At the end of this month, cities across the world will begin a 40-day pro-life campaign dedicated to prayer, fasting and community outreach. Appropriately named “40 Days for Life,” this now-international event humbly began in 2004 when four ordinary people, discouraged with the lack of involvement in their community’s pro-life efforts, prayed together for one hour.
From this last-ditch effort to rejuvenate pro-life enthusiasm in their community came the inspiration to peacefully pray outside their local abortion center round-the-clock for 40 days straight. Led by the Holy Spirit, they decided that they would make this 40 Days for Life happen even if it meant each of them would have to stand alone for six hours each day. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Their dedication and determination motivated more than 1,400 people to get involved in this ground-breaking event. This divinely inspired spark led to a pro-life wildfire that spread across the nation in 2007 and eventually around the world.
The Toledo 40 Days for Life began similarly: we who were on that first “team” had no idea how to make it work in our community; we just knew we had to try. God was faithful to our efforts — more than 300 people came out during that first 40 Days for Life. This fall we will begin our fifth year of standing outside the Center for Choice in downtown Toledo for 12 hours a day, for 40 continuous days. We were one of 89 locations in the fall of 2007; this year we will be joined by nearly 300 cities, including Lima!
Does this “radical” vigil make a difference? Yes! Since the first national campaign, more than 4,300 women have chosen life for their babies and 53 abortion workers have left their jobs, including Abby Johnson, the former director of Planned Parenthood, where the first 40 Days for Life began! Thirteen abortion centers have closed, and more than 400,000 people have gotten involved! All this because a few frustrated people decided to pray about the problem.
Never underestimate the difference one person can make! Even more so, never underestimate the power of prayer and peaceful witness! In July, we talked to a woman who decided to NOT have an abortion because she saw a priest leading a group of people in prayer outside the abortion center. Last year, during 40 Days for Life, two women stopped to tell participants that they chose life for their babies during the previous campaign simply because people were praying outside the Center for Choice. Men who couldn’t prevent their babies from being aborted have stopped to talk, grieve and pray with us. Post-abortive women, too, have been affected by our presence and caring attitude. A woman recently sought post-abortive help due to the love she encountered from prayer witnesses as she left the abortion facility.
40 Days for Life begins Sept. 28 and ends Nov. 6. If you have never before participated, I encourage you to come and pray with us this year. For many people, standing outside an abortion center is not an easy thing to do. Frankly, it’s hard even for those of us who have been doing it for years. We need to be there, however, if for no other reason than to be a glimmer of hope for just one person so that he or she will see Christ’s love shining through us.
Will someone see you this year? Will you step out of your comfort zone and make a difference in someone’s life? Stand and pray for LIFE and for LOVE! God will see your efforts … and in the end, that’s all that really matters anyway.
Ann Barrick is the founder of ProLifeConnection.com and the campaign director for Toledo’s 40 Days for Life. She may be contacted at ann@prolifeconnection. com.