faiths are not represented at an event hosted by the governor of all Texans. And still others worry about the appearance of endorsing a political candidate or agenda.
I understand these concerns. At the same time, I wonder if so many would know of the event or attend if it were not sponsored by a leader of Gov. Perry’s stature. And I am grateful that thousands will gather to spend the day in fasting and prayer. I don’t think my assessment is unique.
President Washington, in his Farewell Address (September 19, 1796), stated that “virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” Thomas Jefferson agreed that “a nation must take measures to encourage its members along the paths of justice and morality.”
Across our history, prayer meetings and movements have often been instrumental in fostering moral and spiritual renewal. Theodore Frelinghausen’s prayer meetings, for example, contributed directly to the First Great Awakening; Jeremiah Lamphier’s noonday prayer meetings at Old North Dutch Church in New York City led to the Third Awakening (1858).
Such meetings have been inspired by God’s promise to his people: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will 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” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
None of us can truly know the mind and intentions of others. It seems to me that what matters most is not the motives of those who organize the event, but the hearts of those who attend. A speaking commitment will not allow me to be in Houston this weekend, but I will join the group in fasting and praying for our nation.
I welcome your thoughts. And I invite you to join me in asking our King for his grace and mercy on our nation. Is there a greater cause than this?