Public Square & Theology 101

Praying for Unity and Flourishing on the National Day of Prayer

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Today is the National Day of Prayer, a day designated by Congress in 1952 to urge Americans “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” The theme this year is to seek unity for our divided nation, and the theme verse is Ephesians 4:3: “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

How do we pray for unity in our families, churches, communities, and nation? We must first understand how to pray according to God’s design and desire for his creation.

At IFWE, we believe God’s will for our lives, especially through our work, is to bring about flourishing (shalom) in the world. That is God’s design and desire for his creation. According to Jonathan Pennington, one of the concepts behind biblical flourishing is, in fact, unity.

In his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga provides a further definition of what this biblical flourishing looks like:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be…The full flourishing of human life in all aspects, as God intended it to be.

This is what we’re designed for and what God desires for us to work toward. This is what we need to pray for today for ourselves, our leaders, and our nation.

The following prayer guide includes scriptures, excerpts, and prayers for reflection from the IFWE booklet, All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel. A helpful way to understand the biblical call to flourishing is to see God’s big-picture story in four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.


Creation

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)

The creation account reveals God’s magnificent love for us. He shaped us in his image to reflect his glory and charged us with the greatest responsibility of all his creatures, to care for and cultivate his kingdom. In his image, we have the ability to create. In his image, we have the desire to be in relationships. These aspects of God’s image undergird our human dignity, desires, and abilities. We often forget that because of God’s love for us, he gave us purpose on earth.

Thank you, Father, that you created me out of love and for a purpose. Help me to understand what it means to be made in your image and to live out the mission you have given me to be fruitful for your glory and the benefit of others.

Fall

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17).

This rebellion of Adam and Eve against God in the Garden of Eden broke the command he had given to them and introduced sin into the world. Sin contaminated every aspect of human life and the created order (Gen. 3:7-24). The unity and peace God had woven into his world, shalom, began to unravel. Every part of the created order was damaged; even the environment was altered. Everything was broken, including our relationship with God. The Fall left humans in a state of total ruin, incapable of doing anything that pleases God. To make matters worse, we cannot do anything to reverse its effects (Rom. 3:9-19; 8:7-8).

Dear Lord, help me to see the depths of my sin and its impact on my relationships and the world around me. Forgive my lack of trust in your faithfulness, and how I have hurt others. Without you, I am unable to flourish or bring flourishing to those around me.

Redemption

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

God did not abandon the human race. Instead, out of his great love and mercy, God delivered his people from sin and brought them into salvation by grace through faith. In our sin and wretchedness, we deserve death—the penalty for our sin—but instead, through his son, Jesus Christ, God graciously gives us the free gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). The impact of redemption in our daily lives is not just for the future, it’s enjoyed today. God gives us foretastes of glory and hope in our lives to show us what is to come when Christ returns. By living lives demonstrative of Christ’s love, we can also extend God’s redemptive grace to others.

Dear Jesus, thank you for your incredible sacrifice on my behalf and for delivering me from sin and death. Thank you for restoring my relationship with you and allowing me to take part in your redemptive and restorative work in the lives of others and in creation.

Restoration

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).

Restoration explains the way things will be one day when Christ returns to make all things new. In Restoration, Christ will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We eagerly await the final chapter of God’s story when there will be complete flourishing. In this final chapter, the whole of physical creation will be restored to, as the Bible describes, the new heavens and a new earth.

Restoration gives us immense hope in what is to come and in the significance of our work today. God has chosen to include us in his work of restoration. The great privilege of collaborating with him motivates excellence in even the most mundane tasks until one day we realize the fullness of God’s kingdom when he will make all things new.

Dear Lord, thank you for the hope we have in your future restoration of all things and that we can play a part in our everyday work. Help my life to be a signpost for others, pointing them to the way things will be when Jesus returns.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, align our hearts with this big-picture plan, from Creation to Restoration, to bring unity and flourishing to our nation for your glory!

Editor’s note: Read more about the four-chapter gospel in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.

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