Reflections on National Prayer Day
May 5 was National Prayer Day, and judging by media headlines of this week and the end of April, humble supplications before God are sorely needed. The leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's draft majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade has ramped up the already bitter, partisan opposing sides of pro-life against pro-choice. The fight will get even more contentious as Alito also stated that Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 ruling that enforced a new benchmark regarding restriction of abortions in Pennsylvania, should be overruled. "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," Alito wrote, which will ultimately make abortion a battleground of the states. With the political lines clearly drawn between red and blue states, we pretty much know where abortion laws will be upheld.
Before Alito's leaked opinion jolted our 24-hour news cycle, I had been focusing on another story that also needs our prayers and utmost attention. New research published online by JAMA Pediatrics on April 25 found that the number of suicides among children and teens between the ages of 10 and 19 increased in the states of Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia and California. The study was divided into "prepandemic (2015-2019) and pandemic (2020) periods," analyzing data from the suicide deaths of over 85,000 youth and adults provided by 14 state departments of public health.
Seven months prior to the release of the JAMA Pediatrics' results, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a state of emergency regarding the mental health of children and adolescents. The authors of the JAMA Pediatrics study emphasized the importance of caring for "adolescent well-being" as many young people are still dealing with the aftermath of pandemic tragedies, such as the loss of a parent or primary caregiver. Being more aware of stress factors related to the toll of COVID-19 will help teachers, counselors and ministers in identifying youth who may be contemplating suicide.
Suicide among youth is one of the pressing issues that my women's prayer group has prayed about during our 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning sessions. One member in the group works at a social services organization in Columbus, Ohio, that aids homeless and at-risk youth. And I, as I have mentioned in previous commentaries on Gen Z, continue to learn more about suicide and mental health afflictions through individual testimonies of students in my English composition courses at Ohio State University's Lima campus. I consistently follow studies like JAMA Pediatrics', but encountering stories of suicide survival that students have felt comfortable sharing in class makes this matter very personal to me. I know that as a Christian it is my duty to intercede for them, their friends and their families regarding the difficult obstacles they are wrestling with in life.
The National Prayer Day theme was "Exalt the Lord who has established us," which came from Colossians 2:6-7. These verses encourage us to build up our faith in Christ with a spiritual outlook of thanksgiving. Given the mental health complications our youth are enduring in addition to the rigid political divisions within our country, for National Prayer Day I also reflected on 1 Timothy 2:2, which instructs us to pray for those in authority, and 2 Chronicles 6:21, which asks God to hear our supplications and grant forgiveness.
I know that many people view prayer as nothing more than just a religious ritual, but we are at a critical crossroads in our nation where we need true believers to, as we often say at my church, "press their way" in God's presence. Even the White House briefing statement on May 4 called for a moment of "renewal" and "reflection" while acknowledging "the healing power of prayer." I am definitely a witness of the healing power of prayer, and I end this column with this earnest petition:
Father God, in the glorified name of Jesus Christ, I pray for our country, for those who are suffering, struggling and battling to survive. For those who feel as if they have been forgotten and left behind in the chaos that surrounds them. Meet their need, whatever it is, and bring them peace, joy and fulfillment in knowing and loving You. Intervene and provide wisdom to our leaders governing our nation. Let Your agape love overrule pride, greed, apathy and selfishness, and lead us out of discord into a righteous place of compassion and understanding. Amen.