“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Someone has astutely observed, “As long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school.” The Supreme Court may have outlawed prayer in the classrooms of our public schools, but it is powerless to prevent it in the hearts of students.
J. Sidlow Baxter once said, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons; but they are helpless against our prayers.” America, in spite of its recent secularization, is defenseless against our prayers. Our government, along with its courts, may have tossed prayer from the public square and our public schools, but it can’t touch it in the heats of the American people. Our government, just like all others, is completely incapable of policing prayer in the hearts of its populace.
Although many bemoan the prohibiting of prayer in our public schools, the real problem in America today is the absence of prayer in our hearts, homes and churches. “And who,” I might ask, “is to blame for this?” It’s certainly not the Supreme Court. Instead, the culprit is us; after all, only we can prevent prayer in our hearts, homes and churches.
Pray that our hearts, homes and churches become bastions of prayer for revival in America.
“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.” (Nehemiah 9:1-3)
The National Day of Prayer is annually observed on the first Thursday of May. It was designated by Congress as a day for Americans “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.” The law which formalized this annual observance was passed by Congress and signed by President Harry Truman in 1952.
Long before 1952, national days of prayer had long been called for by American leaders. In fact, before our country was even founded, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation requesting that “a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer” be observed on July 20, 1775. Numbered among the American presidents who have called for a National Day of Prayer is John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, the latter designating April 30, 1863 as a day of “national humiliation, fasting and prayer.” In his proclamation, President Lincoln went on to say, “It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
In today’s America, the National Day of Prayer has been ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crab, whose ruling states that the statue establishing this annual observance is “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.” Furthermore, unlike his predecessors, President Obama has refused to hold any White House observance of the National Day of Prayer since taking office in 2009, this despite the fact that he has held a special White House dinner to mark the end of Ramadan—the Islamic month of fasting and prayer.
Adding insult to injury, Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham and a staunch evangelical Christian, was disinvited on this year’s National Day of Prayer from praying for our troops at the Pentagon. Although the official reason given was Graham’s description of Islam as an evil religion, the real reason was his refusal to say that “all religions are equal” and his insistence upon Jesus Christ being “the only way to God.”
If America’s only hope of survival is revival, and if all revival is born in prayer, what hope is there of revival in an America that has outlawed its national observance of prayer? Truly, our hope is not found in any public observance of prayer in the White House or at the Pentagon, but only in personal and private observances of prayer in our individual prayer closets.
Pray personally, privately and persistently for revival in America, remembering that your prayers are our nation’s only hope.
“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Jonathan Goforth, who was a Canadian Presbyterian missionary to China, once said, “If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, ‘It is not by might, but by My Spirit.’”
What idol “remains still enthroned” in your heart? What takes precedence over God in your life? To what do you devote most of your time and energy? What is your first and foremost daily aspiration? Is it to please and glorify God or is it something else?
What “human schemes” are you relying upon. Do you think that the answers for your own life are found in your own ingenuity, resources and abilities? Do you think that the answers for America are found in politicians, political parties and polling places? Are you looking to God for all that is needed in your life and nation or are you looking to your own means and human schemes?
Neither our lives nor land can be saved by our “might” or “power.” Only God can save us! If salvation is to come it will be “by [God’s] Spirit.” Herein, lies the only hope for America. It lies in a move of the Spirit of God across our land, but such a move will never occur until we’ve rid ourselves of idols and schemes.
Pray that Americans rid themselves of idols and schemes and throw themselves on the mercy of God, who alone can save us!
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
A few months ago thousands of Americans gathered on the Mall in Washington D. C. to pray for revival in America. Their motive was the salvation of our country. Notice, it was not the salvation of souls for the glory of God, but the salvation of our society for the good of its populace.
Their method was to call all Americans to return to belief in God. What God? Well, no particular god was specified. Any generic god would do, just as long as some god was believed in. It could be the god of the Muslims, the god of a cult, one or more of the Hindu gods, or even an imaginary god conjured up in your own mind and tailored to your own liking.
