Many years ago, my parents took my young kids and me to a seaside park near their home in Florida.
The sandy-soil loving cedars near the shore were subject to constant sea breezes and often, hurricanes. The trunks of these spindly trees had been bent by the wind. The branches only grew on the leeward side.
Swayed by soil and circumstances, these trees were growing the best they could. But they were struggling and could not use their energy to grow tall and strong.
I think about those cedars often these days. We are surviving a time of constant turbulence. The resulting political, pandemic and societal winds seem to be forming some bent-ness in us Christians.
I keep asking myself: How will people know we are Christians?
I wonder what people from the “outside” are seeing in us these days? I wonder whether we are drawing people to the gospel with our current “Christian climate”? Not only that, I wonder if we Christians are driving away younger believers by some of our behaviors? (I’ve been reading Christian bloggers musing about why younger Christians seem to be leaving the church.)
Are we Christians, Christian? If so, how can people know we are Christian?
Jesus answered that question himself in John 13:35:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (NIV)
These days it can feel pretty hard to love some folks. Especially when the current events are mighty winds that are billowing anger, hatred and fear all around us. We Christians can get to looking like those poor old cedars on the shoreline: bent and half-bare.
I’m going to carry the metaphor a bit too far, but anyway, those cedars had no choice where they were planted. Their seeds simply landed there after some ancient storm and they had to grow there.
We Christians have a different choice. We can choose where we plant the seeds of our faith. We ourselves are the soil and we can choose to make ourselves poor soil, choking out the fruit of our faith. (Visit Luke 8 if you don’t know the story.)
OR we can make ourselves good soil. Those… with a good and noble heart, who hear the word and retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15 NIV
The idea is, if we pay attention to the things in God’s word (Jesus himself being number one in who we should listen to) with good and honorable intentions, that word will grow in us. When it grows it will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is:
So if we want others to know we are Christians, we need to be producing fruit of the Spirit. We make that possible when we are listening to God with good and honorable intentions. (In other words, we need to be careful what and who we are listening to.)
You may notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did NOT say:
They will know we are Christians because we stand up for our freedom to behave any way we want, even if it is impolite or endangers others (such as *ahem* refusing to wear a mask or follow social distancing regulations because our freedom is more important than other folks’ health).
They will know we are Christians by our political party, news provider, or social media platform. (Actually, unfortunately this IS how a number of people can spot “Christians”. Unfortunately these platforms are not known for showing them anything about love and are certainly not drawing folks to Christ.)
They will know you are Christians by how afraid and angry we are.
I have Christian friends who are riddled with fear and anger right now. They are firmly convinced that the end of the world is coming because of the election results (or at least, they are convinced that the Democrats and a bunch of foreigners, socialists and antifas are going to slaughter them on January 21). Their response is terror and anger at anyone not “one of them”. They look like Karens, not Christians.
We Christians have lost our fruit. Time to renew the soil by planting the good word of God in our hearts with goodness and honorableness. Time to make ourselves known as Christians by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, beginning as Jesus said, with love.
We don’t want to be bent Christians (btw- if you are a CS Lewis fan, remember the Space Trilogy and the bent people?…sorry, rabbit trail…)
We want to grow strong and bear fruit! Love one another.
Parting words, again from Jesus himself:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27NIV
Do you remember C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia? Do you remember the last book in the series: The Last Battle?
In the book an overly comfortable king is vacationing and is unaware that his kingdom has been invaded by an enemy disguised as businessmen. The “businessmen” confuse and bewilder the locals by telling them that they were sent by Aslan and in his name were wreaking havoc on land and beast.
The Narnians had also become so comfortable in their lives of security that they had lost their sharpness of discernment. They tried to stand up to their “businessmen” enslavers, quoting Aslan and what they could remember of goodness and common sense. But everything they pointed out that these disguised enemies were doing, the enemy turned it back on them, saying that the Narnian leadership was doing that, not them.
The enemies then went further and twisted Aslan’s sayings into tools to confuse and entrap the undiscerning Narnians. They specifically twisted the meanings of words and spoke half-truths. The Narnians, who had become lazy in their critical-thinking skills, became confused and disequilibreated.
Then these enemy “businessmen” went even further and began to proclaim boldface lies. This would startle the Narnians, but the lies were presented with such confidence and “sincerity” that the creatures were overwhelmed and resigned themselves to their unwanted fate of servitude and destruction.
