Prayer: America's Lifeline

Shirley Dobson teaches us how prayer can give us peace, even in uncertain times!

By Shirley Dobson

I learned to depend on the Lord early in my childhood. During those turbulent years, my mother held our little family together. Though she wasn’t a Christian at the time, she knew that she needed all the help she could get as she raised her children. So she sent my brother and me to church every Sunday, and it was there that I was introduced to Jesus Christ and invited Him into my heart.

As I learned how to pray and began speaking to the Lord, I sensed His love and care for me. Amid the chaos of our disintegrating family, this little girl found hope and comfort in Jesus. I’ve been praying and relying on Him ever since.

The many answers to prayer in my life have reinforced my belief in its power and importance. Prayer is our pathway not only to divine protection, but also to a personal, intimate relationship with God. That’s why I am so honored to be in my twenty-third year as chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. I count it a privilege to play a small part in calling people of faith to their knees.

Jesus demonstrated the significance of this intimacy with God to His disciples. He “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed “ (Luke 5:16). He “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). He even told the disciples the parable about justice for the persistent widow “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

I have often wondered why the Bible places such a heavy emphasis on prayer, especially since Jesus reminded us during the Sermon on the Mount that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). When I mentioned this to my husband, his response was both simple and profound: “Well, God desires a relationship with each one of us, and there is no relationship in eavesdropping!”

Indeed, the Lord desires personal, two-way conversation with me – and with you. You are His child. He wants you to seek Him, to love Him, and to spend time daily with Him. When you do, He hears and responds. Jesus said: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

If Christians would follow through on this truth, we would change our lives and the course of history. After all, just as prayer is important for us as individuals, it is also important to entire nations. One of my favorite Scripture verses is II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will 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.”

As I reflect on this verse, I am encouraged. Prayer groups are springing up throughout America. Our nation’s leaders are openly asking for prayer support from the public. As a matter of fact, members of both houses of Congress met recently in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol for a time of prayer and reconciliation. In the midst of our tumultuous times, God may be preparing hearts for a new openness to seeking Him through the lifeline of prayer.

How about you? Are you ready to renew or increase your own commitment to prayer? Do you want contentment in your heart and peace in your world? If your answer is yes – or even maybe – then let me introduce you to the National Day of Prayer’s four-step approach to effective communication with God. It’s simple, practical, and biblical. We call it P.R.A.Y. – Praise, Repent, Ask and Yield.

The apostle Paul urged that “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (I Timothy 2:1-3). Let’s please God by actively seeking, through prayer, “peaceful and quiet lives” – for our nation and especially its leaders. Indeed, we must remain in fervent prayer for those who serve as representatives of the people.

I have spent a great deal of time, over the years, with our nation’s leaders. It has been an honor and a privilege to pray with them. Often their personal lives are under constant attack with little balance between work and family time. The demands of the position are great and rarely do they receive thanks from the individuals they represent. As a result, they are regularly burdened and live in a perpetual state of urgency by the far-reaching implications of their decisions. Loneliness and feelings of isolation are common among leaders today as they tend to only hear from people when there is a need or a complaint. So, when my team and I spent five days, not long ago, going office to office just to pray with them and their staff, many were greatly surprised. They fully expected an agenda with a list of demands and instead the “walls” came down and they were less guarded when we shared our gratitude and desire to bless them with intercession, showing authentic concern for their wellbeing. This is why we developed the Adopt-a-Leader program at the National Day of Prayer Task Force. We wanted a very simply way for people to lift our leaders up in daily intercession and it has worked tremendously with over 12,000 kits distributed!

During our Pray for America Tour, one of our team members shared with me that they went to the office of a Senator, who was representing the state of New York, and he was very busy, as they all are. In fact, he was walking out of the office for a very important meeting that he was already late to, so he couldn’t stop to dialog. Our team went on to explain that they were simply there to pray and bless him and his staff. The Senator smiled, exchanged a few pleasantries and then swiftly exited the office for his appointments. Our team then engaged the Senator’s staff and started to pray with them. It was at that moment when the Senator re-entered the room, then dropped to his knees saying that he knew he couldn’t proceed with the decisions of the day without the blessing of Almighty God to guide him. So, our prayer team promptly gathered around him and asked God to give him wisdom and discernment. He was overjoyed, hugged the members of our group and then headed to a debate over the sanctity of human life. Our team had no idea what was before him when entering his office that morning. But, out of obedience to pray for our leaders, they went and as a result a radical abortion bill, introduced by Governor Cuomo, was defeated in the Senate that day.

Prayer works and it is making a difference, transforming the landscape of homes and communities across the globe.  We know that if God’s people will actively lift up, by name, each and every person who lead our churches, cities, states and yes, even our nation, then God will hear and will heal our land. Are you ready to know certain peace in uncertain times? Good. It’s time to P.R.A.Y.

Shirley Dobson is the wife of psychologist and author Dr. James C. Dobson and has served as Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force since 1991. To learn more or to get involved, visit