What is the most condemned sin in the Bible? Idolatry, which is the worship of any god apart from the one and only true God. What is the first of the Ten Commandments? It is, “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3 NLT). It was the worship of false gods that brought God’s judgment down upon ancient Israel. Far from bringing revival, idolatry always brings divine retribution. Yet, in today’s America, many believe that bowing before false gods will bring down God’s blessings upon our nation.
Make no mistake about it; revival only occurs when men are seeking the one and only true God, not national salvation or some other thing. When it occurs, God alone will be glorified by it. No nation’s flag will be unfurled over it; no, not even the Stars and Stripes. Although revival can result in the transformation of a nation, it is never to be seen as a means to this end, but rather as a side effect of men turning from their sin with broken hearts and to the one and only true God with all of their hearts!
Pray that America will repent of its idolatry and turn with all of its heart to the one and only true God!
“O LORD, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” (Daniel 9:16-19)
With today’s entry we’ll complete our consideration of some essentials of national prayer gleaned from Daniel’s prayer for the nation of Israel. We’ve already learned that serious consecration, steadfast confidence and sincere confession are essential to our prayers for America. Today, we’ll look at one final essential to be gleaned from Daniel’s prayer; namely, our spiritual concern.
As much as it may have meant to Daniel, it was not his desire to return from captivity to his homeland with his fellow-Jews that formed the heart of his prayer for Israel. Neither was it Daniel’s hope for a prosperous future for his nation. Instead, it was his concern for God’s glory that fueled his prayer for the Jewish people. Knowing that the Jews were “called by [God’s] name” and that their becoming “a reproach to all that [were] about [them]” was detrimental to the name of God in the world, Daniel prayed primarily for the restoration of Israel for the “Lord’s sake,” not Israel’s.
We need to ask ourselves: “What is at the heart of our prayers for revival in America?” Is it our economy? Do we want revival so that more people will find work, fewer people will lose their homes and all of us will do better financially. Is it national security? Do we want revival in America because we believe it will result in God putting an impenetrable shield over our country, a shield which will protect us from all enemies, both foreign and domestic? Or is it civil rights? Do we simply want revival in America so that everyone will be treated fairly, equally and justly?
Although all of these things are good, none of them should be at the heart of our prayers for revival in America. At the heart of our prayers for revival in America must be a spiritual concern. It must be the glory of God. If our prayers are fueled by any other motive, regardless of how good it may be, there is no chance of our prayers being answered or of revival coming to America.
Let us ask God to send revival for His sake, not our own; for the glory of His name, not the mere good of our nation.
“And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord…We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled…And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (Daniel 9:4-5, 20)
Along with serious consecration and a sure confidence, there must be sincere confession in our prayers for America. Continuance in sin will certainly bring judgment, but confessing our sins results in forgiveness, as the Bible promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Notice, it was not just the national sins of Israel that Daniel confessed, but his individual sins as well. If America is to corporately turn from sin and back to God, then, it must begin with Americans individually turning from sin and back to God. This means, IT BEGINS WITH YOU! Before you can pray for America to repent and get right with God you must repent and get right with God. Confession and repentance will never occur collectively in this country until it has first occurred individually among its citizenry.
Take the first step toward revival in America; namely, sincerely confess your sins to God.
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.” (Daniel 9:9)
A second essential in praying for America is confidence. The Bible teaches us that confidence is always a prerequisite in prayer. For instance, consider the following:
1. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
2. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
3. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Perhaps, the bigger question for Christians in America is not whether we have confidence in God or in Him answering prayers prayed according to His will, but how we can pray confidently for God to spare our nation when it is so steeped in sin. Notice, Daniel prayed for his nation on the basis that even though they had “rebelled against” God, the Lord still possessed “mercies and forgiveness.”
It is here alone that we find any basis for confidence in our prayers for America. It is not found in our nation’s merits, but in God’s mercy. It cannot be found in our goodness, but in the possibility of forgiveness, thanks to God’s grace.
Let us pray with the ancient Prophet Habakkuk, “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:” (Daniel 9:3)
If, as we hope, it’s not too late to pray for America, then, the question becomes: “How should we pray for America?” To many Americans this question will sound silly, but to the spiritually astute, it will not. After all, the Scripture not only attributes spiritual want to missing prayers but also to praying “amiss” (James 4:2-3).
