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|An Invitation to Pray||
Since the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation in 1775, the call to prayer has resounded throughout our history. President Lincoln officially proclaimed of a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer" in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress and signed by President Truman declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May.
President and Mrs. Bush honored my wife, Betty, and me by inviting us to come to the White House for this year's National Day of Prayer. Though the invitation list includes many religious leaders, a number of invited guests would not be considered highly visible leaders. Instead, they typify the unseen, praying citizens in our country.
Some of those invited have expressed how honored they feel to be recognized and called from the highest office in our land, and consider it one of the highlights of their life. At the same time, it is important to grasp the fact that each of us has the greatest invitation possible from the highest position in the Universe. God Almighty, the most powerful force in existence, has invited us to come boldly into His presence through prayer.
Many people have asked me about the power of prayer. Does it make a difference when people come together and pray?
When water is concentrated through a turbine at a hydroelectric plant, it produces enough energy to light an entire city. In the same way, I believe concentrated prayer releases a supernatural force that can, in the truest and purest sense of the word, light up the world. Jesus Christ talked about our lives being a light that cannot be hidden. A positive witness in a dark world stands out as clearly as a city set on a hill.
I am grateful we have a president who firmly believes in the importance and power of prayer. I have had the privilege to pray with him on numerous occasions. I remember what he told me on one of these early occasions. I asked him, "Mr. President, how can I best help you?"
"The most important thing you, or anyone else, can do for me," President Bush answered, "is to pray."
I know he believes it. And I agree.
The president has said this to many people, both privately and publicly. Even as I write these words, I pray in my own heart that every single person who understands the need for faith in a Higher Power will come to understand the importance of prayer. On this particular day, I encourage you to pray for abiding peace, freedom and harmony of heart among all people. Pray that our nation will hold fast to the unshakable principles of a solid foundation.
May God help us understand that true peace only comes when individuals have peace within, because they have made peace with God and seek peace with all humanity. Liberty is far more than a social or political condition; it is a spiritual state of living. True freedom is the ability to do what we should, rather than the right to do what we want.
When we pray for harmony of heart, we are not forcing everyone to agree on every point, but for all to seek that which is right, best and meaningful. It is moving beyond our self-centeredness and focusing on the needs of others.
There is no question that prayer changes us, but it is also true that prayer moves God. He responds to our desires, pain and concerns. He cares about our cares, and we should pray that His concerns become our concerns.
God promises to hear our prayers. He says, "Call on me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things." He says, "If people will humble themselves and pray and repent, I will hear you, forgive you and heal your land."
America, and the rest of the world, desperately needs this. As we pray for freedom in the world and protection from the enemies who want to destroy us, we should also ask God to free us from those tendencies and practices that bind us.
We thank God for the capture of Al-Libbi, who was a top general for Osama bin-Laden and chief planner for the al-Qaeda network, and continue to believe that the enemies of freedom will be exposed, captured and brought to justice. At the same time, we should also realize there are terrorists in the spiritual realm seeking to destroy us. Greed, selfishness and an indifference toward the needs of others are examples of spiritual enemies that are just as damaging to our well-being as the terrorists.
Never doubt for one moment that God is interested in every area of your life. Nothing is insignificant to Him. The Bible illustrates this by saying God has numbered the hairs on your head. Our God cares about your hurts and the concerns in your life. Let's all ask God, the true difference maker, to make a difference not only in our world, but in our personal lives.
May God bless you as you join millions of others on this National Day of Prayer.