Encouraged by a friend and following the good example of my wife, I find myself participating in the 40 Days for Life Campaign.
You probably won’t see much about this campaign in the news media. That’s because it is so peaceful and holy. All across the country, local groups have agreed to pray at abortion clinics for 12 hours a day, every day, for 40 days.
In my community, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, we have an abortion clinic. It isn’t something we brag about and I expect most people would be thrilled if it closed. Those of us professing to be Christians pray for its closure. And as we passed the halfway point of the campaign (September 23 – November 1) more than 700 people from more than 30 faith communities had spent time praying at the clinic, praying for the end of the murder of the innocents, praying for the end of what I expect will be seen in the future as our country’s greatest shame.
This is the first time I’ve spent any significant time praying in a very public manner. I was a bit uncomfortable at first; now I look forward to it.
The abortion clinic is on a busy highway and we have to pray on the public parkway, off the actual property of the clinic. Cars pass by almost constantly. Some drivers honk and give a supportive thumbs up. Others yell less-than-encouraging words and use distinctive hand signals to share their scorn. I’m thankful that the positive honks out pace the negative honks about 10 to one.
In the past, I always wondered what sort of people would take the time to pray outside an abortion clinic. This being a long prayer vigil, I get to meet lots of new people. And they are of every ethnic, economic, social and racial background. There are Catholics, Protestants and a smattering of Jews and Muslims. I’ve prayed beside the young and old, men in business suits, an elderly woman using a walker to shuffle from her car to the vigil site, a group of pro-life college students and dozens of people who just stopped to lend their support and to join in prayer.
The organizers of our local effort at two rather quiet but determined women, Cathy Douglass and Ann Deegan. They are wives and moms who have dedicated weeks of their lives to pulling the rest of us together. They even have a website for our local campaign in Glen Ellyn. I have the sense that neither sees herself as especially heroic or unusual. But I do. Each of them, like my wife, is a holy woman. And I figure if I hang around long enough with holy men and women it will increase my chances of getting through the pearly gates.
Some folks might wonder how much good it does for me to pray in front of an abortion clinic. After all, I’m not blocking the driveway, yelling at the patients or waving banners with picture of dead babies. No, I’m just praying.
Perhaps if I were raising a major ruckus the television cameras and radio microphones would appear. But as things are, peaceful prayer just isn’t newsworthy. Or course, inside the abortion clinic there is violence and death. And there could be prayers – asking for forgiveness.
Nationally, there are more than 200 documented cases in the campaign’s first 20 days of women who decided not to have abortions after seeing 40 Days participants praying in front of an abortion clinic. Saving 200 lives ought to be newsworthy.
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