Wednesday, May 06, 2009

National Day of Prayer: in which I disagree with Shirley Dobson and everyone

Perhaps you've heard by now that The Obama will not attend the National Day of Prayer service and breakfast. I think that's good. He should not attend, and he should not pray — unless it is a prayer of broken repentance, calling on the Lord to save him through and because of Jesus Christ alone.

Shirley Dobson differs. She is James Dobson's wife, and also is chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Committee. She says her group is "disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration," and further: "At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer."

Yeah, well, about that:

I disagree with most of what she's saying. First, the Obama administration should not be involved in prayer at all. Second, Obama himself should not pray.

Why? Well, I believe the Bible, in short. In long:
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination
(Proverbs 28:9)
"Abomination," it says. Something that — so far from pleasing God and bringing His blessing — repels, disgusts and offends God. Has Obama (and thus his administration) turned away his ear from hearing the law? Well, duh. Let's see:Enough, for starters?

But I'll go further. I oppose the National Day of Prayer, when it comes right down to it. Oh, I understand the argument: we should acknowledge God, and so forth. Okay, but — acknowledge "God," as a proper noun, generic? Like acknowledging "beer," but not naming a label?

Well, what use is that? Is it pleasing to God? Certainly not. When God says "God," He certainly never means "However you define that word." He always means "However I define that word."

Is prayer about making ourselves feel pious? Or is prayer about God?

And should our nation, as a nation, pray? No. Remember, Obama did not take office by coup. He was freely-elected. Abortion could be as easy to access as a Snickers bar, but that wouldn't make anyone have one. Professing Christians' knowledge of (and thus reverent obedience for) God is famously pathetic.

For us as a nation to pray, lifting up our bloody hands and asking God to pile yet more material blessings and protections on our openly defiant heads, is an atrocious insult to God.

So I'd say it's very clear that we, as a nation, have turned our ear away from listening to the law of God.

Now, if anyone wants to propose a National Day of Repentance, featuring coast-to-coast, red-hot Biblical Gospel preaching —

I'm there.


Kim from Hiraeth said...

Thank you, Dan. I agree wholeheartedly (so it's not really EVERYONE with whom you are disagreeing)

JackW said...

Agreed ... well said.

For the first time in my adult life I feel ashamed of my country.

Oh, wait ...

The Squirrel said...

Exactly right. Until and unless Obama cries out in confession and repentance for, and anguish over, his sinfulness and rebellion, attendance at a "Day of Prayer" event would just be another photo-op in a never-ending promotional tour.

The election of Obama and the current economic situation are indicative of God's righteous judgment on our land.


Aaron said...

I've never liked the National Day of Prayer. First of all, as a Christian, I should be praying everyday. My church regularly prays for government leaders. Why do I need a "national" day of prayer? Secondly, and more importantly, what business does a Christian have in praying with Catholics, Mormons, and Jews? The prayer breakfast is put on by Catholics and Bush use to invite Christians and Jews to give prayers.

Unknown said...

What more could we ask for? Instead of this sham, we need a move of God upon this hedonistic nation. We need clear Biblical preaching! We need the church to BE the church!

DJP said...

Amen, amen.

And JackW — thanks for the first laugh of the day!

Solameanie said...

Interesting. I am tempted to share this at our staff day of prayer tomorrow. Christians praying for their country is one thing, but the unregenerate participating? Excellent point and worth pondering.

I've been trying to get myself ginned up for this year's prayer day, but it's been difficult with all that's going on in this country. In fact, I'm in a state of high misirlou.

CR said...

I talk to a friend of mine who is not a Christian last night and we ended the call by him saying that he believes in God and that he doesn't go to church but he prays everyday.

I never got around to asking him (but will next time the subject comes up) what makes him think that the Lord will hear his prayers?

Haven't we encountered that so many times. I certainly did after my father's death. Oh, so many people saying, I will be praying for you. People who have a total and utter disregard for God. I didn't want to be rude. But I also didn't thank them their "prayers" or acknowledge them for their "prayers." I just wouldn't respond when they said, "I'll be praying for you." I remember when person when I didn't acknowledge or thank him for praying for me, and I just looked at him, he was like, "Really, I will be praying for you." And again, I just looked at him. It was definitely awkward for him.