Unfortunately, when the king finds out what is happening, his lack of preparation and self-control come back to haunt him. Because he has been lax in keeping up with studying to discern truth, he also falls into moments of disequilibrium. He acts rashly in trying to free some subjects rather than with self-control and determination. The enemy is able to then convince the king’s subjects that he is the enemy, not them. The king’s impulsive decision to stand up for his subjects simply led to losing the kingdom and the destruction of all.
Which leads me to where we are today, we see the same kind of tactics that the enemies of Narnia employed being used by the current occupant of the White House. For four years, I have felt like we Americans are slipping into an alternate reality. Like we are being drawn inexorably into a fiction that has become a reality (like the three children being drawn into the painting of the Narnian ship in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). In our case, though, we Americans are being drawn further and further into scenes from The Last Battle:
Lives devalued through racism towards POC and immigrants
Public land sold off to industry
Environmental protections removed
Those who are from regulated industries running the regulatory agencies
So many others, but you know them
Over and over Americans stand up to some outrage that has been perpetrated by our president or his perfidious cronies, who retort that it is not THEM who are doing___ (fill in the blank), it is the Democrats (or Biden, or Harris, or Obama). Think about the things you have heard the president or his mouthpieces say:
Biden will eliminate health coverage for pre-existing conditions
Biden will eliminate health care
Biden will increase your taxes
Biden will pack the courts
Does make you feel crazy? Trump and his people accuse Democrats of doing the very things they themselves are doing.
They also invent an enemy and deflect attention from themselves by getting their base roiled up to fight that enemy.
Hillary Clinton’s emails (she’s not even running for office)
Obama and Russian interference (trying to deflect from himself the influence Russia had on 2016 election and what they are trying now)
Antifa is the problem (not bad cops, not white supremacists, not systemic racism)
Hunter Biden (not his kids who work in the White House with their business deals with China or Yemen)
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis is a cautionary tale. Cautionary tales guide readers on things to work on so that they are not ensnared by the same fate as the characters in the story. Lewis would advise his readers to:
maintain knowledge of the truth
When evil doers try to get you disequilibreated with false accusations, deflections or lies, take a breath. Keep your composure, your self-control. Try not to argue with someone like that, it will turn into a small version of the first presidential debate. Look away from that person. It there are onlookers, look at them and tell them the truth (if there are not onlookers, remind yourself of the truth.)
To keep yourself from falling into confusion or disequilibrium, get prepared and stay that way:
Educate ourselves on the way our government works
Make a habit of contacting elected officials about anything you feel is important
Follow local and state politics
Pray for the nation, the elections, and yourself
Maintain your knowledge of the truth. When evil doers try to steal an election by chaos, intimidation or voter suppression, have a plan on what you can do:
Stay prayed up
Keep your composure
Read the US Constitution
Take a civics refresher course
When you spot intimidation or suppression, contact:
I read a post on 9/23/2020 from Dan Rather explaining that he felt our nation was in a crisis beyond any he has ever known. More than the Depression, World War 2 and the following wars, more than 911. He said, “There is no sugar coating the dangers and darkness we live in.”
Rather is referring, in that post, to the president’s announcement that he did not feel it was necessary to accept the peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. He has instigated mob action to enforce his will and is activating a Republican-held Senate to install a new Supreme Court justice that will look out for his interests in staying in office if he looses the election.
If the political dirty-works was not enough, we are still:
in a pandemic that has killed over 215,000 Americans and left the economy in shambles, people without jobs and millions facing evictions, parents who have jobs trying to work from home while monitoring their kids’ digital education
constantly faced with racial injustice and systemic racism while those who raise their voices for justice are called and treated as criminals
living on a planet with the climate clock ticking
in the name of capitalism, large corporations and billionaires are swallowing up small businesses and enriching themselves at the expense of honest, hardworking Americans
It is time for those of us who call ourselves Christians to take our place in the protection of our nation. How do we do that? In prayer. This is not trite, it is desperation.
For decades (and especially since 2016) I have been praying for the nation according to II Timothy 2:1:
I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
and II Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which 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 heal their land. KJV
These prayers are daily prayers. Something that should be done (and if done by all Christians), we would see God’s hand and guidance more clearly. That would be “rolling our works on the so that he can make our thoughts agreeable to his” (Proverbs 16:3).
