By Cathy Keim
Yesterday morning I attended the 6th Annual National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. The Midway Room was packed with about 500 guests, and the event was the usual mix of local dignitaries, pastors, and citizens. There was the Presentation of Colors by the Color Guard of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Sheriff Mike Lewis. The Salisbury Christian School Concert Band provided breakfast music and an assortment of local leaders led the invocation, prayers, Bible readings, and singing.
All in all, it was a pretty standard ecumenical religious event. However, I know that I felt a difference. Instead of taking it for granted that we were meeting with the general approval of the majority of the citizens in our county, I wondered how many of our fellow citizens would view the event with derision or suspicion? In fact, a fellow guest shared that he had heard some folks poking fun at the gathering.
It is not just my imagination that the public’s attitude towards Christians has shifted from acceptance to suspicion. Where politicians would once attend church (at least for public view), now there is no need for that.
I was speaking to a young man about a character reference for a job just last week. In the past, his pastor would have been petitioned for a letter, but now that might not be who you want to write your reference.
The guest speaker at the prayer breakfast was Randy Singer, a lawyer and pastor, from Virginia Beach. He addressed the change in our nation by comparing us to Rome in the time of Nero and the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment. Even those of us with public school educations know that Nero was one of the very worst Roman emperors. From that unflattering comparison, Mr. Singer assured us that while our country is in distress, we are not without hope.
People can endure much, but when hope is lost, people languish. Mr. Singer pointed to the lengthy difficulties under which Paul had suffered for years and yet this is what Paul wrote from prison in Philippians 1:3-8 (NIV):
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Christians in America, we are to have hope that whether we are in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, we all share in God’s grace with the Apostle Paul. I do not know how many more public meetings of Christians will be endorsed by our elected leaders. The need for Christians to stand firm on multiple principles such as marriage, gender, pro-life, assisted suicide, and freedom of speech, just to name a few, will be put to the test if you have escaped thus far.
Just stating the Biblical truth that marriage is between a man and a woman can jeopardize your employment. Countless companies and organizations are coercing employees to submit to seminars to prevent “discrimination.” If somebody objects, then they are forced to take more courses or be fired. We can lament the change in our country and feel discouraged, or we can emulate the Apostle Paul and look to our Lord Jesus Christ with hope that we are living exactly in the time that God intended and that He will see us through the murky path ahead.
Yes, America has changed and many of us would say not for the better, but we are to share the hope that is within us, not to obsess on the decline of the nation that we love.
Where once the civil religion and Christianity were viewed as the almost the same thing, now Christianity is portrayed as repressive, old-fashioned, boring, or worse. The materialists, atheists, and progressives do not need to wrap themselves in a civil religion to gain acceptance. We are in a new time and place in our country or so the materialists, atheists, and progressives would say.
However, God gave this promise to King Solomon in ancient Israel because He knows that proud men will overreach and when they do this is what must be done:
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.
II Chronicles 7:14
Christians, continue to pray, work, and engage in your community, not with fear or a sense of loss for what was, but with the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are living right where we are meant to be.
I’m a few days later than I would like to be with this post, but there’s still time to act. As the organizing committee writes:
Please join us for the 5th annual “National Day of Prayer” Breakfast. For over 80 years, Christians have carried on this tradition of fellowship and goodwill across the country as witness to the importance of spiritual values to this great nation.
Prayer breakfasts richly reward the spiritual growth of communities. They give us the opportunity to fellowship and share our faith in the Living God, to worship and rejoice in a spirit of unity at the breakfast hour.
Come on Thursday, May 7th to observe the National Day of Prayer, let us give praise to God and seek His guidance in our daily lives and in the development of our communities on Delmarva.
The organizing committee has to be excited and pleased, though, about the speaker they secured.
Nationally-acclaimed writer and commentator Fred Barnes is co-founder and executive editor of The Weekly Standard. He has been senior editor and White House correspondent for The New Republic, covered national affairs for the Washington Star and Baltimore Sun, written for the American Spectator, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Spectator, The Public Interest, Policy Review, London’s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, and hosted or appeared on TV programs Beltway Boys, Special Report with Bret Baier, The McLaughlin Group, Fox News Sunday, CBS This Morning, Nightline, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, News Hour with Jim Lehrer and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
More importantly, when Fred and his wife Barbara asked Jesus into their lives in 1980, he says, “Our lives changed dramatically – for the better. It had taken a decade for us to reach this point, a decade of reading, prayer, and meeting many Christians. We saw what Christ had done in the lives of believers. We wanted to live as they did, seeking to emulate Christ. Our faith supports us. We’ve learned a lot about forgiveness and prayer and being servants. I’ve enjoyed writing and television enormously, but they are secondary to family and faith in Christ.”
Fred graduated from the University of Virginia and was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. He and Barbara have four children, nine grandchildren, and attend Christ the King Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
Barnes is perhaps the most noteworthy speaker the event has secured in its half-decade, so it’s well worth the $20 if you can make it – be advised it’s not an event for the night owls as the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center doors open at 6:30 in the morning.
Tickets can be secured at the Country House in Salisbury, or by mail – however, the deadline is coming up quickly as it is May 1. (Hence my chagrin at taking so long to post it.) The mailing address is Salisbury Area Prayer Breakfast Committee, P.O. Box 521, Salisbury, MD 21803, and checks should be made payable to the Salisbury Area Prayer Breakfast Committee.
I would expect there to be a packed house in the Midway Room, which seats up to 600 people.
It’s not often that the worlds of religion and politics intersect in a positive way these days, so this may be an event worth attending.