The book “Count Your Blessings: Thanking God for His Gifts’’ recounts the story of a difficult relative who always attended family gatherings. He could be counted on to start arguments, generate heated discussions and leave others in tears.
While preparing for a get-together and anticipating the arrival of the argumentative guest, the host prayed as he tended to the outdoor grill. He asked God to control the conversations.
The difficult guest arrived and went directly to the host. The guest talked politics and insisted that the host stop being foolish and switch his party affiliation. The host took a deep breath and turned from his grill, surprising everyone as he gave the argumentative guest a bear hug. With a smile, the book notes, he asked, “What would a party be without you buddy?”
As the day progressed, the guest became more subdued; he even received pats on the back from the host as they talked. The guest thanked him for helping him see things from a different perspective and for bringing a sense of unity to their relationship.
Disunity erupts when we become divided by our opinions. God gave us minds to think, and we are entitled to express our thoughts. Divisions that grow into resentment and anger reveal the inner self. Our flawed perspectives can become a confusing array of half-truths. If we put garbage in our hearts, garbage will come out.
In Old Testament times, disagreements of evil were dealt with by giving a life for a life, “an eye for an eye” as a way of getting even (Exodus 21:23-25). In the New Testament, God offers another way: Turn the other cheek and forgive. When we surrender and stop hurting each other, we “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
We find liberty and freedom in speech when we pray for one another in love, which brings unity among us.
When we don’t listen to each other, our distractions are noticed by those with whom we are trying to build relationships — our children, our friends, our family. But how is our communication with the Heavenly Father, whom we cannot see? He sees through us and knows how attentive one’s heart is to him. There is power in the Scripture, and through his Holy Spirit revealed to us. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12).
What place does prayer play in the fabric of our nation, in our relationships, in our decisions to bring unity? Doubts, discouragement, fatigue, distraction, inner restlessness, haste, despair and self-righteousness can be enemies of prayer that foster disunity. Life without prayer is a life without power. Praying can change negative situations. It’s so important to “be still and know that I am God,”(Psalm 46:10) and to “see if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:24).
Through prayer, God sends his spiritual light into a dark world. It brings blessings and intervention to earthly affairs. It helps to drown out the negative noise around us. “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8).
Praying for one another brings “Unity,’’ the theme for National Day of Prayer 2018. It is based upon Ephesians 4:3: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Unity can be restored among us.
Our differences can become strengths when we the people, as friends, individuals, churches and leaders in America, humble ourselves and unify our differences in prevailing prayer. Can we agree we need unity, so we can press forward to serve God and others, so we will see peace and healing among us? “They all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).
Come to Lititz Springs Park at 6 p.m. May 3 to hear Dr. James S. MacDonald, an American pastor, Bible teacher and author. He is best known as the founding and senior pastor of the Chicago-area Harvest Bible Chapel and as the Bible teacher for his broadcast ministry, “Walk in the Word.” His message will be one of unifying people in prayer, bringing peace and unity to our neighborhoods.
The One A-Chord Community Choir will open the evening by uniting singers of varied Lancaster County churches and denominations. Local pastors will lead prayers.
Pray for unity. For more information, visit the website.
Dona Fisher is honorary chairwoman of Lancaster County National Day of Prayer and vice president of Friendship Foundation Inc. She is also an LNP correspondent.