The first Earth Day was borne out of one man’s determination to honour God’s command to care for our world. Today, we all have a responsibility to play our part, say the team at 24-Prayer 

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The first Earth Day took place on 22nd April 1970, and is widely considered to be the birthday of the modern environmental protection movement. It is estimated that around 1 billion people worldwide will take part in this year’s activities, which includes all sorts of conservation and restoration projects.

The modern Earth Day is actually the convergence of two events, both founded in 1970; one by US Senator Gaylord Nelson, and the other - the first - by the lesser-known John McConnell. John was born in 1915, grandson of T.W. McConnell, who participated in the famous Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, where the worldwide Pentecostal movement was born. John’s Christian upbringing provided the foundations for his life, and it shaped his lifelong message of justice, peace and care of the earth.

John’s Christian upbringing shaped his lifelong message of justice, peace and care of the Earth

It was in 1939, at age 24, that John first became concerned about the environment. He’d been working in a laboratory that made plastics when he noticed just how much pollution the manufacturing process produced. His concern for ecology grew quickly, but public interest in environmental issues was rare at that time and grew more slowly. Eventually, in 1969, John got to speak at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco, where he first proposed a day of peace to honour the earth. A few months later, in March 1970, the UN Secretary General, U Thant, signed a proclamation to officially launch Earth Day. When this event converged with Senator Nelson’s, which was scheduled to launch just one month later, a true movement was born. 

Restore our earth

The theme for Earth Day 2021 is ‘Restore our Earth’ and throughout this week millions of people around the world will join in. People will plant trees, clean up the rubbish in their communities and participate in recycling and conservation programmes. People will sign petitions and send them to their local government representatives, calling for action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental destruction, and for the creation of greener businesses and schools. In hundreds, perhaps millions of small ways, people will help to restore the earth.

Our responsibility is simple - to love the world and everything in it

And all this, according to Genesis 1, is a God-given task: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature. So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself,” (Genesis 1:26 MSG).

Today, as politicians from around the world gather for a leaders’ climate summit and discuss further reductions in pollution and the development of clean-energy industries, we pray that God might give them divine wisdom and revelation, that they would see what can be done to restore the earth and have courage to get it done.

Playing our part

In the introduction to Ruth Valerio’s book, Saying Yes To Life (SPCK), the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote: “Every single one of us has a responsibility as part of our discipleship to Jesus Christ to live a life that cares for God’s world and it’s creatures. As Psalm 24 reads, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.’”

When the award-winning author, Marilynne Robinson, was asked by an interviewer: “What single thing do you believe would make the world in general a better place?” she replied very simply: “Loving it more.” Our responsibility is simple - to love the world and everything in it.

A prayer for Earth Day

God, help me to look with love on all that you have created and to take seriously the responsibility that you have given me over the earth. What can I do today to play a part in helping to restore the earth?

Father God, you gave your only Son, Jesus, because you loved the world. And through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the world - everything on earth and in the heavens - is being reconciled, restored, made whole.

I surrender, once again, to your great love for me, and I ask that your love would flow through me. Help me to love the world, and to take seriously the task of reconciliation and restoration that you have given to me. (John 3:16, Colossians 1:19-20, 1 Corinthians 5:18)

And now, as I prepare to take this time of prayer into the rest of my day, the Lord who loves me says in Psalm 145:9 (NLT) that: “He is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.”

Amen.

This content has been adapted from today’s devotional on 24-7 Prayer’s free Lectio 365 app. Download it free - 24-7prayer.com/lectio365

Find out more about the 24-7 Prayer movement - 24-7prayer.com

Find out more about Earth Day - earthday.org