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This Is the Way..."When You Pray..."

by Robin Webber

It has been said that the most effective position for prayer might be dangling upside down from a rope, 60 feet down a well shaft with your nose just 6 inches from the water.

All that might be heard coming up to the surface from the dark recess below would be, "God, help!" Yes—short, sweet, well-directed and most effective.

But whether we're in a well or not, our task remains the same. The urgency and sincerity of a personal plea toward a strong hand from beyond to rescue us is part of every Christian's calling.

It is noteworthy that in all the words recorded in the Scriptures, Jesus didn't give His disciples a lecture on how to be public speakers, but He did teach each of us how to "dial in" and pray to the only One who can make a difference in our lives.

Christ made it perfectly clear that He has demands on our time and hearts when He said, "When you pray" (Luke 11:2). The bottom line is simply this: Heaven above has expectations of us here below. We are to pray!

Imagine for a moment if 100 million people were listening in "when you pray" as you offer your deepest, heartfelt plea to the Almighty. And imagine facing a situation so critical that you desire all 100 million to join you in a united prayer to the One who can make things happen. Yes, imagine the very survival of civilization is at stake!

Does this seem too unreal or too large a task? Well, you can put your imagination button on pause, because history shows that this has already occurred and not that long ago.

History hung in the balance

Recently, Steve Padilla of the Los Angeles Times documented this action in an article titled "A Prayer for Extraordinary Times" appearing on June 9, 2007. This special prayer is additionally documented in American Gospel by Jon Meacham under the heading "The D-Day Prayer" (2006, pp. 168-172).

It is in these two works that the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt are captured for us as he offers a prayer on behalf of the nation on the evening of the D-day invasion of June 6, 1944. The largest amphibious-based assault in human history was underway, and the president recognized history hung in the balance.

As Padilla brings out in his article, it is not unusual for an American president to invoke God's name in a public proclamation, but what makes F.D.R.'s words so distinctive is that he would ask the American public to join him in a prayer of his own composition.

As Meacham brings out in his book, "The reckoning was at hand; D-day, what the Allies hoped to be the beginning of the end of Hitler's Fortress Europe, was scheduled for Monday, June 5. Twenty thousand men might die in the first waves to strike the beaches of Normandy; failure would be catastrophic, perhaps bringing down Churchill's government in London, costing Roosevelt the presidential election in November, and giving the Nazis world enough and time enough to finish the work they had begun in the death camps of Eastern Europe and possibly complete an atomic bomb of their own."

As Meacham sums up the moment, "If there were ever a time for prayer, no matter what one's conviction or creed, Roosevelt thought, this was it."

Words that embraced wisdom

It would be a thought-filled prayer and not simply a momentary expression. It was one of the gravest hours of human history. Roosevelt had slipped away for a few days to a favorite retreat with his daughter, Anna, who is thought to have been a contributor.

The D-day invasion of Operation Overlord was postponed for a day due to inclement weather and then on June 6 the prayer was made available to the evening newspapers so that the public could recite the prayer with the president on his evening broadcast at 10 p.m.

Padilla quotes former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, as saying, "You have a president who was going on national radio and bringing the entire nation together in a six-minute prayer that is very direct and very powerful."

Gingrich added, "When you read the prayer, Roosevelt is sending a clear message with almost every sentence…He warns that the road will be hard."

As news of the massive invasion of Fortress Europe began to hit the public, many people understood the magnitude of the times for troops and nations alike and sought a place of prayer. Padilla, the reporter, quotes famed historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin as stating, "Roosevelt understood the nation's mood. Beyond his own faith, he was expressing, so perfectly, exactly the right tone for what his people needed to sustain them through those worrisome hours when people didn't know how D-day would turn out."

Join with me in prayer

At 10 p.m., Eastern Time, Americans would hear the voice of one of the greatest communicators in U.S. history.

"And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be sore tried, by night and day without rest—until the victory is won…

"And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

"And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment—let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. With Thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy… Thy will be done, Almighty God."

It is amazing to envision such a call to prayer in these timid days of political correctness that have dulled and hushed our inner spiritual man. And yet, then and there, Roosevelt offered a plea to a greater force, not in boastful pride, but in humility defined by words, because on that day the outcome could not be fully known or managed by any human being—even the president of the United States.

Oh no, no pep rally here. Only a plea to God for victory over evil.

F.D.R.'s words and the tone he used remind me of God's message to Solomon: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place" (2 Chronicles 7:14-15).

Words of humility

The words of F.D.R. express a realism and humility that the path would be long and hard. His tone was frank and honest. Meacham in his work likens Roosevelt to Abraham Lincoln in the way he drew on "language and ritual of public religion to do the best one could at an hour when events were beyond the control of any president: help Americans see the crisis in the largest possible context reminding them that nothing would be easy but that the cause was worth the sacrifice. This is verbally demonstrated by the Commander in Chief's choice of words regarding 'how some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants into Thy kingdom.'"

Padilla concluded his article with a note of astonishment "that Roosevelt led what was, at the time, one of the largest single mass prayers in human history."

Yes, in retrospect it was amazing what one man did with six minutes of time. Which begs the question: What are we doing 60 years later? How are we approaching life and seeking the providence that comes from above? While the Fortress Europe of the 20th century was ultimately demolished by Allied troops, there are greater conflagrations yet ahead. Yes, events of such enormity are coming that, incredibly, will cause the horrific events of the past century to pale in comparison.

The prophet Daniel was divinely inspired to look into our very times and record for our warning that "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time"(Daniel 12:1). That's talking about the events preceding the return of Jesus Christ. Yes, the last days!

In the walk and battle that we have been called to as followers of Jesus Christ, it has been made painstakingly clear that the road will not be easy in this lifetime. The apostle Paul reiterated Christ's realistic message by "strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God'" (Acts 14:22).

As a matter of record, time and again, Jesus made it abundantly clear that before we wear a crown, we must bear a cross. Oh no, He never promised it would be easy, but He did make it crystal clear it would be worth it.

"Your prayers have come up"

And with all the challenges that would and will come, Jesus, in His divine revelation to John, painted a clear picture of the actions of His loved ones here below. He focused on people who moved beyond complaining to explaining to their Heavenly Father the need for the return of His Son to this earth. And those prayers rise up, as much as F.D.R.'s radio signal was transmitted across America.

In Revelation 8:3, it speaks of how "another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." This represents the prayers of Christ's followers. They are prayers that rise as "a memorial before God."

Let's remember that the Christian walk is not a sprint, but may better be likened to a marathon. Some have said that about one third of the Bible is prophecy and that 90 percent of that is yet to occur. With the momentous times ahead of us, you and I should have more than two words to put together in this deep well of world events and biblical prophecy.

On our lips

When we follow the admonition of Jesus to pray, perhaps we can gain a sense of perspective from another section of that prayer given on June 6, 1944.

It's a line of wisdom that reverberates with the godly admonition of "this is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). That way is a way that moves beyond the moment and causes us to wage a battle every day on our knees and in our hearts ensuring that our prayers of "thy kingdom come" sustain their vibrancy.

President Roosevelt said, "Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts." WNP


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Keywords: prayer D-day Roosevelt, Franklin 

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