The National Day of Prayer: Praying for Our Nation

by Joni Eareckson Tada

As a little girl, sitting near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., I could barely eat my sack lunch. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of our nation's capital. I gazed in amazement at the tall monuments and big buildings. For the rest of my D.C. tour, I gawked at all the white marble and thought, God must live here.

Since then, I've discovered that God does not live in Washington, D.C., any more or less than He lives in any other city. But in many ways, D.C. does reflect what is happening in other towns across our nation. People are refusing God; some are even turning their backs on Him, choosing instead to do what seems right in their own eyes. This is why the Bible urges God's people to pray for their nation: "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 will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Even Paul admonished the Christians of his day to pray for their countries: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). For us, everyone means the president, his advisers, Congress, judges, servicemen and women in the armed forces, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, paramedics and hospital workers; it even means teachers and the principal in your child's school. Let's cry out to God on behalf of the people in our land.

Our nation is in a time of turmoil and uncertainty — in our government, our economy, our churches, our health care. Please join the National Day of Prayer Task Force and me as we come before God on the first Thursday in May to intercede for our country.

Joni Eareckson Tada is the 2011 honorary chairman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force and the founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends International Disability Center. She is an international advocate for people with disabilities. 

Key Points

  • People across our nation are turning their backs on God.

  • If Christians humble themselves before God, He will heal their land.

  • God's Word commands us to pray for all those who are in authority.

Family Memory Verse

2 Chronicles 7:14
"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 will heal their land."

Scripture Study

For a more in-depth look at prayer, read these Bible passages:

  • 1 Kings 18:21-39

  • Nehemiah 1:3-11

  • Joel 2:12-13

  • Matthew 18:19-20

Copyright © 2011 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission.

Preschool Activity
School-Age Activity
Tween Activity
Time With Your Teen
More Family Devotionals on Prayer 

Preschool Activity

On the National Day of Prayer, parents can continue teaching their infants, toddlers and preschoolers about prayer. To set this day apart, pray with and for them in a variety of ways throughout the day.

  • Use "prayer talk." If your child sees a dog, say, "God made dogs. Thank You, God, for dogs." As the day continues, your child may start to echo your words.

  • Ask for God's healing as you care for any bumps or scrapes your child incurs. With a permanent marker, draw hearts on bandages to remind children that God is the one who heals.

Karen Whiting

"Prayer Habits" by Karen Whiting was first published in the May/June 2007 issue of Focus on Your Child Early Stages. Copyright © 2007 by Focus on the Family.

School-age Activity

On the National Day of Prayer, you have an opportunity to set the day aside to be intentional about praying for your country and your leaders. Since young children may not fully understand this concept, start the day with a prayer basket.

Stock the basket with index cards, markers, stickers and pictures cut from magazines. Have children decorate cards. Then help them write prayer requests for their country and their leaders on the cards. Gather the family together that evening.

Let each person take a card from the basket and pray. Even if young children pray only a few words — "Help the president," "I love You, God" or "Bless us" — you are teaching them to communicate with God.

— Candy Arrington 

"Prayer Habits" by Candy Arrington was first published in the May 2007 issue of Focus on Your Child Discovery Years. Copyright © 2007 by Focus on the Family.

Tween Activity

On the National Day of Prayer, take the time to pray with your tween for our leaders. Pray that our leaders will see God as Paul did, free slaves as Moses did, serve God like Esther, trust Him like Joseph and obey Him like Mary. For other prayer ideas, go to

— Sheila Seifert

"National Day of Prayer" by Sheila Seifert was first published in the May/June 2008 issue of Focus on Your Child Tween Ages. Copyright © 2008 by Focus on the Family.

My family glues our photos on index cards (one family member per card). We write prayer requests on the back. Requests include health, school and more. Occasionally "unspoken" is written for something personal.

Two or three mornings a week, family members pull a card from the pile before leaving for school or work. We are all responsible for praying for that person throughout the day.

Occasionally, the children grumble to each other. I'll hear, "I'm going to pray that you won't be so annoying all the time," but I also hear comments such as "I remembered to pray for your math test this morning " or "How are you feeling? I was praying for you today."

— Katrina Cassel

"Prayer Cards" by Katrina Cassel was first published in the May/June 2007 issue of Focus on Your Child Tween Ages. Copyright © 2007 by Focus on the Family.

Time With Your Teen

On the National Day of Prayer this year, encourage teens to talk to God. Here are some examples of what teens have done:

Singing Loudly and Praying (SLAP) began in McKinney, Texas. Alison, a local teen, served on the event committee and invited other churches to get involved. Teen prayer leaders and a speaker talked about praying for their country, schools, churches, family and friends. SLAP groups have spread. Alison says, "Prayer is a mind-boggling privilege. I don't see how we can function as a nation if we don't talk to the One who knows what's going on."

Jericho March. Young people in Rhode Island followed an Old Testament pattern to create a Jericho March. The event at the state capitol began with a prayer and the blast from a shofar (a horn used for Jewish religious purposes). More than 100 teens marched around the capitol while silently praying. At the end of the march, seven shofars blared, and the group gave a loud shout (symbolizing God's ability to tear down ungodly decisions). Then they prayed for godly leadership.

Detonation started an explosion of prayer in Nashville, Tenn. This event involved a worship band, dance team and speakers. Local companies donated lights and sound equipment. Youth groups filled the gym, and an ongoing altar call occurred throughout the event.

If your church isn't planning an organized activity like those mentioned, here are a few things you can do with your teens:

1. Encourage them to read the first call to prayer by the Continental Congress in 1775 and President Lincoln's call in 1863 presidential call to prayer. Search for them on

2. Drive through your community. Stop at places such as schools, government buildings and medical clinics to pray as a family.

3. Ask your teens for ideas, brainstorm as a family, and ask your youth pastor about local events that your teens can join. Above all, don't underestimate what God can do through your teens and their prayers.

— Karen H. Whiting

"National Day of Prayer" by Karen H. Whiting was first published in the May 2008 issue of Focus on Your Child Teen Phases. Copyright © 2008 by Focus on the Family.


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