The first thing we need to do in order to pray for America is to seriously consecrate ourselves to the task. Notice, when it came to praying for his nation, the Prophet Daniel determined to seek the Lord in prayer “with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” He wanted everything—his appetites (fasting), his apparel (sackcloth) and his surroundings (ashes)—to keep him singularly focused on praying to God for his nation.
In the shallow pond of today’s contemporary church, prayer meetings are called within which a prayer or two is hoisted up for our nation between praise choruses and refreshments. In our poorly attended and vanishing midweek prayer services, we spend more time on prayer requests than we do on praying. And most of our requests have more to do with praying saints out of heaven than with praying sinners out of hell. In other words, most prayer requests are for the sick in our church rather than for the lost in our world.
Needless to say, such praying won’t do for America. As it is often said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” These are desperate times in America, times that call for desperation in prayer. Until we get desperate before God in prayer, there is no hope for revival in America; and apart from revival, there is no hope for America!
Since all revival is born in desperation, pray that God will burden us to the point of desperation in our prayers for America.
This is what the LORD says about this people: “They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.” Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.” (Jeremiah 14:10-11 NIV)
Is it possible that it is too late to pray for America? God told the Prophet Jeremiah not to pray for Judah, because the people’s sins had exhausted God’s patience and ensured the nation of divine retribution (Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14). Is it possible that America’s sins have exhausted God’s patience and ensured us of divine retribution?
An old French riddle calls upon children to consider the story of a lily pond. The pond is implanted with a single lily pad. On the first day the lily pad doubles to two. Afterward, the lily pads in the pond double everyday until the pond is completely covered on the 30th day, blocking out all light and oxygen and choking off all life in the pond. If one waits to deal with the problem until the pond is half covered on the 29th day, how long does one have to solve the problem? The answer, of course, is only one day.
What is the moral of the lily pond story? It is that we should not wait until it is too late to solve our problems. Have we been so busy with and distracted by other things that we’ve neither paid attention to nor addressed our country’s constantly doubling spiritual decadence? If so, have we waited too late to do anything about it? Is the die cast, the divine patience exhausted and divine retribution inevitable? All we can do is hope and pray that such is not the case.
Pray that it’s not the 29th day in America!
“The foreigners living among you will become stronger and stronger, while you become weaker and weaker. They will lend money to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, and you will be the tail!” (Deuteronomy 28:43-44 NLT)
In Deuteronomy Chapter 28, God instructs half of His people to announce from Mount Gerizim the blessings that He will bestow upon their nation if they will be faithful to Him. He then instructs the other half of His people to announce from Mount Ebal the curses that will befall their nation if they ever forsake Him.
According to Deuteronomy 28:12-13, the nation will be blessed by God financially as long as the people believe and obey God’s Word. God promises a faithful nation that it “will lend to many nations, but borrow from none.” On the other hand, the nation will be cursed by God with financial disaster if the people ever cease to believe and obey God’s Word. God promises the nation that forsakes Him that it will end up borrowing from foreigners and incapable of lending to anyone (Deuteronomy 28:43-44).
I don’t know about you, but Deuteronomy 28:12-13 sounds to me like an accurate description of America yesterday, back when we were a God-fearing nation that revered God’s Word. In those days, we were blessed by God as the world’s greatest lender nation. Today, however, we resemble the nation described in Deuteronomy 28:43-44, a nation that has forsaken God and is no longer under His blessing, but under His curse. Consequently, our country is no longer the world’s greatest lender nation, but the world’s greatest debtor nation.
Although many explanations are given for America’s current economic downturn, our forsaking of God is normally not one of them. Yet, here, just as in all our other national problems, the real trouble is spiritual. Having gone from being a God-fearing nation to a God-forsaking one, we’ve moved ourselves out from under God’s blessings and put ourselves under His curse.
Pray that America will repent of its forsaking of God and return to its faithfulness to God so that God will lift his curse and restore His blessings.