In times of national crisis, these daily prayers are vital but insufficient.
In times of crisis, more is needed for the people of faith who should be the grace-filled, fruit-filled, thought-influencers and guides for the nation. In order to fulfill our true roles we need to take our places in the workings of our nation. The most important place is prayer.
Here are some ways to truly pray for the nation in crisis:
1. Start where you are.
Many Christians do not actually have a practice of praying, let alone prayer for the nation. Okay. No shame. Start where you are. (BTW- Here is an interesting Pew study on Americans and prayer habits.)
One way to start where you are is to triage your time.
Fill wasted-spaces in time.
One of my friends is frequently in her car. She has begun to use stops at red lights to pray for the nation.
Do you find little spaces in your day that you can drop a quick plea to God on behalf of the nation?
Do not discount these small moments. These are not insignificant. Every moment counts in a crisis.
Stop the stress scroll
You know what it feels like. You go to quickly check your social media and at some point it becomes hypnotic and you find you have wasted 20 minutes scrolling. That is not funny! You HAVE been hypnotized.
In this national crisis, you do not have time to feed your soul to some corporate hypnotist who wants your presence on the tool so they can sell advertising to you.
Please set a timer for five minutes on social media then spend the rest of the about-to-be-wasted 20 minutes on prayer for the nation. Or even 3 minutes on prayer for the nation.
What can you pray during those 20 minutes?
Ask for God’s intervention in:
Christians to live II Chronicles 7: 14
That God’s people would:
seek God’s face
turn from our own wicked ways
so that God could hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land
Pray for God’s intervention in our hearts, minds and actions that we can truly fulfill His mission through us.
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Executive Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
Pray for the Legislative Branch
US House of Representatives
Government Accountability Office
Office of Inspector General
Library of Congress
All of the staff
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Legislative Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
Pray for the Judicial Branch
Federal court system
All their clerks
All their staff
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Judicial Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
2. Okay, got your time-fillers? Now, add some old-school intercession for true times of crisis:
Intercession is what we call the act of praying for, or standing up for someone (and especially for the nation). Here are some powerful kinds of intercessory prayer:
Throughout the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel faced a genuine crisis, the nation would fast together. The fast could be called by the king, a priest, a prophet or simply the people spontaneously fasting as they recognize the desperate need for Divine intervention.
If you would like to read a little bit about fasting, check Jewish Virtual Library’s explanation or read Elmer Towns’ old classic: Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. You can read about national fasts in Judges 20, I Samuel 7 and 14, II Chronicles 20, Jeremiah 26, Esther 4, Nehemiah 9, Jonah 3.
A simple version of fasting is to pick something to stop doing in order to better align yourself with God. This can be:
An addictive food
An addictive behavior
An addictive thought pattern
One of the most important fasts you can do are the fasts of action that are listed in Isaiah 58: 6-7. God himself informs us:
Is this not fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not they self from thine own flesh? (KJV)
One way to carry out this kind of fasting is to vote.
If you vote on behalf of the oppressed, hungry, poor, homeless, then your vote is intercession. Representative John Lewis said, “Your vote is precious, almost sacred.”
One way to carry this out is to contact elected officials.
Keep and eye out for legislation or simply let them know what you think and have prayed about. They answer to their constituents. Your voice matters. It is intercession.
Sometimes God will direct you to take action on behalf of Isaiah 58 people.
I personally have found at times that God has directed me to be part of a peaceful march, to volunteer on political campaigns as canvasser, phone and textbanker, postcard writer.
What will He ask you to do?
Fasting is ordained by God as an intercessory prayer. It is a way to work with him to begin work on a nation. Choose a way to fast and think fasting weekly. It matters.
You have probably experienced this feeling during the current national crises: There are just no words, no fastings, no actions that can be done. You feel overwhelmed and grieved.
All we can do is just bring our nation before God and sit in silence (look up Romans 8:26). That is prayer for the nation: When all we can do is simply be with God in our grief and concern.
Fortunately, God does not need your words.
Sometimes when we are quiet long enough, we come to understand God’s thoughts and find that we feel moved to do something or pray some way.
Try, over time, sitting for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes then 20 minutes.
Any silent prayer you pray with God matters.
Some of us pray in tongues when we do not know how to pray. If you pray in tongues, this is a very good time to be praying this way. It matters.
