National Day of Prayer Task Force, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, sponsored the annual event on May 2 under the missional mandate, “Mobilizing Unified Public Prayer for America.” The 2019 version took the theme “Love One Another” with the reference to the Gospel of John 13:34. While local events were hosted around the country, the media focus was on the event held at the White House and hosted by the President. Prayers were organized around four things: blessing America, love for one another, centers of cultural influence (business, education, media, religion, government, military, and family), and spiritual awakening. Presidential pastor Paula White-Cain took the microphone in the Rose Garden and prayed to expel demons from the White House and from around the President.
(See Dr. Moody’s commentary “Praying for America” based on his attendance at a National Day of Prayer event in his county.)
One of the most interesting and unusual religious narratives ever penned in these United States has taken its place in a new exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. It is entitled The Autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, and it is the story of his capture in Africa, his transport to the United States, and his sale as a slave in Charleston, South Carolina. The document, written in Arabic, is the only Arabic slave narrative written in the United States known to exit today. It (and more than a dozen translations of it) was in the possession of numerous private collectors until it was presented to the Library of Congress as part of a larger collection. Said was a learned and sophisticated African Muslim; he was eventually baptized as a Christian, but it is unclear whether he ever abandoned his Muslim faith. He died in 1864 after living in the States for 50 years.
Two deaths in the Evangelical community to report this week. Long time Chicago preacher and radio host Warren Wiersbe died at the age of 89. It was the pen of the winsome Wiersbe that brought him the most success and influence; he wrote 170 books that sold in aggregate more than four million copies worldwide. If Wiersbe represented the Evangelical establishment, Rachel Held Evans was the young protestor against the liabilities and limitations of the movement. From her post in Bryan, Tennessee, home to the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1927, Evans wrote blogs and books that critiqued the Evangelicalism she eventually abandoned. Held, age 37, died of an infection after more than two weeks of unsuccessful treatment in the hospital. She leaves behind a husband, two young children, and an international network of grieving readers.
A few American clergy and scholars are among the 42 from around the world that signed a letter to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church leveling charges of heresy against Pope Francis. “We are accusing the pope of the canonical delict of heresy,” the letter reads in the second paragraph. A delict is, in civil law, an intentional act or breach of duty that causes harm to another. Catholic professors from Steubenville University and the Catholic University of America added their names to the missive. This letter continues the global resistance to the leadership of Pope Francis, although it is offset by a much strong network of support among both the laity and the clergy of the Catholic Church. A similar letter was presented more than two years ago from a different group of Catholics.
And all over the world …
Muslims began their month-long celebration of Ramadan. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which, contrary to the solar calendar familiar to most of the world, is driven by lunar cycles; which means the dates of Ramadan rotate through the year. This year it began on May 6th and ends on or about June 6th. It is a time of fasting, prayer, and generosity; the faithful avoid drink, food, and sexual activity during the daylight hours. As Muslims believe God revealed the entire Koran to Mohammed during the month of Ramadan, believers are encouraged to read the entire Koran during Ramadan. The festival ends with the feast of Eid-al-Fitr. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith: confession of faith, prayer five times a day, alms-giving, fasting during Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during a lifetime.