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On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024

PRAYER FOR A TROUBLED NATION, Part 2

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (The Message)

Are you troubled by what you see happening to our beloved country? Are you anxious about the lawlessness, coarseness, neo-paganism, and increasing anti-Christian attitudes? Are you wondering what you can do?

In reading today’s news, I think of Mark Twain’s observation that “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” The times we live in lead me to believe it is time to do what believers have always done in times of national distress and tumult: PRAY!

In today’s scripture the apostle Paul is writing to his young protégé, Timothy, giving him instructions for how to do church. The great apostle will have much to tell Timothy about doing ministry, but notably he begins with a call for Christians to pray: “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray in every way that you know how…”. Did not our Savior say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”? (Matthew 21:13)

I am being helped in my prayer life by reading about prayer and revival from the times of ancient Nineveh’s prayer and repentance, to today’s prayer and repentance by students at Asbury University. J. Edwin Orr is an Irish historian specializing on the history of revival who has written extensively about revivals around the world. In writing about recuring revivals in America’s history, Dr. Orr notes:

“Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following 1776-1781) there was a moral slump…A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know. How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer. (J. Edwin Orr, The Eager Feet: Evangelical Awakenings, 1790-1830)

Our country is in dangerous and difficult days, but as Christians we have a clear sense of what God wants us to do! Once again, the apostle Paul gives guidance:

“The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message).”

In the summer of 1783, the newly formed United States of America faced a dangerous and uncertain future. A final peace treaty with Great Britain had not been signed, the army was restless, state governments were reluctant to yield to the Congress of the Confederation, and there was spiritual decline.  Before retiring from command of the Continental Army, George Washington wrote the “Circular Letter to the States” to encourage and advise state executives and citizens. It is notable that Washington concluded the 3,000-word circular letter with the following prayer:

“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination & obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field—and finally that he would most graciously be pleas’d to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves, with that Charity, humility & pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion & without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”

Let us join America’s long concert of prayer!

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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