But I think I will be confronting people in the nicest way I can when they say, "I will pray" and just ask them nicely and say, what makes you think that God will listen or answer your prayers? I think people should know that the Lord won't hear their prayers and considers them, in fact, disgusting when they disregard His law.

Al said...

May I recommend chapter one of Peter Leithart's Against Christianity

The Church of Jesus Christ is selling its birthright for a bowl of red stew and the bloody soup is coagulating on the surface.

al sends

Jay said...

CR: When I'm going through a rough time and a non-believer says they'll be praying for me, I usually just take that to mean they'll be "thinking of me" and say thanks anyway. After all, that's all they're going to be doing. Unless a prayer for me somehow morphs into a prayer for repentance halfway through, I know God isn't interested.

Of course, I would love to be a little fly on the wall and see how many times people--Christian or not--actually do pray after they say, "I'll be praying for you." Sometimes I feel we just use it as the appropriate response to a friend's suffering, without actually doing it. I'm certainly guilty of this.

Lee said...

Better yet...why not all you cry out in confession and fall to your knees and repent? You are just as much to blame for "God's righteous judgement" as someone like Obama. We ALL fall short of the kingdom. Not one of us is perfect. NOT ONE! If any of you think you are, then you are a hypocrite and your walk in Christ is false.
I agree with the person who says we should pray everyday instead of placing emphasis on a national day of prayer. But a national day of prayer is still a good thing and you SHOULD pray for all our leaders (including people like Obama who you consider your enemies), and while you are at it, pray for yourselves. If you can't do that, what good are you to the body of Christ?
A Sinner Saved By Grace.

DJP said...

CR, maybe I'm a squish, but I've said something like "I appreciate your sentiment" or "intent," or something like that.

DJP said...

Lee — thanks for making (evidently) your very first visit to this blog, and reading the first words you've ever read from my fingertips.

A suggestion: while you're welcome and encouraged to interact, often it's a great idea actually to get to know the people you're talking to, before throwing around commands and accusations. It's the wise thing to do (Proverbs 18:13).

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

You mean you don't want to pray with people praying to Papa and Sarayu? Curmudgeon.

DJP said...

I'm in touch with my inner curmudgeon.

RT said...

Excellent points, DJP, as usual. Marrying Christian practices to political and governmental institutions seems to lead ineluctably to distortion and degradation of the tenets of Christianity rather than the improvement of government. I doubt, of course, that the rejection of the Day of Prayer by the current administration is motivated by a desire to protect the integrity of Christian prayer, but the result is nonetheless positive. The sooner we divest ourselves of the notion that we are, as a nation, God's chosen people the sooner we can, as individuals, come to grips with our need for repentance and renewal.

DJP said...

Welcome back, RT! I have missed you!

sem said...

We've finally found the one thing he won't pretend to support. Always better to have it out in the open and know exactly where somebody stands because God love 'em, there are actually still professing Christians that support him. The less ambiguity to hide behind, the better.

DJP said...

Although the spin-line is he has this fervent, regular daily prayer-life. Ah, but to whom?

The Audacity of Praying in an Echo Chamber, by B. Obama

Lee said...

Well Dan, thanks for your commands and accusations, but I've already stated I'm a sinner saved by grace. I'm aware I'm not perfect, but thanks for trying to point that out.
I'm aware of the dirt in my eye, and I can see the big pile in yours that you obviously can't. I'll forgive you though, and I'll be praying for you & me both.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CR said...

Jay and DJP,

I appreciate your input. I still won't thank or acknowledge anything. I had one nonbeliever respond by saying, you know Carlo, you may find this hard to believe, but I do pray everyday. If I say thanks anyway, and take it they mean just thinking of me, well, the fact is, some actually think they can and do pray.

If they want to say, they are "thinking of me", then they should just say it, and I would thanked them. Or they could say something that one person said when my dad was ill, they said, "Be Strong." I said, I would and thank them.

