Christian Leaders Say National Day of Prayer is Not About Politics

( [email protected] ) May 06, 2004 10:18 AM EDT

AMESBURY, MASS. – Across America, people will join in prayers in observance of the National Day of Prayer but at the same time, the organizers of the events are rather taking a careful step to prevent any misunderstandings of the day as a political propaganda.

"Prayer is language that is nonthreatening across those boundary lines of left, middle, and right," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. "I see it as an instrument of pausing to reflect on the level of violence we inflict on each other. My hope is that by stopping to pray, all of us - especially those in the religious middle - will open our hearts to rethink how we can use our superpower status with humility."

The Rev. Michael John of Market Street Baptist Church, who will be leading prayer event in Amesbury, Mass. said he would choose his words carefully during the event. "There are some matters where Scriptures demand a certain position," John said. "On those, I'll feel bold to pray. But I would be careful about policy in Iraq. I'm praying on behalf of the group." He is a supporter of Iraq war for the sake of freedom, however he won’t pray for victory since some in the crowd might regard the war as sin. His focus of prayer would be on the two top social issues that most Christians are supportive of, for prohibiting abortion and gay marriage.

He also mentioned that it is important to clarify moral importance of the event in order to prevent any problems since a religious gathering is being promoted publicly through out the nation.

"We're praying not only for the troops' safety but for success of their mission in spreading liberty in the world," said Mark Fried, spokesman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force, addressing the issue of political endorsement. "Since President Bush is in leadership, we're praying that his cause will be successful."

"It's not a time to be political," says Tressa Shaw, who serves as a missionary in W. Va., said in defense of the National Day of Prayer, "It's a time to lift up your heart. Prayer is seeing the face of God - His will, not mine. It's saying, 'Lord, change my heart.' "

Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, said that prayer is essential to lead to the best public policy, for the better of community.

"Prayer is really about the heart, and political life is about thinking and hard choices," he said, "That's why it's better not to mix these two."

Going over the events taking place and which has already taken place in May, prayers are involved in some of the high-profile gatherings at the national level. On May 1, more than 20,000 evangelical Christians gathered at Safeco Field in Seattle led by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, to pray for resistance to gay marriages. On May 27, right before the Memorial Day weekend, as many as 50 cities will hold simultaneous services to pray not only for veterans and troops but also for "victims of this war among the Iraqi people and their families," Edgar said.