Repentance is an action prayer for all Christians as part of a healthy lifestyle. (In my counseling practice I say, “Own your own garbage, so it can heal.”) When we are practicing repentance, we open our hearts fully to be available to God for doing things HIS way.
Repentance is part of II Chronicles 7:14.
Believers must turn from their own wicked ways.
One wicked way of many American Christians is grasping steadfastly to the “single issue” vote, meaning that we only vote Republican because only the Republicans say they will legislate out abortion.
What’s wicked about that?
Republicans have been telling us that since 1980. They have done nothing and do not intend to do anything!
If they did, we would not need to vote for a party that has shown itself proud to produce a president of such mocking, greedy, divisive, racist, lustful, traitorous behavior as the one they produced and now is driving our nation to the brink of autocracy.
The wickedness is facing our own denial and laziness. If we truly repented and humbled ourselves before God, we would find Him directing us to Isaiah 58.
IF we Christians lived those verses, there would be little need for abortion. People’s needs would be met, body and soul.
Instead, we Christians have practiced laziness as we elect Republicans then sit back, hoarding our good things and our comfortable lives, while we expect them to pass laws that will do what we have been instructed to do in Scripture. Those laws do not come.
These are a few ways to truly pray for our nation. I suggest we Christians get busy at it. Our democracy hangs in the balance. God will still be here on earth if we hand over our nation to disintegration…but what will we say to Him?
As I was a young mom with two tiny sons, I understood the value of human life and my heart wept for the millions of babies being eliminated by abortion since Roe v. Wade. I prayed about it daily.
Then one day, my church decided to join with other churches and picket across the street from the local abortion clinic in my hometown in Florida. As I was marching past the the clinic’s entrance, I felt the presence of God (really) instruct me: “You won’t convince any of these women by being against.”
It was the last protest-against anything I ever did.
But I was still praying for those babies. Then in the 1980s, the Republicans noticed how many pro-lifers there were…
Back in those days, if you were born in the South you were born a Democrat. (This was a vestige of the Civil War, when those darn Republicans under Abe Lincoln…well, you know…)
But somewhere in the early 1980s, the Republicans got gutsy and decided to recruit Southern pro-lifers. They started sending spokesmen to our churches. They made us pro-lifers a promise: “If you switch parties and vote Republican, we’ll do something about abortion. You simply need to commit to becoming ‘single-issue’ (abortion) voters.”
So, en masse, right in our church auditoriums, we filled out the “Change Party” forms and became Republicans. Then we sat back to wait and watch as the Republicans kept their promise to end abortion. It was a pretty good deal for us. We didn’t have to make all the ruckus or march anymore, we had the Republican legislators who promised head to DC and pass a law and end all the abortions. We could relax and let the Republicans keep their promise; all we had to do was maintain our commitment to being single-issue voters.
That was almost 40 years ago. Now tell me, what has changed?
Roe v. Wade is still in place.
For decades, I kept saying to myself, “But the Republicans have told us, ‘Keep being single-issue voters! We’ve got this.”
Then in 2016, I had another feel-the-presence-of-God-instructing-me-moment: I realized that I would never see anything done about abortion by the Republicans, because IF they did do something, they would loose their “single-issue” that kept us voting for them.
In fact, the only real thing they did about abortion is: right before elections, they would flood social media with pictures of aborted babies. That would get all us Evangelicals riled up and remind us that we are single-issue voters!
I also realized that the true reason that abortion was not being stopped is because Christians:
are sitting back and expecting the problem to be legislated away rather than living lives of prayer and repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which 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 heal their land. KJV
(and more importantly) are so busy being “against abortion” that they couldn’t do anything to fix the things in the culture that drove women to that option.
I then realized if I wanted to see the problem change, I had to be part of the change. That meant I am led by God to:
Work to help change the wicked and systemic entrapment of poverty and racial injustice and align myself with Scriptural teachings in James 2: 15-17
If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.KJV
Work to make sure that every baby born has access to healthy food, medical care, clothing, good housing, good education, safety and support to align myself with Jesus’ clear teaching
“I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me…since you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me…” Matthew 25 KJV
Work to change a culture that objectifies human bodies, whether it is women as sex objects or people of color as second-class citizens. To align myself with God who so loved the world and in whom there is neither male nor female nor race.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.KJV
Work to influence people of faith to walk in the fruit of the Spirit, that people would know we are Christians by our love.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Galatians 5:22-23 KJV
(Recently when I was talking about walking by love and in the fruit of the Spirit, a friend tried to point out to me that Jesus himself was vocally and violently against some people. I responded, and rightly so, that the people that Jesus was against were the hypocrites in church leadership and business people conducting business in the church building, which was meant for prayer not selling.)
