In its 25th annual service, the Lancaster National Day of Prayer took an unprecedented step Thursday night in launching a YouTube page and hosting the entirety of its event online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was originally scheduled to be held at Stone Gables Estate near Elizabethtown. Instead, more than 800 viewers watched the nearly hour-long recording on YouTube.
Many more may have also tuned in to the broadcast on Channel 49 and on Lancaster-based radio stations WJTL 90.3 FM and WDAC 94.5FM.
The first half of the service was made up of prayers and worship songs.
The back half featured the keynote prayer address from Dr. James Dobson, a psychologist who founded Christian organization Focus on the Family in 1977 before stepping down in 2010 when he established Family Talk, a nonprofit ministry that uses biblical principles to support marriage, family and child development.
“What is God saying to us in this troubled time?” Dobson said.
To answer that question, Dobson pointed to three “absolutes.”
“The first is that we know that God is in control,” Dobson said. “This pandemic has not taken him by surprise. For those who are fearful or may be in a state of panic, this is for you: Timothy assured us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Dobson’s second “absolute” was that he believes, “God is up to something.”
With that, he revisited the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was a time like today when America was shaken to its foundation,” Dobson said. “People went to their knees in prayer during that time. Churches the following Sunday were filled to capacity. After 9/11, members of Congress, both parties, actually stood together on the steps of the Capitol building and sang, “God Bless America.” Bumper stickers carried the words, ‘United We Stand.’”
But Dobson said he believes America quickly got away from that unity.
“We were united then, but only for a short while,” he said. “Have you thought about why the spiritual movement of that era didn’t last? It was perhaps because the emphasis of many churches was not on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it was focused on national solidarity and patriotism.”
Dobson’s third “absolute” was, “that the God we serve is infinitely loving. It’s his ultimate gift to us.”
He ultimately implored Christians to, “pray fervently for a third great awakening that will bring us back to our spiritual routes.”
“We should be crying out to the Lord for a spiritual renewal,” he said. “For a revival that will sweep across the nation and spread around the world.”
Also taking part in the service was Aaron House, executive director of Piercing Word Ministries; Charles Billingsley, worship leader, concert artist and speaker; the One-A-Chord Community Choir, directed by Amy Fennimore; hymnwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty; Kevin Eshleman, lead pastor at Ephrata Community Church; Kurt Weaver, of the Pennsylvania Family Institute; Lt. Col. the Rev. Grover DeVault, retired U.S. Army chaplain; the Rev. Phil Hernandez, pastor of In the Light Ministries; David Abel, founder of DAS Companies and Brittany's Hope, a nonprofit aiding abandoned children; and the Rev. Carter Conlon, senior pastor, Times Square Church.
Additionally, Dobson’s wife and former chairwoman of National Day of Prayer, Shirley, recognized Lancaster resident Dona Fisher for her 25th year as chairwoman of the Lancaster National Day of Prayer. Fisher is also vice president of Friendship Foundation Inc. and an LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent.