In my email Inbox this morning, I found two messages asking for prayer.  One was a forwarded note focused on 2 Chronicles 7:14, and one was marked “urgent” from a lawyer who will be standing before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to defend traditional marriage.  While any call to prayer is encouraging to see, both of these emails caused me to stop and ask myself, “Before I pray, what exactly am I petitioning the Lord for?  What’s the goal of these prayers?”  You can infer from the writers what they would like to see happen, but is that the same thing as what God would want to happen?  After all, aren’t we all concerned that His will be done?

praying womanDeep questions for early in the day, I’ll admit, but worthy questions, I think.  I don’t claim to have the answers, either, but I’m trying to wrestle with the content of my prayers for America – are they biblical?  Are they motivated by the heart of God and His priorities?  Again more questions.  Sorry.

I just don’t want the prayer lives of followers of Christ in America to fall in the category of James 4:2, 3 – either failing to pray or praying with misguided motives.

Take the first message.  It quotes a well-known verse: “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 I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).  The rest of the note speaks of the “slippery slope” we’re on in America and our “corruption, greed, moral decay, and a steady move away from the things that made us great.”   It’s a call to pray, yes, and even gives some reasons why we should pray, but I see no specific WHAT here.  Forgiveness and healing are mentioned – a tremendous prayer based on this verse – but again, I still think we can do that with wrong motives and without a clear vision for what our role is beyond the prayer itself.

The second email has a more specific (and urgent) tone.  The Coucil in the District of Columbia recently voted to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and a Referendum has been presented to block that law.  The email is from the lawyer who will make the case for the proponents of the Referendum.  He says, “I am sure you understand how difficult it is to defend this kind of Referendum. It is a huge political and legal challenge.”  I can see the need for the prayer and for the blocking of the law, but I’m left wondering how many well-meaning Christians will consider that fight the end of their relationship with the D.C. Council? 

Do you think Paul ever prayed 2 Chronicles 7:14 for his society?  The passage is pointed to the people of God.  He lived in a corrupt, greedy world that was decaying morally.  Persecution of Christians was very present – much more brutal and violent than what we see in America.  He may have, but we don’t have to speculate on what Paul’s goal was when praying for his government:

1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.    1 Timothy 2:1-4

praying manThis isn’t just a call to pray for leaders without specificity.  The motivation and results are clear.  Pray for leaders to get saved.  Pray for them to grow in knowing God and His will (“knowledge of the truth”).  How will that happen?  Well it needs to be part of the Church’s mission – we need to go to them, not with placards of protest but with spiritual care.  Speak the truth of God’s Word into thier lives with Bible studies and one-on-one meetings.  Pray for their hearts to be opened to the gospel.  For believing lawmakers, encourage them in their walk not to compromise God’s principles found in Scripture.

If that approach sounds passive or not militant enough, consider this: there is no more urgent message and it’s the mandate left to the Church by the Lord himself.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).  We decry where we are as a nation now, but where would we be if we had been doing this all along with our government officials in office or before they got to office?

Prayers for leaders are required of God’s people.  They are non-negotiable.  But they must be underpinned with a motivation to see God glorified, not just save our land for our children.  And the goal must not be just a change in laws, but in the hearts of lawmakers.