For the first time in over a decade, we have withdrawn our goals for an unbroken prayer vigil outside Bakersfield’s only abortion business during the 40 days of Lent. Nevertheless, we do look forward to seeing many people praying outside the FPA abortion chamber during Lent, primarily during daylight hours.
We always encourage people to pray outside this place of death, anytime they can, day or night. Prayer is essential, but many experiences have taught us the advantages of a true vigil. A vigil is more than one person praying: it is a cooperative effort to form a continuous unbroken chain of prayer, especially during the hours of darkness. We had worked harder on planning this LifeVigil than any of our past vigils, but without full cooperation from some key individuals, we decided that it would be better to postpone the true vigil until later in the year. That was a very frustrating decision, because at this time when the FPA abortion business is having trouble finding an abortionist to come to Bakersfield, we had hoped to redouble our efforts, not to retreat.
But we don’t see this as a defeat; on the contrary, it is an opportunity to refocus our efforts. Upon some reflection, we realized that God apparently ordained these circumstances for a good purpose. If we begin the next true 40 day LifeVigil on May 2, our prayers will be most focused during the strategic time leading up to the primary election in June (where abortion is of course likely to be a major concern for voters, and where key decisions will be made impacting the future of mothers and children both locally and throughout the nation).
So, even as people pray on these sidewalks during Lent, we will continue to ask everyone to commit to praying with us during the next true 40 day LifeVigil, whenever that vigil may occur. A true 40 day vigil requires significant commitment, so we will continue our efforts to “count the cost,” seeking to determine how many people will plan to cover a portion of the next vigil. If we cannot receive enough commitments soon, we may find it necessary to delay the start of the next vigil to the summer.
Whether or not you plan to pray outside FPA during Lent, please take the time now to answer our brief survey so that we will know whether or not we can count on you for the next vigil.
Some people are already confused about our decision to delay the 40 day vigil, so we need to correct some misconceptions we have heard about this:
Some people have said that we are not participating in the Lent prayers. On the contrary, we might devote more of our time to effective prayer and ministry on these sidewalks than anyone else during this season in Bakersfield (as is typically the case). We will also continue to help the Lent prayer volunteers in any way we can, to the degree that we are able to do so. Many of the typical strategic vigil resources (such as the memorial crosses) will indeed be missing, however, because they are designed for a true vigil (it is not practical to risk the loss of such resources during times when nobody will be praying outside the abortion chamber).
Some have also said that we curtailed the vigil because we are exhausted. It is true that we are tired, but we always seek to trust in God’s strength when we are weak. However, the burdens of a true vigil are more than we can bear by ourselves. If we don’t have enough reliable vigil volunteers to maintain an unbroken vigil, we find ourselves focusing so much on covering the vigil that we neglect other essential pro-life ministry responsibilities. So the issue is not whether or not we are tired, but our need to fulfill our most important priorities. Even when we are weary, we will continue to pray and work, both on these sidewalks and in many other pro-life ventures here and elsewhere. We know of over 1000 people who have prayed on these sidewalks with us during the past 10 years of our 40 day vigils, so there are more than enough people to cover another 40 day vigil, even if only a fraction of previous participants have responded to our requests.
The difficulty in finding people to cover the “night shifts” (especially early morning hours of darkness) has also been a focus of some people. But according to our survey results, the most difficult vigil timeslots to fill are not early mornings, but mid-afternoons. In fact, some people’s schedules allow them only to participate in the vigil during the early morning hours of darkness. Eliminating the hours of darkness prevents these people from having an effective role in the vigil. But more importantly, eliminating the hours of darkness violates the essence of what a “vigil” is.
We have seen 40 day vigil efforts in other cities go down this difficult path of eliminating nighttime prayers. The result has been increasing attrition, with more and more hours (and even days) eliminated as the number of prayer volunteers decreases. It is our hope that the significant differences between a true vigil and intermittent prayers will become evident to all of our Bakersfield friends during these 40 days of Lent prayers, and that in the future we will join together again to commit to more unbroken vigils, as a sign of our determination to persevere until no more children are killed in our community.