Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from Christian Union: The Magazine.
By Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer
Christian Union Day and Night recently called believers across the United States to an extended time of prayer, fasting, and repentance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the spring, 4,700-plus individuals signed up to fast and intercede in the wake of the global health crisis. Though the fast originally was scheduled to run for 40 days starting on March 18, Christian Union Day and Night extended instructional programming through May to support more concerted prayer.
In launching this initiative, leaders with Christian Union Day and Night, based in NYC, highlighted examples of lengthy fasts throughout church history, especially in response to plagues, pestilences, and other plights. Many of the major figures of the Old Testament, including Moses, Nehemiah, and Esther, committed to elongated fasts.
Christian Union Founder and CEO Matt Bennett called for believers to respond to the coronavirus outbreak with sincere, deep groaning, and prayer. Christian Union’s campus ministries, located at some of the nation’s most influential universities, also focused on prayer during the pandemic.
“We believe this is what is needed at this time,” said Bennett, Cornell ’88, MBA ’89.
“Our hope is in our God who can turn all of this around. God is sovereign, but He has elected, out of His sovereignty, to let us play a role in seeing things change.”
Bennett highlighted the powerful words of 2 Chronicles 7:14. “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.”
Indeed, the Old Testament includes various accounts of God miraculously intervening on behalf of His people after they humbled themselves and confessed their sins.
As for contemporary believers, we are likewise called to genuinely examine ourselves and repent of individual and collective sins. “This is what we are to do when there are calamities that come upon the country or our families,” said Bennett. “God is amazingly merciful.”
Dr. Chuck Hetzler, senior associate leader with Day and Night and the pastor of Bethesda Grace Church in Manhattan, echoed those sentiments.
“We want to take God at His word. If we will draw closer to God, He will draw closer to us,” said Hetzler, who holds a doctorate in New Testament. “Our forefathers in the faith here in America knew those promises, and they put those to the test. He will do it again if we will unite, if we will pray with fervency and persistence according to God’s word.”
In 2016, Christian Union launched Day and Night to mobilize Christians to fervently pray for sweeping spiritual transformation in the United States. Nearly 22,000 people have committed to pray fifteen minutes per day as part of an ongoing intercessory effort for a powerful move of God.
In response to the coronavirus, Day and Night released morning and evening video devotionals via its Web site, e-mails, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media. Day and Night’s Facebook page had 80,000 views per week during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen good receptivity,” said Whit Hazelton, Christian Union Day and Night’s marketing director. “People acknowledge the sinful condition of our land. They are eager for spiritual awakening. We are asking for a move of the Holy Spirit.”
Hazelton also noted that many people have sent in testimonies about how participating in the fast has encouraged them and strengthened their faith.
“We need God to help us through this trying time,” he said. “This could be an opportunity for a new Great Awakening. We’re ripe for spiritual renewal.”
In a series of video devotionals, Bennett called upon believers to repent of sins besetting the United States, including self-indulgence, greed, sexual immorality, unforgiveness, and idolatry. He also highlighted the overarching imperative for contemporary believers to honor and fear the Lord.
As part of a recurring theme, Bennett urged listeners to center their foci and priorities upon seeking God. Likewise, he cautioned against the sins of self indulgence, and spotlighted the myriad ways Western believers are lovers of pleasure, rather than God.
In contrast, members of the early church were faithful to gather for morning and evening prayers as an extension of their spiritual zeal. “You cannot be what you are called to be without these times with God,” he said. “You need to be strong in the Lord.”
Bennett also showcased the nature of prayer and repentance in paving the way for revival. Extraordinary seasons of prayer involving humility and repentance preceded each of the Great Awakenings in American Christian history. More importantly, Bennett showcased the nature of prayer and repentance in paving the way for revival. Extraordinary seasons of prayer involving humility and repentance preceded each of the Great Awakenings in American Christian history. Such events include the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s; the Second Great Awakening of roughly 1795 to 1835; the Third Great Awakening, which included the Businessmen’s Revival of 1857-58; the Pentecostal Awakening of the 1906; and the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.
Bennett urged American believers to heed God’s urgent call for His people to examine individual and national conduct. “This is a time to repent for the United States,” said Bennett. “This is what the Lord expects of us. We need to turn to God and repent of everything that is displeasing to Him.”
Christians need to respond with humility, prayer, and sacrifice during the unprecedented global pandemic. “May we not miss this time and may this nation return to Him,” said Bennett. “We’re grateful for all of those seeking the Lord. We’ve had thousands of people across the country joining us.”
Ultimately, “He hears our cry together. We need prayer more than ever during this time of national crisis.”
For more information on Christian Union Day and Night, visit www.dayandnight.org.