A few weeks ago (on May 18) Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote a letter to the governors of each of the other states inviting them to join him on August 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston "for a solemn day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation."
He wrote: "As governors blessed to serve our respective states, we are all too aware of the struggles our citizens face that are often beyond the power of government to solve. Try as we might, we cannot right every wrong, prevent bad things from happening to good people or sign laws that cause people to treat one another with love, decency and respect.
"Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel."
He is referring to Joel, Chapter 2, and I'm betting you haven't read Joel lately. I hadn't. So I went back and read it again. A plague of locusts had devastated the land, the economy, and with it the social infrastructure of the nation. The people were in great despair. Joel calls upon the people to gather for a solemn assembly. Everyone needed to be there--even the aged, the children and nursing mothers. Get the just married out of bed (yes, he really says that) and get them there, he says. After you've gathered, cry out to God and see what He will do. "Even now--[this is] the LORD'S declaration--turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him..." (Joel 2:12-14).
Governor Perry concluded his letter: "Our nation was blessed to have founders who were both righteous and prayerful. I am not one who believes that our culture and society cannot be redeemed and renewed. But I believe it will take a great amount of prayer, and a renewed commitment to spiritual principles, to get our nation back on track. Let us not delay in doing what is right for our people and their future."
Once word got out that Governor Perry was calling for people to gather for a solemn assembly folks started asking questions: why would Governor Perry do this, is it an election ploy since he may be running for President, won't this turn into a political rally for the conservatives ... on and on the questions go.
When I was invited to meet with some of the organizers of the event, I had questions going into the meeting. (I sometimes think I have the spiritual gift of skepticism. ) I'll just be candid -- a city-wide solemn assembly is not the kind of thing I am naturally drawn to, but as I listened to Doug Stringer and others speak I decided this is something I need to support. Why? Here are some of my thoughts:
1. This will be a solemn assembly, not a political rally. Governor Perry is not organizing this event. That has been turned over to a group of folks, many of whom I know and trust, who are committed to keeping the event's focus spiritual, not political.
2. Our attention will be focused on God in worship and prayer. It will not be a celebrity parade; most of the folks who will lead in prayer will be folks you've never heard of ... ordinary folks like you and me. There will be no sermons or speeches; the organizers promise every speaker's platform time will be limited to a period of 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
3. While anyone is welcome to come, this is an event for the Christian church. The focus will not be on "political correctness." When folks pray, they will pray in the name of Jesus.
4. Originally, it was to be in Dallas, but the venue they wanted wasn't available. So the organizers turned to Houston. It seems providential to me, given the recent media attention surrounding the national cemetery in our city, that the event should be here rather than Dallas!
5. There is risk involved. Someone could say or do something inappropriate, but safeguards will be in place to keep things from getting too far out of hand. Even though there is some risk involved, I believe it is a risk worth taking.
6. The greatest risk may be for Governor Perry. If he is interested in running for President of the United States, being so clearly identified as a Christian who believes the future of our country rests on the providential and intervening activity of God may be more detrimental to his political campaign than helpful.
I have adjusted my schedule so I can participate. I'll be there to pray with brothers in sisters in Christ. I probably won't have on sackcloth and ashes, but I will be there in a spirit of humility. The body of Christ is so diverse I don't expect to be comfortable with everything that happens, but that's not the point. I can handle a little discomfort if what we are doing honors Christ.
I ask you:
1. To join me in Reliant Stadium, August 6
2. To reach out to your network and circle of friends and invite them to come with you
3. To pray for this to be a day that honors God and blesses our nation