Opening Prayer: Father, we feel helpless to stop the spread of violence and corruption in our nation. Please show us what we can do to stem the tide of evil.
Let's start with a simple statement from Proverbs chapter 14, verse 34:Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
Nothing controversial here. It's easy to respect people that have strong morals, integrity and good work ethics. When a particular nation or ethnic group has strong, proven character, we can dismiss the inevitable moral weaklings as exceptions.
So when and how did this proud nation of ours become so dominated by moral weaklings? Aren't Americans supposed to be peaceful and honorable, even if a little eccentric?
We can no longer pretend to be a nation of peaceful, honorable people. Our TV and newspaper headlines speak of twin epidemics: raging violence and moral apathy. Even in public schools, teachers are told to be "values-neutral," to avoid lawsuits from groups with notably bad values. The unfortunate moral chaos of the Clinton administration was proof that elected leaders without personal integrity can't pretend to have any foundation for professional ethics or integrity.
So who's responsible for this mess? Can we blame the violence in TV and movies? Can we blame the news media? What about the Pagan Left, the Christian Right or the Muddled Middle? Has some network of lawless conspirators orchestrated all this?
Actually, none of the visible culprits are to blame here. And it's irrelevant whether any conspiracies exist or not. According to Scripture, God holds His people responsible for the moral health of a nation. If you call yourself one of His people, this means you.
"Who, me? Hey, I'm one of the good guys. I don't smoke or litter or drive in the carpool lane by myself, and don't even know any Congressmen. How could I be responsible for all the bad stuff you see in the papers every day?"
The truth is that God expects His people to set the moral tone of the nation. Furthermore, He expects His people to exert this influence whether they are a powerful majority or a persecuted minority of the population.
Let's open our Bibles to the book of 2 Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14:If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
The context of this passage is important. The Lord appeared to King Solomon and spoke these words in response to the king's prayer at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Click here to view Solomon's prayer.
In those days, Solomon was still pretty wise. He knew the weakness of the human heart. He knew that people would sin (nothing has changed). He also knew that sin has consequences, both temporal and eternal. Solomon was too smart to stand before God and declare that he and his nation would be sinless and faithful, forever and ever amen. Instead, he prayed for God to be gracious when God's people repented and turned their hearts back to Him.
The Lord's response to Solomon gives several important steps:If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Let's outline God's plan for obtaining national forgiveness, healing and cleansing:
- If My people... Again, let me state the obvious. In God's eyes, our nation's moral plight is not the fault of the politicians or the mafia or the conspirators. Jesus made this point in the Sermon on the Mount, in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5:13 "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." The Lord expects His people to enhance the flavor and retard the spoilage of a society in which they are greatly outnumbered. If you are not one of His people, you should make it a priority to become one. If you are one of His people, keep reading 'cause there's work to do.
- ...shall humble themselves... Do you feel morally superior to our elected officials? Then you disqualify yourself from effective prayer for them. The most effective intercessors in Scripture (Daniel, Jeremiah, Nehemiah etc.) began their prayers by grieving over the state of their nation and saying, "...WE have sinned and broken Your covenant..."
- ...and pray... There's no power in complaining or whining. Neither lawsuits nor impeachment proceedings have power to change wicked hearts. Only God has this type of power, and intercessory prayer moves Him to use it.
- ...and seek My face... Remember how our Lord taught the disciples to pray, beginning with, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." The first and most important part of prayer (after determining to actually do something) is to focus on the God to Whom we pray. If your heart doesn't naturally turn that direction (most of our hearts don't), I suggest starting with devotional Scripture readings. Try singing praise songs or reading Psalms out loud. Psalm 100 is often a good place to start:2 Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord, he is God: It is he that hath made us, and we are his; We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, And into his courts with praise: Give thanks unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness [endureth] for ever, And his faithfulness unto all generations.Remember that prayer has a gate, and verse 4 above tells us how to enter in through that gate.
- ...and turn from their wicked ways... If you have done everything right this far, you will understand just what the Lord meant by this. Once you start to seek the Lord's face, you become conscious of the immense difference between the Holy God and even the best of us "good" people. God is not "just like you and me but bigger." God is 100% holy; the human heart is naturally wicked and deceitful. Nobody has to teach us to be lazy or lustful or selfish. That's easy. Likewise, we can't act nobly or unselfishly without effort -- because our nature is constantly dragging us backward.
- ...then will I hear from heaven... If we've gotten this far, then we have already experienced change in ourselves. We've been moved to someplace better than when we started. And the Lord will be moved with compassion for us and for our nation.
- ...and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Never forget that the problem is sin. All other forms of pollution pale by comparison. Sin spreads its poison from person to person and generation to generation. We will all die from sin unless we receive God's forgiveness and healing. And the Lord loves to hear us pray for this type of forgiveness and healing. It's prayer that always gets a positive answer.
Closing Prayer: Lord, it has taken a very long time for me to realize how much I need to pray for our nation. Forgive me, Lord. We have sinned against You. Only You can touch our hearts and heal us. Have a Father's compassion on us we pray, in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Amen.
Solomon's prayer appears in parallel accounts in two books. The first is 1 Kings chapter 8 and verses 28-30:28 Yet have Thou respect unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication, O Jehovah my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prayeth before Thee this day; 29 that Thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place whereof Thou hast said, My name shall be there; to hearken unto the prayer which Thy servant shall pray toward this place. 30 And hearken Thou to the supplication of Thy servant, and of Thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: yea, hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place; and when Thou hearest, forgive.
The parallel account in 2 Chronicles chapter 6 has the above verses and some others that give insight, beginning with verse 24:24 And if Thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again and confess Thy name, and pray and make supplication before Thee in this house; 25 then hear Thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which Thou gavest to them and to their fathers. 26 When the heavens are shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin, when Thou dost afflict them: 27 then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants, and of Thy people Israel, when Thou teachest them the good way wherein they should walk; and send rain upon Thy land, which Thou hast given to Thy people for an inheritance.
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