But I'm just not going to give them a false impression that they think they can enter the Holy of Holies (that's what we do when we pray). But that's just me.

RT said...

Personally I could overlook the dirt if it were only in your eye. The problem is that you seem intent upon flinging it about - and in someone else's "home" no less!

sem said...

I regularly look to myself for daily guidance. Is that wrong? *snark*

Regarding his prayer life... If I bang on piano keys randomly for a few minutes everyday, does that mean when asked if I play an instrument, I can confidently state that I play the piano daily?

Patrick Eaks said...

Thanks for this timely post. It was straight and to the point. I often wonder how some can be so comfortable praying with those who have no true witness of salvation in their lives. When people get involved in the national day of prayer, (there is such a hodgepodge of non biblical Christian religions involved, including those who confess Jesus with their mouths yet they deny him in their hearts), they can be in danger of becoming guilty through association.

CR said...


I suggest you read this before throwing anymore accusations. We, including Dan, do pray for President Obama. What Dan is saying is that as a nation, we cannot have a national day of prayer if there is no national repentance or genuinue revival.

CR said...


I suggest you read this before throwing anymore accusations. We, including Dan, do pray for President Obama. What Dan is saying is that as a nation, we cannot have a national day of prayer if there is no national repentance or genuine revival.

(corrected misspellings)

David said...

Dan, you can add me to the list of people with whom you are not disagreeing. I hate this American cultural Christianity, and I'm glad to see it (apparently) dying. Why are so many Christians intent on getting unbelievers to pretend belief?

NoLongerBlind said...

Hey Lee

Instead of barging in and slinging judgmental accusations, if you have some edifying reproofs or points of disagreement with regards to the post, or perhaps comments in the meta, I'm quite sure that most (if not all) of the frequenters of this here corner of the blogosphere, and our wise and humble host, would be happy and blessed to dialog with you.

As it is, thus far anyways, you seem to be talking AT us rather than with us.

Show some grace and humility, and you'll find us to be a forgiving bunch who, first and foremost, love the Lord Jesus Christ, and are firmly grounded in His Truth.

In HIS service,


beachbirdie said...

Your words are deeply refreshing! I've always felt this way about the National Day of Prayer but never had (never looked for) Biblical support for my feelings.

Thank you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

CR: "I talk to a friend of mine who is not a Christian last night and we ended the call by him saying that he believes in God and that he doesn't go to church but he prays everyday.

I never got around to asking him (but will next time the subject comes up) what makes him think that the Lord will hear his prayers?"

I totally resonate with you, CR. My older brother does the same thing. He doesn't go to church, but says that he prays regularly.

Here's the thing, though. If you share with people that you wonder if God hears their prayers...

they will likely become offended. And they will think that you are one of those judgmental, Pharasaic, unloving, holier-than-thou, fundamentalist Christians.

It is almost completely out of their conceptual realm that you might be trying to lovingly help them.

I.e., prognosis of a backlash or a backfire when you inform another person that their prayers might not be heard by God.

LeeC said...

The National Day of Prayer was concieved out of several wrong views of prayer anyways.

Most people I know that participate in it seem to think like shaman. "If enough of us get together and pray fervently enough we can bend Gods will to our purposes." They would deny this if asked, but thats realy the theology behind them when I probe.

Prayer is the means by which God changes US, not visa versa.

And yes, I am all for segregation of sheep from goats when it comes to worship. To make a non-christian feel warm and cozy "Worshipping" and praying with christians is lulling them into a false sense of security that they should not have.

It's like finding someone who is bleeding aterially and giving them morphine and telling them it's OK now. They feel good and see no need to get stitched up. Afterall they feel fine, and you said they are ok right? Until they bleed out at least.

I could say more, but I wont.

Mike Westfall said...

I wonder if Pfather Pfleger is going to participate in the national Day of Prayer? He's one of #44's buddies, right?

Kristine said...


trogdor said...

I kid you not, the unfinished post I started on yesterday is about the absurdity of interfaith prayer services. Had I any inkling the national day of 'prayer' was upon us, I woulda found a way to finish it last night, so you couldn't claim I'm stealing from you.

