Today (May 5), is the National Day of Prayer. On The National Day of Prayer Task Force website we learn that, "The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman...It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families." There is also a link on the main page of the NDP website to President Obama's official presidential decree calling on all Americans to pray for their country.
The Apostle Paul urges us to pray for our leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-6, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."
The Prophet Jeremiah (29:7), writing to the exiles in Babylon encouraged them to, "...seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
In the book of Job (12:23-25) we read, "He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a pathless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man."
Indeed the Biblical teachings to pray for our nation, her leaders, and to return to the Lord
|Ascension of the Lord|
God is voluminous in scope. It is particularly interesting this year that the call for a national day of prayer falls on the day of the "Ascension of the Lord"--the day when we are intentional to remember that the Lord Jesus physically ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Dr. Philip Ryken shares that the fact that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven means the forgiveness of sins is assured. Jesus is our advocate; our great high priest who pleads that the eternal Judge will have mercy on our sins. As our defense attorney he raises his wounded, nail pierced hands in the courts of heaven as the proof that the price of our guilt has been full paid. (Luke: Reformed Expository Commentary, 696. Also, see Hebrews 9:14) In the 1 Timothy quote above we read that there is only one mediator between God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.
That the Lord Jesus, fully human and fully God, has ascended to heaven means that humanity itself has now been elevated to the most exalted place of highest possible authority. Theologian Frances Turretin commented that, "the dust of earth now sits on the throne of heaven." Jesus has breached the chasm of sin and darkness brought about by the disobedience with our first parents, and furthermore, he is able to be with all people at all times through the sending/outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the world. Jesus is fully human, which means he is not omnipresent--he sits at the right hand of the Father--but through the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is actually able to be closer to the people of the world, desiring intimate relationships with them as he offers perfect prayer and perfect worship on their behalf to our Heavenly Father.
James Torrance writes, "The good news is that God comes to us in Jesus to stand in for us and bring to fulfillment his purposes of worship and communion. Jesus comes to be the priest of creation to do for us, men and women, what we failed to do, to offer to the Father the worship and the praise we failed to offer, to glorify God by a life of perfect love and obedience, to be the one true servant of the Lord...Jesus comes as our brother to be our great high priest, to carry on his loving heart the joys, the sorrows, the prayers, the conflicts of all his creatures, to reconcile all things to God, and to intercede for all nations as out eternal mediator and advocate. He comes to stand in for us in the presence of the Father, when in our failure and bewilderment we do not know how to pray as we ought to, or forget to pray altogether..." (Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, 14).
Romans 8:24ff proclaims,"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." This is good news for us today as we gather to pray for our city, state, nation, and world because we do not have the perfect words of intercession that God desires...and that's ok! God has provided through the sending of the Holy Spirit a means to lift our prayers through the Spirit's prayers, and present them to the Lord Jesus, our great high priest, who is mediating on our behalf with our Heavenly Father. It is Jesus who offers the perfect words, prayers, and worship that God the Father desires.
If the Lord Jesus had not bodily ascended to the right hand of our Father this would not be possible. He could not be our intercessor and the Spirit would be poured out onto/into the people of the world. Let us trust in God's loving Providence as we sincerely pour out our hearts to God to heal and protect our nation as we await the day of Jesus' bodily return to heal and recreate the world!
Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be all the glory!