‘Pray for Dobbs’: Bishops, Faith Leaders Emphasize the Importance of Prayer and Fasting for the End of Roe in Ongoing Campaign
‘It’s really important for we Catholics to pray more,’ Archbishop Joseph Naumann told the Register, with respect to the outcome of the pending Dobbs decision that might overturn the U.S. framework for legal abortion.
WASHINGTON — As the pro-life movement eagerly awaits a decision from the Supreme Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that could lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned, U.S. bishops have joined with faith leaders from across the country to lead Christians in prayer for an end to abortion in the United States.
“We’re at this pivotal moment,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, stressed, regarding the imperative to pray and fast for a positive Supreme Court outcome. “It’s really important for we Catholics to pray more, to intercede more for the judges, but also for ourselves, that we can be this society that really reverences the human person.”
The “Pray for Dobbs” campaign, an ecumenical initiative the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops helped organize, features a monthly prayer call and resources for parishes and faith communities.
Archbishop Naumann, who participated in the launch of the campaign in the fall, said it’s important to remember that “prayer has to be the foundation of everything we do and that all of our efforts, important as they might be, are not going to be as fruitful if we’re not praying and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us.” He pointed to the example of Jesus in the Gospels “frequently going off to a place of solitude to be able to pray for his own fulfilling of the mission that the Father entrusted to him.”
In the case of praying for the overturning of Roe in the Dobbs case, he said that “our prayer is intercessory; we’re asking the Lord to help us in specific ways, but prayer is best described as a conversation between ourselves and God, so we’re also listening in our prayer to what the Lord is calling us to do, and we know that intercessory prayer is powerful.” He also referenced the Parable of the Persistent Friend in the Gospel of Luke who is given what he asks by his friend due to his persistence. “We know persistence is part of what Jesus teaches about prayer: not that God needs us to change his mind, but that we need to dispose our hearts to understand his will.”
Archbishop Naumann also cited Jesus telling the disciples in the Gospels that some demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. “Fasting is an important part of praying,” he said. “When we fast, part of what we’re doing is we’re giving up something that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we’re making this sacrifice, which in itself becomes an intercessory prayer. It also creates space in our life; and some of the things that we turn to for comfort instead of God, fasting opens up those spaces in our life to turn towards the Lord.”
“With the abortion issue,” he said, “I think it certainly is a demon in our society and that prayer and fasting are going to be necessary for us to be able to expel this demon that attacks the sacredness of life.” He said the decision in Dobbs “could be such a transformative moment for our culture, to reverse some of the very disastrous trends that our culture has had for almost 50 years and this disregard and disrespect for the sanctity of human life.”
He said the response in his own diocese has been very positive, with parishes including the prayer resources in their bulletins and Mass intercessions. “The parishes have welcomed this as one of the ways that they really live the gospel of life,” he said, by praying “that we get a favorable decision from the [Supreme] Court and that we’ve prepared ourselves well to take advantage of that decision, in terms of protecting children and women.”
Unity in Praying for Life
Archbishop Naumann said the ecumenical prayer campaign came about because “it was a felt need by all Christians that are engaged in the pro-life efforts. This is a seminal moment for the pro-life movement.” Bishops and evangelical leaders “saw the same need” for prayer. “It has been an ecumenical effort to ask Catholics and all Christians to pray for wisdom for the Supreme Court and to intercede that the Holy Spirit will help them in issuing this decision,” in order to “take this opportunity to restore protection for the unborn children, but also for women, not to have the scars and the tragedy that every abortion leaves.”
Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told the Register that, as part of the campaign, he has spread awareness of the importance of praying for the outcome of the Dobbs case in his campus community and beyond. He said that coming together with Christians of other faith backgrounds to pray for the outcome of the case made sense because “whatever doctrinal differences there may be on various aspects of theology, upholding a strong conviction as to the sacredness of life, a sanctity of life, particularly that of the unborn, is something that really is fairly self-evident.”
Kathy Branzell, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and founder and president of the Fellowship and Christian Encouragement for Educators, told the Register that participating in the campaign made sense, as many of those involved have become “prayer partners” for the pro-life cause over the years. “It has been beautiful to see the oneness of the body of Christ,” she said. “There may be things that we can all disagree on or agree to disagree on out on the fringes, but life stands firm.”
David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council, told the Register that the prayer campaign came about after he heard from pastors and churches around the country asking about “how they can be praying and thinking more about this case that could overturn Roe.” He said he worked with the USCCB and the Alliance Defending Freedom to help facilitate a prayer campaign, as they were hearing from people about “the same desire, the same need to pray” as the Supreme Court took up a case that could overturn Roe and return regulation of abortion to the states.
Virtual Prayer to Change Hearts
Closson said that since an initial meeting in October, 17,000 people have signed up for alerts and monthly prayer calls on the campaign’s website. He described the themes for each monthly call, which focus on different parts of society that are involved in the decision or will be impacted by it. “The first month we prayed for the justices and their clerks,” he said. “The next month we prayed for women, and the next call we’re going to pray for men to step up as husbands and fathers.”
He said that for those on the calls, “one thing we all agree on is that God’s word says that all people, born and unborn, are made in his image and have inherent value and dignity. We believe that. And the second thing we all agree on is the importance of prayer ... that prayer is powerful, and it accomplishes something.”
“Prayer ultimately is a means that God uses to connect our hearts to his heart and to align our wills with his will,” Greenway said. “As believers, our ultimate desires should be to glorify God in all that we do and to submit ourselves to his word and to his work, that righteousness, the truth and justice would pervade every element of society.” He said the campaign is asking God to “work in the hearts and minds and lives of those justices, to lead them to see the right decision needs to be made in this case and that we would see something that would help advance the cause of the unborn here in our country.”
Branzell emphasized that, for those involved, “there’s no hate in this. We don’t judge anyone. We are praying for the One who knit a heart together to change a heart, to convict hearts that this [abortion] is murder at its very root: It is stopping the heartbeat of another human being.
“We are praying for God to convict hearts, to change hearts, so that abortion would just become unthinkable, unimaginable — that there would be this aha moment of ‘Wait, what were we thinking?’”