Praying daily according II Chronicles 7:14 and I Timothy 2.
II Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which 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 heal their land. KJV
Notice who is doing the work here: Christians! They are:
seeking God’s face
turning from THEIR OWN wicked ways (not telling folks who don’t know God about their wicked ways)
I will not judge (lest I be judged) if a person thinks differently than me, but I will work to make to world so good a place that all women and children, no matter their race, creed or color, have a life of love, safety, security, possibilities and respect.
I realized that NO political party was going to do the work for me. That was mine, and every Christian’s, to do.
However, as a US citizen, it is my duty to vote and to hold my government accountable. So I asked myself, which party appears to be working to fix the roots in our society which make abortions necessary. It is not the Republicans, who repeatedly show they have more interest in the security of big business than in helping babies once they are born.
Democrats created legislation to deal with poverty, spoke up about racial injustice, worked to shore up and expand medical care, food, housing, education and safety programs and at least had many women (of all colors) running for office.
So they are at least trying to fix the deep, societal problems that we Christians have largely ignored since the foundation of our nation.
So I switched parties. I will vote for people who are willing to change the cultural woes that feed the abortion issues.
I was discussing this with an Evangelical acquaintance recently. She said to me, “Don’t you realize that the Democrats and deep state are trying to snuff Christianity out? If Democrats lead the country they will turn us into communists and outlaw our faith!”
Do you know what I replied? I told her:
“Republicans have been telling us this same thing since the 1980s when they came into our churches and converted us all into Republicans. They threatened that if we didn’t keep to the single issue voting and let Democrats gain any power, they would: outlaw Christianity, they would lock us in jail, they would outlaw the Bible and religious broadcasting. It’s been 40 years and no one has managed any of that yet…because they have better things to do…”
And then I continued to tell her this:
“BESIDES, Jesus himself said, ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.’ (Matthew 5: 10-11) Want to be like Jesus? Want to be blessed? Be so righteous and loving that you get persecuted!”
So this is why I am now living with all I have to pray and work as Christ instructed me to work. I will do my part in works and prayer to make the world so good that abortion is simply forgotten and people are drawn to God by the goodness that they see.
I am pro-life. I am pro-unborn babies, I am pro-people who have experienced injustice because of their black or brown skin. I am pro-people who never had a chance to have a safe or decent life. I am pro-anyone who will walk in the fruit of the Spirit and love of God. I am pro-life.
Let your light shine among others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
When I was young and I heard that verse, very often I was told that that verse was about evangelizing. But no, it is about us glorifying God by doing good deeds.
When we do good things among other people, when we make other people’s lives better, when people see us as creators of good in this broken world…they see it and glorify God.
In the end, isn’t that what we want?
When we stand before God at the end of time, do we want to hear him say:
“Well, you really kicked some butt down there on earth during that pandemic. You really showed ’em and told ’em about your Christian freedom! I bet those wussy American snowflakes won’t ever forget you!”
Is that even his character?
Or maybe would it be more in line with God’s character (and Scripture- particularly John 13:35) to want to hear him say:
“Well done. You have shown you are my disciples by loving one another.”
I am so thankful every time I read about:
Someone who has smiled and said thank you to a cashier at the grocery store or a delivery person.
Someone who gave extra to charities who are feeding the less fortunate.
The good-deed doers who secretly leave packages with supplies and treats on the porches of the elderly members of their congregation.
Someone who sent money to supply PPE to rural hospitals, Native American reservations and clinics.
People can see these good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
How much better to be known as a person who glorifies God than someone who glorifies what they want.
I prefer to have Scriptures as guides for prayer. When praying for the United States, I am guided by I Timothy 2: 1-2 and II Chronicles 7:14.
I Timothy 2: 1-2
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (KJV)
II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which 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 forgive their sins, and heal their land.(KJV)
Using the Scriptures as Prayer Guides
When I have my daily prayer for the nation, I start with a moment of reflection based on II Chronicles 7:14. If you notice, when God is giving instruction on how He wants to go about healing a nation, He doesn’t start with fixing the godless. He starts with fixing His own people.