Which is to say, I agree wholeheartedly. The whole concept is ridiculous, and I have no less of a problem with The Obama blowing it off than I would have if he'd participated.

Rachael Starke said...

I occasionally listen to Focus on the Family on my way home from taking the kids to school (not sure why, as I usually end up internally yelling more at it than I do at the bad drivers around me).

This morning they broadcast the taped prayers of people who had called in from all fifty states, and invited everyone to pray along.

It was awful. Truly. They were almost exclusively about God helping us return to our Christian roots and values and restoring our economy and marriages.

No repentance. No cross. No heaven.

And these are, supposedly, Christians. Because they, y'know, listen to Focus on the Family.

(Caveat - my morning drive is only about ten minutes, so I didin't hear it all. Mercifully.)

I'm thankful that other corners of Focus' ministry seem to be maturing or turning in a more orthodox direction.

But I really think that they have been one of the biggest perpetrators of the "generic God delusion" you describe.

We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

Aaron said...


I know its very tempting to tell somebody you'll pray for them and then forget. That is why I generally don't say it. And if I do, I try to pray immediately thereafter. You simply cannot have a thirty page list of people to pray for, at least in anything but a very generic way.

CR, I'm in your same boat. I generally don't say anything and I feel guilty over even remaining silent. I have been tempted to often tell them, "please don't because you're on your way to hell and so you might as well be praying to a golden toaster for as much good as it will do." My better judgement keep me from it until I can find something a little less sharp to say.

Lee: The national day of prayer. First the national day of prayer was created by the government in the 1950s. I haven't read the stated purpose. There seems to be a confluence of a bunch of beliefs and issues that cause support for this. Some people may think that they can bend God to their desires but I really do give Shirley Dobson more credit than that. However, there does seem to be this belief that we should fight the tide of rabid athiests by actively countering with increasing public Christian rituals. The other belief I see is this seeker sensitive mentality that we can do non-offensive activities togetherwith the heathen and hopefully somewhere somehow we'll slip in the true Gospel. Somehow we have this belief that we need to worry about unbelievers being offended so that we can sell them into the Kingdom. I find this funny because they talk about the "Great Commission" a whole lot but then ignore the part where it says you should shake the dust off your shoes should any town reject you. Why don't they teach that when talking about evangelism?

~Mark said...

This whole national Day of Prayer thing is just one of many events that pushes me onto a fine line since I work for a very politically conservative broadcasting company.

I can't say too much on the air, but my direct manager allows us to be fairly open about faithfully obeying God, and as long as we were thoughtful of our words (which we should be anyway) we're able to be challengingly honest about things like this.

CRI have also been using that opening to debate people when they say that they'll "have a good thought for me" in a matter. I, as peacefully as possible, ask them what good that will do for me unless they have magic powers. So far it hasn't resulted in any fights and seems to have at least made them consider the issue.

As far as "pray for you", I like to smile and ask "to who"?

Aaron said...

Rachael (remembered the A):

From what I've heard from the Dobson's and Focus, there is a belief and mention of repentance, especially for abortion. They often don't mention it and I think that's in part because it is implied in what they are asking for (i.e. returning to Christian roots implies sinfully turning away from them).

I do agree that repentance should be the overriding theme tends to be glossed over in these prayers. However, I don't like to be too critical when I know that the Dobsons would definately agree that repentance is severely needed.

Aaron said...


I think the appropriate sentiment from the heathen and most of us, quite frankly, is that "I have sympathy for you and wish you the best." I'll pray for you has become something akin to "How are you." Nobody really wants to know how you are doing, it's just a greeting.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


You continually "poke" things that I hadn't previously given a second thought.

Me (before): "National Day of Prayer... how nice."

Now... thinking more deeply.

Honestly, I can't imagine praying with TheObama. The thought actually makes my skin crawl in an unholy, I-might-feel-physically-ill sort of way.

Quoting Proverbs 28:9 hit the nail right on the head.

Jay (and others), having been in the same place, I have made a conscious effort not to say "I'll pray for you" without serious thought.

Most often I'll pray right then and there - knowing that I will likely forget later! Or, better yet, if the one asking for prayer is a believer, offer to pray with them, right then and there.

