On the National Day of Prayer, I am grateful for the right, in our fine country, to gather together as God's people to pray for His kingdom, His church, our nation, communities and families.
I am grateful because I see just how tenuous those freedoms are, how hard they were to come by and how easily then can be taken.
Freedom is tenuous. Freedom has ALWAYS been tenuous. Throughout the history of our nation freedom has always needed to be guarded by the diligence of the people.
Today we hear rumblings of the curtailing of that freedom. Just last month a prominent presidential candidate, speaking of her desire to see pregnant moms have greater access to abortion, said: “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed."
Religious beliefs have to be changed…!?
Changed by whom?
How, would one go about forcing people to change their beliefs?
Why must they change in the first place? Don’t people have the right to their beliefs even if others don’t like them?
The very creation of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights was out of a necessity to amend the Constitution in order to safeguard the rights of individuals against those who believe that “religious beliefs have to be changed.”
This is what the First Amendment says:
" Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
We have the right to be free from the prohibition of speech even if that speech offends the political sensibilities of some. The bible tells us that we should not unnecessarily offend others as Proverbs reminds us that “one who loves to offend, loves strife… (Prov 17:19). Nevertheless, the bible is replete with examples of those who did not love to offend but were willing to speak the truth even when the truth wasn’t popular and they did so because God’s people have always been called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).
As we pray today, let us do so both gracefully and truthfully. Let us not fail to rejoice in the blessings of our country nor shy away from acknowledging where our nation has strayed from God’s expressed will. And then let us petition God for grace for ourselves as “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23) and also for others, as Paul wrote, “Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:25).
And let us also pray that God will continue to grant us the freedom to peacefully assemble at flagpoles, town greens, and in our places of worship to petition God for the changing of our own hearts and the heart of this nation because there is something far more ancient and binding than the current political climate and that is the word of God. There is Someone we ought to fear offending far more than the loudest voices in politics and He is the Author of life.
The Lord God is the one Who truly gives freedom. As the apostle Paul wrote: “For Freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Just as Paul reminded the Galatians that there were obligated to refuse to accept the hindrances that men sought to place on their religious freedom so to we are called to do refuse to allow our freedom of faith and worship to be abridged.
And we are called to do so because governments don’t create religious rights for the citizenry. Governments merely recognize the inalienable rights that the Creator had endowed upon His human creation. When that government does so it will likely find favor with God and when that government refuses to do so it rightly invites God's wrath.
So, “Lord, please grant favor to America, my home, for she yet recognizes the freedoms you give to us, your creation. And Lord, please continue to bless America for as long as the bells of liberty ring. For the voices of prayer and praise of Your people will rejoice with the accompaniment of those bells, but if – some sad day - the bells of liberty refuse to toll, then the prayers and praises of You people will still be heard because governments never have given people the right to pray and praise, that precious gift of liberty came from You, Lord, and we refuse to be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”