“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…etc, etc, etc.” Many of us learn that bedtime prayer early on in life. Some of us learn as well the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
Thursday, May 5, is the National Day of Prayer. Folks will be gathering at noon on the steps of Enumclaw City Hall to pray. People will also be gathering all across the country, even in Washington, D.C., and saying prayers.
There are some folks who would unapologetically say our country desperately needs prayers – and lots of them. These folks would say we need to petition God on high and get God to intervene in our election-year politics. We also need to convince God to stop the escalating violence on our school campuses and the rampant racism that has led to so many controversial deaths.
The National Day of Prayer needs to be a time for God to mobilize against the bad guys and get our country back on its high horse of greatness. In all of this I certainly can find no fault.
However, maybe our prayers should take on a distinctly different flavor – a more diverse tenor on this National Day of Prayer. In fact, without abandoning the above, maybe our prayers should at the very least include, and perhaps actually be more along the lines of, thankfulness and gratefulness rather than desperate pleas or demanding petitions.
When you think about it, we Americans have much to be thankful for. For instance, 80 percent of the Earth’s population, some 6 billion people, make less than $4,000 per year. In fact, 50 percent of the population of planet Earth make less than $1,000 per year. Most of us in the U.S., even those on Social Security benefits, exceed that amount significantly. Most of the world’s population struggles with debilitating amoebas from scummy water carried in jugs for miles (mostly by women). We here in the States have plenty of potable (drinkable) water both from the tap and at our favorite grocery store. And, our showers work all the time, not just an hour a day.
We Americans have laws most of us abide by; a legal system that is more fair and just than corrupt; and bunches of hospitals, fire stations, EMTs and pizza places. The majority of us are literate and we have oodles of social service safety nets for our most marginalized. We have much to be thankful for. The great Roman statesman and philosopher, Seneca, stated, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”
Yes, we do have pressing and dire needs and we mustn’t ignore those needs. But, we have so much to be thankful and grateful for as well. It is easy to forget, easy to cosmically complain, and easy to demand. There is an old legend of two angels sent to Earth to gather up into baskets the prayers of human beings. One was to fill a basket with the petitions of humanity; the other was to gather their prayers of thanksgiving.
Sometime later, they went back into the presence of God. One had a basket heaped high and running over with innumerable petitions. The other angel returned with a sad and heavy heart, for his basket was nearly empty. Though he had searched diligently, there were few prayers of thanksgiving on the lips of humanity.
Tomorrow, during the National Day of Prayer, let’s try expressing to God almighty just how grateful and thankful we are for the abundant and lavish blessings we each enjoy here in the good ol’ USA. Perhaps we can fill that second angel’s basket just a bit more.
This week’s church column was written by Jim Thoburn of Community Presbyterian Church in Buckley.