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Last Sunday was Easter, the most significant Holy Day of the year, as far as I am concerned. Because Easter has always been front and center for me, I have not paid much attention to the 40 days leading up to it. That all changed this year with my participation in an amazing, awe-inspiring event called 40 Days For Life. For those who don’t know, 40 Days For Life is a 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion through prayer, fasting, and peaceful hourly vigils held in front of abortion clinics locally and across the world.

Why 40 Days?

Noah was transformed by 40 days of rain.

Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai.

David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge.

The 40 Days For Life campaign kicks off every year on Ash Wednesday and ends 40 days later on Good Friday. This year, it began on February 14, ended on March 28, and coincided with Lent, as it does every year.

Why Lent?

Lent, also known as the Lenten Season, is a time of preparation for the liturgical celebration of Jesus Christ’s suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Those who observe this sacred season focus on the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting, and giving during the 40 days that lead up to and culminate with Easter.

The forty-day length of Lent is rooted in the biblical usage of the number forty. Forty typically indicates a time of testing, trial, penance, purification, and renewal. In the New Testament, forty days is the length of Jesus’ time of trial in the desert in preparation for his public ministry, proclaiming the Gospel.

In a word, Lent is about sacrifice. Those who participate sacrifice time, comfort, appetites, or anything else they feel to be placed on the proverbial altar of sacrifice for the 40 days leading up to Good Friday. That is the day Christians the world over memorialize the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Behold The Power of Fasting and Prayer

Since it began in 2004, the 40 Days For Life Campaign has grown to more than 850 cities in 60 countries, where more than 1,000,000 participants have prayed outside abortion clinics during peaceful prayer vigils. And the miracles that have resulted are nothing short of mighty:

Nearly 20,000 babies have been saved from abortion!

 Nearly 200 abortion workers quit!

 More than 100 abortion facilities closed!

 In some places where the 40 Days for Life Participants are praying in front of abortion facilities, the no-show rate for abortion appointments can spike as high as 75%!

This year’s kickoff meeting was held Tuesday, February 13, in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Salt Lake City.  When we pulled up on that brisk, overcast afternoon, a dozen or so people had already arrived and were milling around discussing the 6-foot-tall, heavy-duty fence that had just been erected around the front of the clinic. This newly installed fence/wall prevents anyone from seeing into the clinic, which was located on the first floor of the two-story building. But even more strategically, it prevents those inside the clinic from seeing anyone on the sidewalk outside. Hmm, that was not a coincidence. The clinic’s operators are, no doubt, aware of the fact that business takes a hit when the pregnant mamas see people praying for them and their unborn children outside.

Shortly after arriving, Barbara, the director of the SLC For Life campaign, greeted us with her cheery smile and upbeat demeanor and invited us to circle up for the kickoff devotional. After handing us a program with the script, we began reciting scripture, praying, and singing together. Though we were not great in number, I got the sense that perhaps some from the other side were joining us in this most sacred and worthy cause.

Afterward, we gathered around Barbara’s lifted hatchback, where she handed out “Pray to End Abortion” signs for us to display in our yards and then hold up while praying in front of the clinic. Armed with two signs, a couple of buttons to wear on my sweaters, and a whole lot of passion for the fight for Life, I headed home bubbling over with excitement and wonder about what the next 40 days would hold. And oh, my goodness, it did not disappoint.

Starting that night (and each morning and night since), my husband and I prayed that all those mamas out there who believed abortion was their best (or only) option would experience a miraculous change of heart and instead choose life. To go along with our daily prayers, we also scheduled times to pray in front of the clinic.

When our turn came, we plucked the signs from our front yard, bundled up against the cold, and headed up to Planned Parenthood in Salt Lake City to plead with God to change the hearts and minds of all those mamas going in and out of the clinic that day.

I didn’t know what to expect our first time and was anxious to see what we’d be met with.  Would people be angry with us? Or join us in prayer? I was a bit surprised at how quiet and almost
eerily peaceful things were each time we went. As cars pulled into the narrow driveway to park around the back of the facility (and out of our view), we stood on the sidewalk that intersects it and stoically held up our signs. We didn’t speak. We just stood there, praying silently for them and the life-or-death choices they were about to make.

We ended our session each time by huddling close together and praying aloud. Though our voices were soft, our pleading was fervent as we begged the Lord God to intervene on behalf of these unborn children and change their mama’s hearts. As we were preparing to leave after our last session, I was struck by the profound irony of the situation. Our voices were crying up to God on the very same plot of land where the blood of thousands upon thousands of innocents had been spilled and, thus, was also crying up to Him. Though mortal ears cannot hear their audible cries, the God of Heaven does.

 “[I] did send down fire and destroy them,

that their wickedness and abominations

might be hid from before my face,

that the blood of the prophets and the saints…

might not cry unto me from the ground against them.”

3Nephi 9:11

After saying amen, tears began spilling down my cold cheeks as I wondered for the thousandth time what the plaintive wail of the holy and pure ones whose hopes and dreams are dashed when their precious lives are brutally snuffed out in the most savage and cruel way possible sounds like to God?

Weighed down by a profound sense of melancholy at the knowing that we were standing on what amounts to a mass grave site in Salt Lake City, I pictured in my mind’s eye a chorus of mournful cries swelling up from the blood-soaked ground beneath me and reverberating through my soul as they ascended heavenward. Though I did not actually hear anything with my ears, I shall never forget how that “sound” felt in my heart.

In that moment of deep despair, the words of the great prophet, Moroni, came forcefully into my mind as the gravity of standing as a witness to what was and is occurring at this hellish (secret) murder scene gripped my pierced and wounded heart:

 “Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you;

and the time soon cometh that

he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you,

for he will not suffer their cries any longer.”

Mormon 8:41

Oddly enough, those damning words brought me some semblance of peace; knowing that the pernicious evil that is abortion will not always be allowed to desecrate our lands and destroy the peace of our people, as Mother Teresa so eloquently declared about abortion in 1994,

“The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

When Moroni’s prophecy is fulfilled, and His sword of vengeance falls upon this once Promised Land, a Great and Terrible day will commence such as we have never known and cannot now comprehend. But if that’s what it takes to end Satan’s reign of blood and horror on this earth, then I say, bring it on.

Amberli Peterson