Last Thursday was National Day of Prayer day. I missed it. Not on purpose, mind you, but simply out of ignorance. Unless there is a specific Hallmark card or retail sale associated with a special day I tend not to notice it.
The theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer (which was established in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman) is “America, Honor God.” Not a bad theme as themes go. As a retired congregational rabbi with 20 year’s of Bar and Bat Mitzvah experience, I consider myself somewhat of a theme expert, and, honestly, honoring God would be a unique idea when it comes to such events.
My problem is not with the theme itself, but with how one is to understand it. After giving this some thought, I came up with two options.
First, we might take our cue from Deuteronomy 7. Speaking of all the peoples that the Israelites will encounter as they seek to occupy the Promised Land, the Bible says that they are to “utterly destroy them… make no covenant with them, and show them no mercy” (1-2). Since for many America is the new Zion, and Christians have replaced Jews as God’s favorite, and since the Second Americans have succeeded in honoring Deuteronomy’s God by basically wiping out the First Americans, maybe we can continue to honor God by using National Prayer Day as a call to show our latest enemies no mercy.
The second option we might choose is to honor God by doing what the prophet Micah says God requires of us: do justly, love mercy, walk humbly (6:8). Then we could use the Day of Prayer to focus on ending injustice, cruelty, and imperialism. A very different day than that of Deuteronomy, which is the problem we face when it comes to honoring the Judeo-Christian God. The Guy suffers from multiple personality disorder. Maybe that is why Congress suggested we pray to “the God of our understanding.” This way we can all pray to our own god, i.e., the god that turns out to want for us just what it is we want for ourselves.
Since I missed National Prayer Day all together, let me off an idea for next year: Next year let’s hold city-wide prayer workshops inviting liturgists, poets, artists, and musicians from every major faith tradition to share with the community how they pray, and to engage the community in prayer in these many modalities. People would spend the day praying in multiple languages using multiple images of and metaphors for God. It would be one huge cacophony of God-song so powerful and prayerful that for a few moments we might forget the egoic and imperialist gods that drive us to war, and find ourselves falling together into the arms of the One God who calls us to love God by loving one another.
Now that would be a really NATIONAL day of prayer. Of course if there isn’t a card to buy or a sale to shop at I will still miss the event, but, hey, that’s just me.