Today is the National Day of Prayer, a vital part of our heritage. If we look at prayer from a national standpoint, the first call to prayer in 1775 occurred when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming this nation. And then you have Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of humiliation and fasting and prayer in 1863. In 1952 a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual National Day of Prayer. Then in 1988 the law was amended and then signed by President Reagan permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May, and that’s where we find ourselves in history today – the National Day of Prayer.

Whenever I think of prayer on the National Day of Prayer I also, in tandem, think about the question “What is prayer?” The reason this has become so important to me is that many people today in Christian circles fall for the notion that prayer is a method by which we can get things from God. In other words, prayer becomes a means to an end. We want things from God and therefore we’re looking for all kinds of formulas to get those things.

A number of years ago there was a rage that swept the Christian church – the Prayer of Jabez – a formulaic way of getting things from God. If you pray this prayer in this way for 30 days you’re going to get what you want from God. But that entirely misses the point of prayer. Prayer is not a means of getting things from God. Prayer is a means of developing a relationship with the Lover of our souls, out of which everything else flows.

So many people in America today as Christians are looking for the next revival, and in the process they’re looking for God in all the wrong places. The way you have revival is to get back to basics, and that includes focusing on the genuine reality and meaning of prayer. It’s a way of developing intimacy with God, and out of that everything else flows. If we can have that kind of reformation in our lives individually and collectively as Christians we’ll find ourselves in much the same condition as when Josiah found the Book of the Law in the Temple. When we get back to basics and meditate on the Word of God we’ll find the missing link between the intake of Scripture and an effective prayer life. Revival happens when reformation first takes place in our lives because then we become the instruments through which revival can take place in the culture.

All of that to say that the National Day of Prayer today, more than ever, is a call to you as a believer to develop the basics, the essentials, including disciplines such as prayer, so that you can be a change agent in the culture.