This Thursday, May 6th, marks seven decades of American Presidents, by law, calling for a day of prayer for our nation. You can join us in Tallahassee at the Historic Florida Capitol. Though this year marks 70 years of a federal proclamation, the history of a national day of prayer goes back closer to 400 years.
In 1621, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated. It was known as the National Day of Praise and Thanksgiving, a cultural fall feast focusing on giving thanks to God. Can you guess the sister holiday that occurs in the spring?
If you guessed the sister holiday is what we now call the National Day of Prayer (observed the first Thursday of May), then you’re correct!
Historically, the national day of prayer and fasting was observed in the spring, and the national day of praise and Thanksgiving (later known as Thanksgiving) in the fall. 1
Abraham Lincoln said in a proclamation in 1863,
“We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. […] It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”2
Bookmark this page and come back to it daily as a prayer and verse-memorization tool. The best way to overcome fear is to fill your mind and heart with the truths found in the Word of God.
“You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22 (NKJV)
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 (NIV)
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2 (NIV)
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NKJV)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” Psalm 46:12 (NKJV)
Apostolic Lessons on Waiting
The apostles self-isolated between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost. You can steward your time in quarantine as they stewarded their time in the upper room.
“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.” 
Do you recognize these words? They come from one of my three-year-old son’s favorite books: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. Even if the words are not familiar, perhaps the sentiment is.
In fact, maybe the sentiment is all too real at the moment. I don’t need to tell you that right now, it seems like the whole world is “the waiting place.” Waiting for a new vaccine and waiting to leave quarantine and to see our friends and to get un-slumped and to hear “All-clear!” from Donald Trump. Everyone is just waiting.
But in truth, “the waiting place” is not a “most useless place.” The Bible is filled with passages about intentional, purposeful, productive waiting. “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart…” (Psalm 27:14). “…But those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:9). “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Finding Jesus in Firstfruits and Pentecost
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
When Jesus spoke these words in John 12:23-24, He was foretelling His own death. Even on the surface, His metaphor is rich with meaning: like a seed, He would be buried and produce a harvest of new life through His death. But His imagery goes far deeper than that. In fact, this quote hints at a divine mystery, a coded love-letter that God wrote to the Jewish people over 1,300 years before Jesus’ death so that they might more easily recognize their Messiah through two annual feasts: Early and Latter Firstfruits (AKA Pentecost). By examining these feasts and their contexts in the Jewish calendar, we can see that the first points to Jesus’ resurrection; that the second anticipates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2; and that both illuminate the loving brilliance of God’s plan to pursue and redeem people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
Slaying Anxiety, Resting in Peace
This is a guest post from staff member Jonathan Nicholson. These guest posts are a part of a series of encouraging devotionals during this time of global disruption.
Everyone battles anxiety, but the Bible offers a clear strategy for victory. This article explores that strategy as it appears in Philippians 4:6-8.
“Where’s Paul?” I asked Luis. Luis hadn’t seen him. No one had since we’d returned from Barrio Nuevo, smeared with dirt and drenched in sweat, nearly an hour before. I had only been staying with Paul in the ministry center for about a week, but I already knew it wasn’t like him to just wander off. Luis began searching the village while I stayed home in case Paul turned up. Time passed. He didn’t. The sun began to set. Still no Paul.
It was July 17, 2012, a significant day for two reasons. First, it was the day we and a team of American high schoolers began construction on a small plot of dust and scrub on the outskirts of Barrio Nuevo. We spent the afternoon digging, carrying cement blocks, hauling wheel-less wheelbarrow loads of sand and cement, and setting up what would become an art piece in the center of a new park, a gift to the village.
Becoming rooted in the unchanging hope of Christ
This is a guest post from a long-time friend in our community, Jeremy Sundin. These guest posts are a part of a series of encouraging devotionals during this time of global disruption.
If you’re like most people in the world right now, you’re going through a time that tests your faith and tempts you to give into fear of the foreboding clouds on the horizon. And yet, hard times are not unique to our present times. Even the early Christians lived through incredibly tumultuous times. The Bible offers us a model of how to position our lives in times like these.