The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to come together to pray for our nation.
This year, the Durango prayer event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at Rotary Park, 1565 East Second Ave. Everyone is welcome. Speakers will pray for all of the various local and national entities that affect our lives every day, such as government, education and families.
This nationally recognized day was created by Congress in 1952 with the specific day chosen and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Each year, there is a chosen theme, and a prayer proclamation is signed by the president and the governors of each state.
It is estimated that there will be more than 30,000 observances at parks and courthouses around the country. This day is meant to bring together residents from all socio-economic, political and ethnic backgrounds. It is a call to all Americans to humbly come before God, seeking his guidance for our leaders at all levels and asking his grace upon us the people.
The theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer is “love” based on the verse in John 13:34 where Jesus tells us that God is giving a new commandment “that you love one another.” In light of this year’s theme, we would do well to give some serious thought to the subject: How do we really love one another at this time in our country when hate, anger and division seem to be more the norm?
Love is such a complicated word. At first mention, it almost always conjures up images of romance, hearts and Valentine’s Day, but this verse is talking about loving every person. In Greek, there are four types of love, the highest form being “agape,” which has to do with the mind rather than emotion. It is an unconditional principle or decision by which we can choose to live.
In several verses in the Bible, Jesus calls it “loving our neighbors,” which then requires us to ask ourselves, “Who exactly is my neighbor?” And as if that is not enough, God goes further to admonish us to even love our enemies. Is that possible in today’s culture?
In the well-known, often-quoted parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus answers that question by telling the story of a traveler who was stripped, beaten and left half dead by the side of the road. The first two men who pass by were supposedly holy men, but they chose to cross over to the other side of the road to avoid helping. The third man was a Samaritan, who in those days was very much looked down upon, but he was the one who felt compassion and made the choice to stop and help the traveler. We too have a choice to make. Instead of seeing enemies, maybe we can see neighbors.
There is a famous Native American proverb that says, “Don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins.” Maybe we need to start walking. And Martin Luther King Jr. once was quoted as saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Maybe we need to start loving.
On this 2019 National Day of Prayer, as Americans from the largest cities to the smallest communities unite to pray for our amazing country, let us put aside our differences and our individual opinions and chose to “love one another.”
Please join us for this very special event.
Sherry Keil, who attends First United Methodist Church in Durango, is a member of the National Day of Prayer Committee.