Still thinking,


RT said...

I am not convinced that a brusque, albeit honest, riposte to someone's offer of prayer is any more productive than the offer in the first place. When approached in this way by a comparative stranger my initial impulse is to smile bleakly and say nothing, unless it is to mutter something vaguely civil. I just do not see any good to be derived from confrontation in the environment in which such comments are usually made. If such a statement is made by a close friend or relative, on the other hand, I take it as an invitation. I might not say anything at the time, but I have on more than one occasion brought the subject up later and initiated, or tried to initiate, a serious discussion about prayer, its purpose, utility (if any under the particular circumstances) etc. It is surprising what avenues sometimes open up.

Anonymous said...

Add me to your "you're not disagreeing with me" list.

It's funny how we, the church, while correctly talking about the power of prayer (because as an "in house" topic we understand what prayer really is and to whom it is directed) we forget to move the goal posts appropriately when non-believers enter the conversation.

Nowadays the power of prayer is really just the power of positive thinking revisited, because without God, what else is left?

I wish people in the church would drop the term altogether and talk about the power of God or, as you alluded to, the power of (true) repentance.

That would make these "inter-faith" kinds of things more problematic from the non-believers side. Afterall, who's going to jump at the chance to be involved in the "National Day of Repentance".

On the other hand, if the idea takes off, could I help with the "repent of what?" list?

Gary Benfold said...

So - let me just check I've got this right, 'cos sometimes you can be a bit obtuse... On balance, you're passionately in favour of a national Day of Prayer and pleading with the President to set an example?

Michelle said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Prayer is the prerogative and privilege of the contrite and surrendered and has no place outside the Body of Christ, unless it is prayer of repentance.

John 9:31
"We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him."

1 Peter 3:12
"For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

DJP said...

Oh, Gary, I'd love for the President to set an example.

But not by hypocritical public Judas-kisses to God.

(Plain enough? (c; )

Aaron said...

I am not convinced that a brusque, albeit honest, riposte to someone's offer of prayer is any more productive than the offer in the first place.Which is why I say I am tempted to say so, but don't.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I always show up late for these discussions. I was amazed to hear that secular people offer to pray for professing christians. That's a new one to me.

I live in Seattle, where the likelihood of encountering a professing christian on the street is close to nil. We have plenty of professing pagans. I mean real, certified gov. inspect grade AAA pagans. Not just folks that sort of play around with it but the kind that actually worship other gods.

I have a deep suspicion of all things governmental. When our new fearless leader payed his dues to the baby killers withing a few days of his nomination I just wrote him off. Asked my black college student friend what his extended family thought about it. Told me the don't much care about abortion. That kind of bother me. Margaret Sanger was all in favor of killing black babies, millions of them, the more the better.

DJP said...

Ah; card-carrying pagans.

Rachael Starke said...

Okay, just checked in on Facebook and saw that some of my (women, why is it always women!!) friends are joining some "Save the National Day of Prayer" thing with the usual misquoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 all over it....

I actually don't struggle so much with card-carrying pagans and generally well-maeaning non-Christians of various types saying ignorant things, because they're ignorant.

But when supposedly Spirit-filled sisters sign up for this stuff? Just. makes. me. mad.

Carol Jean said...

My 17-year-old and I went to a prayer breakfast in our small town, mostly because our state representative was speaking about "Do we have a prayer" and we wanted to hear what he had to say.

It was an odd event.

First, it was nice to hear the legislator speak openly about his faith and quote scripture.

A local school board member offered a strong, Christ-centered prayer.

Then came the weirdness. There was "intercessory prayer" around the breakfast tables (with basically, strangers). There was a clergy person assigned to each table to lead the festivities. I think ours might have been Episcopalian (do they wear the collars?) He instructed everyone that we would be praying around the table. Immediately, you could see panic on several faces.

Undeterred, the clergyman began with his prayer for social justice for those on the margins of society. The Catholic councilman went next (all heads bowed):

"When I go to church I usually pray something like this: I pray for my parents and that God would bless my kids and that St. Christopher or whoever would protect them. And those poor kids at St. Judes hospital. I always remember to pray for those poor, sick kids - that God would take care of them - I feel so sorry for those poor kids...."

