If words matter, and I think they do, then I think that it is better to have a National Day of Repentance rather than a National Day of Prayer. I think this because what I have seen surrounding the National Day of Prayer tends toward the “God bless America” refrain rather than the “God we repent of our wicked ways” command of Scripture.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is the cornerstone of the National Day of Prayer movement. If we grant, for the sake of discussion, that we can get there from here in terms of submission and fidelity to the Biblical text – in other words, does this passage really apply to us today? – then I think we are missing the point of the text:
“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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Read in context, and read in conjunction with 1 Kings Chapter 8 (not to mention read in the context of the entire Bible), turning from our wicked ways entails confession of sin and changing direction from sin to righteousness – this is about repentance; it is not about asking God to bless America (or any nation); when we gather together and ask God to bless America without repentance and confession of sin then we drink the elixir of deceit – we delude ourselves into thinking that there is inherent good in our nation that excuses our wickedness and that we have warrant to ask God’s blessing on our country.
If we want to be patriotic then we ought to repent, both individually and collectively. If Christians want to be patriotic then they ought to engage in intercessory repentance on behalf of their nation. To call sin “sin,” to repent of our wicked ways on behalf of ourselves and others, on behalf of our nation – is not unpatriotic, it is rather caring about our nation enough to be ostracized for repentance.
How can we sing “God bless America” without repenting? How we can say that we are “one nation under God” when we are a nation in rebellion against God? Our civil religion has trumped the Bible and the refusal of the professing church to repent on behalf of our nation is both unpatriotic and an example of the salt losing its savor.