Got that? He starts with fixing His own people. Or rather, He starts with calling His people to be willing to get fixed!
Let’s take that in steps:
Step 1: God’s people shall humble themselves.
This is absolute key! How can pray like God wishes if I am not humble?
We know that pride goes before a fall, but one of the things I’ve noticed about myself and my fellow believers is that when we think we’ve got the necessary fixes for our nation (or church or friends or family) figured out we easily can fall into pride, stubbornness, and become judgmental.
Generally, when we are operating in pride, stubbornness and being judgmental, we have stepped aside from the place and manner in which God works. Remember: Who are the only people that Jesus called names (“White-washed sepulchers”)? The Pharisees, who knew their Scripture, who prayed and lived the “right way”…and condemned everyone who did did not do things their way.
One way “prayer’s pride” often looks is political partisanship. Please sit with that a moment. If we pray humbly, we can pray about what God is doing and wants done. It will usually look completely different than any particular political party.
Another way “prayer’s pride” often looks is angry accusations of the godless. We know that sin pains God, but may I point out that it tends to be the sin of the godly that pains Him the most. And if you say you have no sin, go read I John 1:8:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Step 2: …and pray
Okay, so when I pray for the nation, I insert II Timothy 2:1-2 and do specific prayers for the nation. Let’s look a those:
giving of thanks,
be made for all men;
For kings, and
for all that are in authority
Supplications: These are requests. I work to keep my requests free from my (or my political party’s) agenda. So it looks like: Requests for wisdom, humility, fruit of the Spirit, honesty.
Prayers: These are Scriptures I specifically pray for the nation. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you some to pray. The passage I pray for the nation daily is Ephesians 3: 14-21. Basically, I simply read this passage to God and offer it to Him for the nation.
Intercessions: These are “petitions”, specific things I would like for God to handle. Again, I try to keep my own (and my political party’s) agenda out of it. I pray for people in need, cities or regions in need and ask for God’s help.
Giving of thanks: Gratitude is one of the most important prayers that God has given us. He tells us to “give thanks” more than 100 times in the Bible. There is always something going on in our nation, or about our nation, that we can be grateful for.
These 4 prayers need to be prayed for:
All men: Daily I choose a person or people group or organization to offer the 4 prayers for.
Kings: Well, we don’t have a king, but we have a president, so no matter how we feel about him, we have instructions to pray for him.
All who are in authority: I pray for US Congress, US Supreme Court, State Governors, State Legislatures, State Supreme Courts, Local governments, military, police, leaders in churches and organizations I am part of. I rotate, so only do one group daily.
Step 3: and seek my face
II Chronicles 7:14 next instructs us to seek God’s face. For me, that means to sit quietly with Him, with a heart and mind to know and understand His heart and mind. Try it. It usually is not an emotional experience, because this is not about me. It is about me looking towards God; it’s about Him.
Step 4: and turn from my wicked ways
In this part I ask God to help me avoid my flaws and develop the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control). I never outgrow needing to do this.
This is how I pray for our nation. It is not THE way to pray for the nation, but if it helps you develop your way to pray, that’s good.
There are so many things to be concerned about, alarmed about and ashamed about in our nation. Trying to follow the news can be overwhelming, depressing, and discouraging. If I may offer you a word of encouragement:
There’s something your can (should) do!
God created humans to NEED to do something when something is wrong. We psychology-type people call this the *need to feel empowered*. Here is ONE simple thing you can do for the overwhelming troubles that you hear about in the news feed:
Don’t worry. Pray for the nation!
When I tell folks that praying for the nation one thing they can do about the greed, disasters, chaos, and corruption in our government, corporation and the world in general, I sometimes get eye-rolls. The idea that prayer for the country is actually efficacious sounds silly and trite.
But listen, if you believe there is a God in the universe, why not pray? If nothing else, it will open you to hearing what actions God has in mind for you regarding the conditions out there.
Could I offer an additional thought: I wonder, if followers of Christ actually took Scriptural instructions seriously and prayed for the nation, might God not say something like: About time they got off their butts and followed my instructions, now I’ll follow through…
Just like when our kids actually do what we tell them to do and they find out that we really do know what we are talking about…we know how things work. God knows how things work: They work on prayer.
