By / May 7

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual day of observance celebrated by Americans of various faiths. Here are five facts you should know about the day when people are asked "to turn to God in prayer and meditation."

1. The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

2. The National Observance in Washington, DC is coordinated by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, an evangelical nonprofit group. The NDP Task Force was founded in 1979 by Mrs. Vonette Bright, co-founder of the evangelical Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ International. Since 1991, Shirley Dobson, whose husband is James Dobson, has been the chairwoman.

3. In 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to challenge the designation of a National Day of Prayer. In 2010, a federal judge ruled that the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional as it is "an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function." A three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned that decision.

4. There have been 142 national calls to prayer, humiliation, fasting and thanksgiving by the President of the United States (1789-2013). There have been 65 Presidential Proclamations for a National Day of Prayer (1952-2013). Gerald R. Ford (1976), George H. Bush (1989-91) and Barack H. Obama (2012) are the only U.S. Presidents to sign multiple National Day of Prayer Proclamations in the same year.

5. 34 of the 44 U.S. Presidents have signed proclamations for National Prayer. Three of the Presidents who did not sign a proclamation died while serving in office. Two Presidents, not included in the count – William Howard Taft and Warren Gamaliel Harding, signed proclamations for Thanksgiving and Prayer. Every President since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.

By / Nov 24

National Adoption Month. It’s a time for celebration.

The word “adoption” evokes so many beautiful images:

  • Lonely children received into open, loving arms
  • Judges banging gavels declaring formerly orphaned children officially “yours”
  • The wonderful diversity of multi-ethnic families

Adoption is beauty from ashes. It’s redemption. It’s hope. It’s grace. It’s unconditional love. And sometimes, like all good things, it’s really, really hard.

Getting honest about adoption

This year marks our family’s 15th anniversary of celebrating National Adoption Month in a deeply personal way. God made us a family through the blessing of adoption, and each of our four kids has enriched our lives in ways too numerous for us to ever recount.

But the journey has also been much more difficult than we could have ever imagined.

I’ve noticed that this admission sometimes makes people uncomfortable. As a people-pleaser, that used to unsettle me. Sometimes it still does. But it’s important that we look at this issue with eyes wide open.

This Adoption Month, as the Church, we need to be committed to telling the truth—the truth that encapsulates both the difficulty that can accompany adoption and the “completely worth it!” reality that permeates even the hard stuff. And flowing out of that, we also have a chance this November to embrace the idea that everyone has a role to play in adoption—even if they aren’t actually called to adopt.

God loves the orphan

But first things first: God’s view. As believers, we know that “In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). Each one of us belongs to the family of God through the gift of adoption. This is a good thing—a very good thing! Adoption on earth represents the most powerful spiritual reality there is—a reality seen throughout the whole arc of the Scripture—that God welcomes us into his family through Christ.

It only takes a casual familiarity with Scripture to understand God’s deep love for orphans. He constantly pleads their cause in his Holy Word, and he tells us to do the same. The verses are probably familiar. God is “A Father to the fatherless…and he sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:5). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress…” (James 1:27a—probably the favorite verse of orphan advocates worldwide). Another one that resonates strongly with me is the admonishment “not to encroach on the fields of the fatherless because their defender is strong and he will take up their cause” (Prov. 23:11). In other words, don’t mess with God’s children!

God is with us in adoption

But Scripture is also chock-full of warnings to count the cost, to expect suffering, and to be joyful in the trials that will inevitably come. Why should we be joyful? Because God is with us. And he’s not just “with us” in a general, esoteric sense. He’s actually near to the broken-hearted. What does that mean? And how does it apply to adoptive parents (and indeed, all parents)?

Families who welcome children through adoption realize that, in many cases, those children come from very traumatic backgrounds—whether it’s from an orphanage in a developing nation where kids are left in dirty cribs and rarely experience the touch of another human being, or from foster care where they are sometimes abused, neglected or abandoned. Many are exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero. And all have been separated from God’s original plan: to experience comfort, protection, love and a sense of belonging from their birth mothers. Early trauma like this changes a child’s brain and may bring significant challenges later in life. These challenges accompany the child into their new family. And sometimes, those challenges stretch parents to their limits and beyond.

You can help without adopting

But here’s the great news. If you can pray, cook, clean, drive, shop, or babysit, you could be used by God to help these families! You can be a part of God’s plan to be near to the broken-hearted. If you’re one of those wonderful folks who has always loved the redemptive, life-affirming aspects of adoption but never known where you fit in, you have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the adoptive parents in your circle of influence and offer them some much-needed margin.

All of us in the adoption world want to encourage, catalyze and galvanize those in the Church who are not called to adopt to get involved by supporting an adoptive family in their congregation.

  • Enlist your whole family to provide support for another family.
  • Enter in, and commit to help them along the way.  
  • Bring a meal every Friday night for three months.
  • Invite their kids to spend time at your house.
  • Offer to drive them to regular doctor appointments or other activities.

While many parents are busy with sports, music, and enrichment activities for their kids, adoptive families are consumed with medical appointments, therapist visits, and IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings at school. They wouldn’t change that for the world, because again, it’s so worth it. But knowing there are other families to support them through prayer, encouraging words, and practical help can feel like a gift from heaven.   

When Christ-centered community happens, everyone thrives—kids, families, and those offering support.  It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. The more the Church steps up to fill in the gaps, the more adoptive families will thrive, rather than just survive. More thriving adoptive families mean more people willing to consider adoption themselves, resulting in fewer lonely kids waiting for families to call their own. That’s what it’s all about! Each one of us has a role to play in God’s wonderful plan to set the lonely in families.

For more information about how to support adoptive families in your church or community, visit Focus on the Family’s website.