A student at Plano West Senior High School is suspected of plotting to commit a mass shooting at Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre mall. Both cities are northern suburbs of Dallas. Like many who live in my area, I have been to Stonebriar many times.
Matin Azizi-Yarand, age seventeen, was taken into custody Tuesday and is being held in lieu of $3 million bail. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Authorities say his ISIS-inspired attack was planned for Ramadan (which begins this year on May 15) to minimize the danger to Muslims. He was working to purchase weapons and tactical gear and had written a “Message to America” explaining his reasons for the attack.
He intended to kill a police officer at the mall, set stores on fire, and perhaps take hostages as well. His plot was discovered by FBI confidential sources and an undercover employee.
Terrorism is not just a story we read about from Syria or Afghanistan. It is a very real possibility anywhere in the world, including my neighborhood and yours. This is another reason America needs the National Day of Prayer we observe today.
Praying for “the next great move of God in America”
America has observed specific days of prayer since 1688. President Harry Truman made the National Day of Prayer an annual observance in 1952. His reason: “In times of national crisis when we are striving to strengthen the foundations of peace . . . we stand in special need of Divine support.”
This year’s theme is “Pray for America—UNITY.” The theme verse is Ephesians 4:3: “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Those who organized today’s observance are calling us to “humble ourselves and unify in prevailing prayer for the next great move of God in America.” They believe Christians can “come together in clear agreement that this is our greatest need.”
Religion is “the safeguard of morality”
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, historian, and political scientist. In 1831, he embarked upon an extensive study of our country. Nine months later, he published his now-classic report, Democracy in America.
In it, he noted that all nations “bear some marks of their origin. The circumstances that accompanied their birth and contributed to their development affected the whole term of their being.”
He then described the circumstances that accompanied the birth of America. De Tocqueville was especially impressed with Pilgrims who immigrated to the New World in 1620. Their first act upon landing on the coast of America was to constitute a society “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and the honour of our King and country.”
Note the order of their priorities.
After an extensive review of American history, de Tocqueville concluded: “Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and its triumphs, as the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom.”
“Let justice roll down like waters”
You and I are now the custodians of this legacy of freedom. We are therefore called to advance religion as the safeguard of that morality which secures law and advances freedom.
The bad news is that we can do very little as individuals to produce the spiritual awakening we so desperately need. The good news is that we don’t have to.
If you and I will “unify in prevailing prayer for the next great move of God in America,” what we do together in intercession will position us and our nation to receive what only God’s Spirit can give. His famous promise still stands: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
However, if we do not continue to pray in passion and unity for “the next great move of God in America,” very little we do today will matter tomorrow. If we are not willing to answer our own prayer by working for justice and righteousness in our nation, we cannot expect God to bring the moral renewal we seek.
His warning is clear:
I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:21–24).
We have a choice to make
I am grateful that churches and Christians around America are uniting in prayer today. The urgency of these days demands an urgent commitment to intercession.
Now we have a choice to make.
If today’s National Day of Prayer fades into memory tomorrow, it will have been an event we observe but not the movement we need. However, if today’s call to prayer becomes a catalyst for daily, impassioned, unified intercession for personal and national repentance and awakening, this day can become a bridge to genuine revival.
The decision is ours.