Next up was the wife of another councilman: "hmmm...I don't know how to do this very well....I pray for our country and for world peace"

Then her husband, the councilman, who I have heard make some very racist comments: "God, help us to get back to our roots in this country and our Christian values that are slipping away."

My turn: I prayed for our leaders, that they would seek God and his word as the only source of truth and true wisdom. Quoted James 1:5 (shoulda kept going) Prayed for our troops and their families. Shoulda said a lot more : (

17-year-old son's turn: prayed that our leaders would seek God and his will in making all their decisions. Thanked God for freedom to pray openly in our country.

The clergy-person closed, nervous giggles all around. AWKWARD!

All around weird event. Still, God's word was spoken, albeit minimally. And THAT won't return void, unlike some of those creepy "prayers" we heard around the table. None of the speakers said anything contrary to scripture, so I'm grateful for that. I guess it wasn't a complete loss. And a good breakfast was served at the American Legion hall, which makes it almost worth the $8 ticket price : )

Unknown said...

2nd Chronicles, Chap 7, Verse 14:
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
(emphasis mine)

DJP said...

Amen. Great verse for Israel. God grant that they come to repent and acknowledge their Messiah!

Anonymous said...


Yup. When I hear that verse quoted I'm always tempted to respond with something like:

"Now, if only we had a land"

Mike Westfall said...

Are you sayin' that verse has no sensus plenoir for us modern Christians?

sem said...

How do you gently disabuse people of the notion that everything written in the Old Testament is directly applicable to them i.e. sensus plenoir?

Aaron said...

I'm just impressed that everyone knows what "sensus plenoir" means. I actually had to look it up the last time Dan used it. I confess I have to look up a lot of words between Dan and Phil. But I did know and have used vituperation in the past, so I felt pretty good about that.

DJP said...

SEM — How do you gently disabuse people of the notion that everything written in the Old Testament is directly applicable to them i.e. sensus plenoir?

Ask if they like ham sandwiches?

sem said...

Well, that should do it. A bit like a NEXT! answer.

I am most happy to not be living under those particular rules. Southern women do like to cook with their pork products!


DJP said...

LOL, yes, you're right. That is a bit of a "Next!"

I started to launch into an explanation, then I thought, "Why not distill it?"

You could go the whole thing:

"Do you like ham sandwiches? Do you wear clothes with mixed fabrics? When you sin, do you bring your lamb to the Jerusalem temple?"

Carol Jean said...

And the shellfish. Don't forget the shellfish. It's in the official liberal theology talking points.

DJP said...

Sure — ironically playing off of an ignorance of (it's my blog, I'll just say it) dispensations.

RT said...

Clearly you forget that America - no, the United States of America - is the New Israel without, of course, all of the hard parts like giving up clam chowder. If we would just repent then God would (be obligated to) restore our hegemony over Europe and Asia, our car companies would be number one again and our dignitaries could stop bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Carol Jean said...

You've activated the launch sequence...

Aaron said...

I wouldn't mind the part about feasting and drinking strong drink to the Lord (which is modernly translated as just spicy grape juice).

I think we've lifted off now.

Susan said...

The last time I checked, some people actually believe that Jesus came to America....

David Alves said...

Hi everyone,

After reading this post I must say I agree. I think it would be laughable for the most blatant false convert in history (e.g., our new President whom I will NOT allow the dignity of naming) to be present at a NDP meeting. First of all, I have to say I'm confused by Mrs. Dobson’s indignant attitude. Is she (and other socially conservative Christians) so blinded by "values” that she has forgotten it isn’t about values but about a passionate love affair with God?

Second, does God EVER listen to the prayers of a non Christian—for example, if a non believer's mother is dying of cancer and that non Christian cries out to God to save their mom, and if (according to what I've been hearing) God ignores that prayer, isn't that (as much as I hate to bring our this argument) cruel?

Third, does God listen to the prayers of TRUE Christians who have not confessed various sins?
Just some things I was wondering about.

In awe of Him,