(Transcript of speech given by President Jonathan on the flagging off of the previous CAN Year of Prayer)
IN 1787 America was at a crossroads regarding the future of the country. The Constitutional Convention was on the verge of total failure over the issue of whether small states should have the same representation as large states. In this hopeless situation, 81 year-old public official, writer and scientist, Benjamin Franklin, offered a suggestion. He was convinced Scripture is right when it states, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). So he said: “Gentlemen, I have lived a long time and am convinced that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the round without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? I move that prayer imploring the assistance of Heaven be held every morning before we proceed to business”.
They agreed. From then on, prayer was offered each morning. The change after prayer was introduced was so dramatic that in a short while, a compromise was reached. Their testimony was that prayer helped determine the future of their country in a significant way.
The declaration in Proverbs chapter fourteen, verse thirty-four could be chiselled on the tombstone of many civilizations. Many of the great countries of the world (at least in their emerging eras) had their foundations laid in godliness, confirming the biblical injunction that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”. God is saying that countries project the character of their people.
Good men had always been concerned for their country. Righteous people always desire the best for their fellow men and nation. Abraham was scared at the imminent judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah and his concern drove him to his knees for a stay of judgment on the two cities. Moses was burdened for rebellious Israel and he prayed that they might not be wiped away from the surface of the earth.
If our nation would rise from poverty and disease, insecurity, corruption and social decay, to a noble and an enviable republic, characterized by peace, prosperity and godliness; men and women of deep piety must earnestly pray. They must gird their prayer mantle and intercede for the land. They must “arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out their heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up their hands toward him for the life of their young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street” (Lamentations 2:19)
Concerned believers need to intercede until the Lord brings back the good old days. History records that prayer, in 1857, saved America from economic destruction. We can also rescue our economy and politics through prayers.
Daniel interceded fervently for Israel and God delivered the entire nation according to His promise. Incidentally, Daniel’s prayer for his country contains instructions for us on how to effectually pray for our nation’s spiritual, social and economic emancipation.
In his prayer for the land, Daniel remembered the very atrocities his people had committed against themselves and against God. He set his “face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3)
In view of all these, we must still hope in the God who rules in the affairs of men and changes times and seasons.
The hope for a new day is the ligament which sustains human existence. Without this vision, human existence becomes drudgery. The zest of life dies when the expectation for a new day ceases. Human history in its entirety bears an eloquent testimony to this fact. To a great extent, the undulations of human civilization have been modulated by this stubborn hope. The word of God attests to this when it says: “where there is no vision, the people perish”. Every human vision of newness is only a small abstract of God’s total design for total renewal. God declared this renewal agenda through Prophet Isaiah when he said: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare, before they spring forth, I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).
It is for this reason that I sincerely commend the decision of Christian Association of Nigeria to call all Christians to embark on a one year Transformation Prayer for Nigeria (2012-13). It is now my privilege to formerly flag off the One Year Prayer for the Nation in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!