Prayer is the foundation of 40 Days for Life. It was one hour of prayer around a table in Texas that led to the first 40 Days for Life campaign.
It is prayer that moves hearts and minds. Prayer is what speaks to the thousands of women who have turned around at the very last moment before their abortion. It is prayer that opens the hearts of abortion workers, and prayer that offers hope and healing to women as they leave the abortion facility after they?ve had an abortion. It is prayer that sustains a discouraged volunteer or motivates a hopeful leader to bring this campaign to their community.
Prayer is our strongest weapon because it takes the focus off ourselves and places our hope in God and His holy will. Prayer prevents us from getting overwhelmed and it humbles us when God answers.
As peaceful and prayerful as the 40 Days for Life campaigns have been -- as selfless and loving as the hundreds of thousands of participants have been to women, men and workers -- not everyone feels warm and fuzzy about 40 Days for Life.
We never expected the abortion industry to be supportive of what we do. They ramble on about ?anti-choice protesters.? But the irony is that without the presence of prayer volunteers, the woman has no real choice once she arrives at their door. In fact, Planned Parenthood actively discourages their clients from speaking with prayer volunteers or taking free information about local alternatives. Countless are the times I?ve witnessed escorts and employees in the parking lot ripping up information about adoption or free pregnancy help in the community.
Of all the hostile and sometimes just plain bizarre reactions to 40 Days for Life from the abortion industry, perhaps the most outlandish unfolded during the spring 2012 campaign. I had just landed in Omaha, Nebraska to give a speech at Creighton University when my phone began buzzing with texts and emails from media outlets wanting comments on the new campaign from Planned Parenthood.
?Now what?? I thought to myself.
I got to my hotel and went through the calls and emails and couldn?t believe what was happening.
A Planned Parenthood affiliate in California had launched a mock 40 Days for Life campaign called ?40 Days of Prayer.? Planned Parenthood had teamed up with Clergy for Choice and even created daily devotionals and prayer requests that matched the 40 Days for Life model. While they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this was appalling ? all one had to do was read the prayer requests for each day.
Here are a few:
- DAY 1: Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they may know they have choices.
- DAY 5: Today we prayer for medical students who want to include abortion care in their practice. May they receive good training and find good mentors.
- DAY 7: Today we pray for the 45 million American women who have had safe, legal abortions. May they stand tall and refuse shame.
- DAY 14: Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.
- DAY 18: Today we pray for all the staff at abortion clinics around the nation. May they be daily confirmed in the sacred care that they offer women.
- DAY 21: Today we pray for women in developing nations, that they may know the power of self-determination. May they have access to employment, education, birth control and abortion.
- DAY 36: Today we pray for the families we?ve chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.
The most telling thing about these daily ?prayer? intentions is what they reveal about Planned Parenthood. They show the huge disconnect between the talking points of the abortion industry and the reality of women seeking abortions ? and especially with the women who have had abortions. They also reveal the lengths the abortion business will go to in order to justify the unjustifiable. Although abortion has been permitted for decades, those who believe in it still have to justify and rationalize it every day.
How many advocates of other causes will not discuss the specifics of the cause they stand for? Environmentalists will talk about the environment, anti-war activists will talk about war, anti-capitalists will talk about Wall Street. But abortion advocates won?t talk about abortion. They will always steer the conversation away from the details of abortion and focus on this vague, abstract notion of ?choice.?
These prayer intentions reveal a mindset that sees abortion as ?sacred? and that wants medical students to have ?good training? in abortion. Even worse, they see power in abortion. They put abortion in the same critical, must-have category as education or employment for women in developing countries.
Furthermore, their insistence that women seeking abortion are looking for a spiritual reward for their ?determination? has no basis in reality. These women are scared. They feel alone. They see no other way out. That?s not determination; that?s fear. It?s not their mission to have an abortion ? it?s something they want to forget about the moment it is over.
It's even more extreme when you consider women who have had abortions. The abortion industry?s attitude towards them is simply cold and uncompassionate. Planned Parenthood has historically been unable to connect with the majority of women who have had abortions because of their ideological view that abortion empowers women.
This was never more evident than in 2006 with their failed campaign to push t-shirts that said, ?I had an abortion.? They thought that women would claim they were proud of their abortions. The media had a field day with it. Of course, no one bought the t-shirt, and it was quietly pulled off the market not long after it was released.
The prayer intentions show once again how out of touch Planned Parenthood is with real women by praying that they ?refuse shame,? as if something is wrong with a woman who regrets her abortion or is even uncomfortable with the fact that she has an abortion in her past. It is not odd to feel shame after an abortion ? just ask a woman who has had one.
If you want to know if shame is something women can just refuse and move on from, just ask groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign or Rachel?s Vineyard, which have reached out and helped hundreds of thousands of post-abortive women. These groups tirelessly help women find hope and healing when Planned Parenthood expects them to move on like it?s not that big a deal.
After abortion, there is no follow-up appointment at Planned Parenthood. They want to control how women feel about it afterwards. Not only are they praying for these women to ?refuse shame,? they demand that they ?know the blessing of choice.? I have met hundreds of women who have had abortions and there is not one who would label their abortion as a ?blessing.? The disconnect between the abortion industry?s radical view of women and the human heart is scary.
Because of that disconnect, this mock prayer campaign became a public relations nightmare for Planned Parenthood, as the brochures with the daily prayer intentions quickly circulated online. In my hotel room in Omaha, I pulled up Foxnews.com ? and there it was on the home page!
That night Fox News invited our good friend Marjorie Dannenfelser in studio for an interview. Marjorie is the director of the Washington, DC based Susan B. Anthony List, which identifies pro-life political candidates. Marjorie is a major supporter of 40 Days for Life and has seen the campaign?s grassroots impact firsthand. During the interview, Marjorie said, ?Prayer is authentic. A prayer reflects exactly where you are. If it?s used as a political instrument, it?s not okay. And that?s what Planned Parenthood?s effort is.?
Fox News reported that effort was done ?as a direct response to the 40 Days for Life campaign that has had support from 15,000 churches nationwide.?
Planned Parenthood?s response from their California CEO, Denise Vanden Bos, was even worse. Vanden Bos said, ?Clergy for Choice believe that human life is holy and believe in all parents choosing to be a parent or not.?
Human life is holy but not as holy as the right to get rid of it?
While Planned Parenthood might have intended this as a campaign to mock you ? and all people of faith who recognize the God-given dignity of every human life ? it backfired, giving 40 Days for Life a massive publicity boost in more than 400 media outlets.
It is in prayer, not abortion, where real power is found. Planned Parenthood?s mock 40 Days for Prayer campaign was simply an effort to make abortion appear mainstream and even to make it sound Godly. It was extremely encouraging to see that campaign fail.
The good news is that as frustrated as we can become with our secular culture, the culture still does not accept the idea that abortion is empowering, or good ? or from God.
As 40 Days for Life?s new campaign kicks off in 252 cities in 19 countries, you have the opportunity to pray on behalf of the unborn ? and the opportunity to be mocked. But know that the abortion business mocks us because 40 Days for Life has an impact ? and it has an impact because prayer works.