So how do you stop worrying and pray for the nation?
Start with understanding we do have mandates to pray for our country. Here are 2 of them:
I Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which 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 heal their land. KJV
Got that? We should pray for:
*Kings and all in authority
While we pray, we should:
*Seek God’s face
*Turn from our own wicked ways
What should we pray?
There’s not a single right thing to pray for the nation. I personally prefer to pray 2 ways each day:
*A Scripture passage prayed as intercession for our leaders
*A specific prayer for a person or branch of our leadership
Here are some Scripture passages that I pray (I rotate through them one per day). You can create your own way. I challenge you to pray daily, even for those leaders who are despicable to you. Perhaps God will hear from heaven and heal our land. We sorely need it!
Psalm 72: 1-4 (Put into prayer form)
God, give the president (governor, other leader) an understanding of your justice and show your righteousness to his children.
Give him ability to act justly and righteously towards your people and the poor.
Give even the mountains and little hills peace by his righteousness.
Help him to bring justice to the poor of the people, save the children of the needy, and break in pieces the oppressor.
Ephesians 3: 14-21 (put into prayer form)
For my nation’s cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named:
That God would grant us, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in our inner person.
That Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith,
That we being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church (and nation) by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.
Proverbs 11:14 (put to prayer)
God, please give our president (governor, other leader) wise advisors and ability to listen to them, for victory is won through these.
Proverbs 21:1 (put to prayer)
God, please turn the heart of the president (governor, other leader) towards you like a stream of water could be turned by your hand.
Psalm 33: 18 (put to prayer)
God, please work in the president (governor, other leader) to fear you and hope in your mercy, that your eyes may be upon him.
I was talking to a precious friend the other day. She was stressed about her job. She was the only evangelical Christian she knew in her position. She was surrounded by coworkers who were not religious and considerably more politically liberal than her.
My friend told me, “I feel persecuted because I have to keep my opinions about gender roles and taking God’s name in vain to myself.”
I asked her if anyone had been unkind to her and she said, “No, not yet.”
Then I asked her how Jesus treated the people who lived sinfully in his day (tax collectors, women caught in adultery).
She quickly responded, “He loved them.”
I asked her, “Who did Jesus call names like ‘white-washed sepulchers’?”
She thought just a few seconds then answered (because she is well-read in Scripture), “The Pharisees.”
“So,” I followed up, “Jesus fussed at the religious leaders, not the sinners?”
“Right, he treated the sinners with love.”
“Then, how might you look at your coworkers who don’t know God and live lifestyles you don’t feel comfortable with?”
“I could love them and treat them kindly. I could let Jesus love them through me!”
“Awesome!” I was happy for her, but followed up with, “What if you get persecuted when someone finds out you are a Christian?”
“Well, I won’t like it, but Jesus said, “blessed are they when they are persecuted for righteousness sake.”
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
My friend was feeling more empowered. Then she paused, looking perplexed. “But the epistles tell us to straighten up when we behave sinfully.”
“And who were the Epistles written to?” I inquired.
We looked: to the church.
Perhaps we Christians can relax a little. Sometimes it is fun to feel like everyone is out to get us. It helps us draw together against a common enemy, but the world is not our enemy. God so LOVED the world.
We need to look at who is the author of that *it’s bad to be persecuted* mentality. If we get angry and upset because people are insulted by our faith, then hooray!
The older one gets, the more one must work to grow (as in continuous growth is a necessity…and it’s hard work). That’s what I am finding.
It applies across the board:
If I quit working at physical health, my body will deteriorate.
If I quit learning, my mind will deteriorate.
If I quit hungering and thirsting after righteousness, my spirit will deteriorate.
Thus, spiritual growth is a mandate. I imagine that spiritual growth will last eternally, not just for my time on earth. I have long wanted to be a mature (or as Paul said it: perfect) Christian. Hopefully I arrive someday.
Here are the ways I am working on my spiritual growth. The easy ones first, then the tough one: Contemplation in the face of the real world…
I seek God’s face.
Where is He showing himself to me today? I look for his handiwork in the world around me. I look for his movement in the people around me. I look for his guidance in my own spirit. Psalm 27:8 says: When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, shall I seek.
I humble myself.
