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Prayer & Polarization

Amid societal polarization, American churches are dedicated July 7th to pray for the country.
Prayer & Polarization
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Polarization has been trending for a long time. Especially in politics, but also in education, religion, economics, race, and more.

Even suggesting a place in the lonely middle-of-the-road can spark accusations of compromise and capitulation. Like the North Pole and the South Pole, polarization is about opposites that never meet and can’t even see each other. When it’s summer in the northern Arctic, it’s winter in the southern Antarctic.

Introduce a big What If.

What if Christians could set aside the cultural categories and extremes of our generation to center on the faith we all share in Jesus Christ? What if we could do something that demonstrated our Christian hope more than popular despair? What if together we made Jesus the winner rather than seeking victories for our sides of the lines that are dividing so many?

The proposal straight out of Washington, D.C.: Pray Together Sunday. It wasn’t my idea, but I was there when a staff member of the National Association of Evangelicals who is trained as a lawyer proposed a very Christian and biblical antidote to divisive polarization. She suggested choosing a summer Sunday for churches across our nation to pray together for God’s blessing in America.

Good idea with lots of reasons to say no. Of course it’s a good idea for churches to pray. No true Christian should object, but it’s easy to come up with a quick list of why it won’t work:

  1. The idea is already taken. We already have a National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of every May.
  2. Prayer is already part of every weekend church service. Asking churches to pray is like asking dogs to bark — it’s what they already do.
  3. Getting lots of churches to do anything together is tough to coordinate. Most churches like to make their own decisions, do what they are already doing and value independence over cooperation.

But, what if it works? Start with yes instead of no:

  1. The National Day of Prayer is mostly about individuals praying rather than Sunday church praying. Multiple congregations praying together across traditions and geography on the same Sunday is an expression of the biblical Body of Christ.
  2. Joining our prayer voices in solidarity with other churches beyond our usual network is a powerful expansion of our usual Sunday intercession as a congregation (dogs barking may be common but different breeds barking together across America on the same day would be a news story!).
  3. It doesn’t take every Christian or every church to join in something for it to be spiritually significant and supernaturally powerful. Many churches have already proved it can be done since Pray Together Sunday was launched in July 2016.

Give it a try. Pray Together Sunday is scheduled for July 7, 2019. The date is part of the Independence Day holiday weekend — a good addition to celebrating our nation’s birthday; a date when most churches have space for an extra prayer in the order of worship—and probably not a high attendance weekend except in resort areas.

Propose to your pastor or church board that your church join Pray Together Sunday on July 7th. (Basic information and invitation is available at NAE.net/praytogether.)

Sign-up, simple and free, at NAE.net/praytogether to indicate that your church is in with others and not just an independent prayer site. (Sign-up is not required but good to do.)

Use free materials. Also simple and free: bulletin inserts, wording for church screens or printed bulletins.

Include time in the July 7 church service for one person or several persons to pray around the theme “Love God. Love Others.” Tell everyone that your congregation is joining in a special national prayer time with other churches across America.

WWJT = “What Would Jesus Think?” What would Jesus think of each of our churches praying for America at the same time in his name? What would Jesus think of our solidarity in obeying his command to love God and love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-38)? I believe Jesus would like it.

Leith Anderson is head of the National Association of Evangelicals.

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