I have a friend remind me once that God is God and I am not. A great fallacy of my job as a counselor is believing that everyone must be healed and whole, that the world must be just and right…and that God needs to follow my plan for making it so. I Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…
I read God’s word.
Really. God bothered to share his wisdom in the Bible. When I keep myself current in my knowledge of his word, I am less likely to fall for the nonsense that sometimes passes as religious teaching but has nothing to do with what God said. Matthew 4:4…Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Often I pray a formal prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer. Mostly I pray in intercession for my nation, all those in authority, all people- especially those I care about and those who have made themselves my *enemies* (all the more important since I can’t run the universe). II Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.
I listen (wait).
It’s easy to be too busy to listen, but I’ve learned he speaks in a still, small voice…even when I’m not listening. The minute I slow down and listen, he is waiting to share his love, wisdom, peace and courage. Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.
I hunger and thirst for righteousness.
When I’m hungry and thirsty for food, I engage in behaviors that will satisfy that need.When I pay attention to my spirit, there is hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus said that I am blessed when I hunger and thirst for righteousness and that I shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).
The behaviors that are just and right for me are: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). In other words, righteousness for me is doing what is right and merciful towards others (especially those who are weaker or in need) and remembering that God alone gives me the power to do so.
Currently, the most important way to care for my spirit is contemplation. There are many definitions of contemplation, so I have digested them into: Contemplation is holy noticing. Where ever I am, God is there and is. In him I live and move and have my being. Acts 17:28
When I live contemplatively, I am awake to him and notice what he is doing and being.
That’s huge. Of course it is. It is overwhelming to contemplate an infinite God.
On my latest silent retreat, I found a book that summarized some practices that is helping me grow in contemplative health.
The practices I am working on are from The Rule of Benedict and says that the contemplative life has 4 dimensions:
Recognizing the presence of God in my life. I’m not any better than the prophet Jonah at running from God and I sure don’t want to be ignoring God. I simply need to graciously notice his presence. To do this, I need to ask him daily, “O God, come to my assistance…”.
Accepting the gifts of others. This is easy when the gifts are lovely. However, some *gifts* are the opposite. I am learning to ask God’s assistance in accepting the fact that some others are blind, misguided or hateful. This is a gift to me when I am able to graciously notice those distasteful gifts and without joining the blindness, misguidedness or hatred, then hand it to God. Then I wait for his assistance to handle in mercy and truth the guidance he gives me. (Accepting the gift is important to me in these days, in the real world there is rudeness, greed and hatefulness that are accepted, taught and even glorified. I don’t need to be drawn into the brokenness but can speak the truth in love as God leads, then allow God to tend my heart while hoping for his healing of this broken nation.)
Let go of false expectations in daily life. Step 1 on this is recognizing what a *false expectation in daily life is*! Ugh. But letting go opens me up to the submission to his will, which is the point of it all, anyway.
Receive others kindly. Knowing my limitations, I can accept them. That does not mean to agree with them or kowtow to them. It does mean in the power that grace gives, I can treat them kindly.
Someday, I long to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant.
When we think of New Year’s Eve, we often think of:
Preparation for a party with friends and family or Watch Night Service at church
Creating your new New Year’s Resolutions
That’s good stuff. Here’s another thought that might be personally life-changing. What if you dedicate a few minutes of reflection about the outgoing year and the important things you have experienced or learned?
Spending time in reflection might sound airy-headed, but it I think it is simply a practice of wisdom. How can you truly learn about yourself if you don’t slow down and think about what has happened in life, what is good and not-so-good in yourself (and in life) AND what God is doing?
If we all spend a few minutes thoughtfully reviewing the past year, we might learn something that will help us in the New Year.
Here’s how to take time on New Year’s Eve for reflection:
Choose a block of time that is realistic to you (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 2 hours, whatever is realistic for you).
Grab a journal or open a document.
Create some heading on things that would be valuable for your reflection:
Things you are grateful for this year (large and small)
Significant events from this year (wonderful, weird or tragic)
Important people in your life this year
Challenges you overcame, survived or made progress on this year
Successes you experienced this year
Good things you have done for others this year (large or small)
Ways you have seen God’s hand, support, intervention (or felt His silence, which is also valuable- He means many things by His silence)
Questions you have for God and for yourself in the upcoming year
When you are done, you will know yourself and God’s work in and through you better. It might even help you set your New Year’s Resolutions.