A faithful leader's prayer for his nation
Dear Christian friends and patriots,
The apostle Paul wrote the following, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” Pray for the government. To many of us, the government in our nation seems so out of whack. Lots of people didn’t like what happened this week in the Supreme Court on a couple of issues. There are some challenges ahead that ought to cause Christians a great deal of concern. As you know ObamaCare or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act calls requires insurance programs that we buy to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients. As I understand it, while religious organizations are exempt, to Joe and Josephine America insurance plans require coverage for contraceptives, including those that could cause the death of unborn babies. In other words we will be supporting people married or not married for their play in the bedroom and we will supply support for abortifacients. That’s not the way to use God’s money. God must be so displeased with our nation.
It doesn’t stop there. Did you see how a nice elderly lady by then name of Jackie Whiton refused to let someone pay for some cigarettes with an E.B.T. card at the convenience store where she was a clerk? An E.B.T. card is an electronic transfer card the welfare system uses. For the most part it replaces food stamps. She said it wasn’t right to abuse the good will of Americans to buy non-necessities like cigarettes. Her company didn’t. According to rules he was allowed to buy cigarettes. How does that make you feel? Dear Lord, our nation needs your help in so many ways for so many things.
These words from Ezra are so appropriate for us today who was very disgusted with the state of affairs among his Hebrew compatriots. Let’s look at “A Godly Leader’s Prayer for His Nation.” 1) Searching the heart; 2) Seeking change.
There is a need for a little history lesson first. The Hebrew nation, God’s chosen people, was held in captivity in Babylon for seventy years. When Persia conquered Babylon , the Jews were given permission to return to Jerusalem . The year was 539 BC. A group of people returned under Zerubbabel at that time. 80 years later a second group of Jews was organized. Word was that the Jews in Jerusalem were in trouble.
A second pilgrimage was organized by Ezra who took incredible amounts of gold and silver to renovate the temple. Worship of the Lord was at a low point. What he found was true. A very small number of Jews remained faithful. He received this report: “The people of Israel , including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” Instead of making the people in the land more like them, over the eighty years the Jews who returned became more like those who filled in when they were gone. What a horrible tragedy! They worshipped false gods and not the LORD. Their religion was perverted. It included sexual perversion of the worst kind; it even included human sacrifice, especially that of children.
Ezra was appalled. He writes, “Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” Ezra took this personally. He was his brother’s keeper. Notice how he handled it. There was no fist through the wall! There was no blaming George Bush. He accepted responsibility. He was a member of this nation. He gave the problem to the Lord. He prayed for God’s people.
The Bible says that the church is the body of Christ. The church hurts when a member hurts just like the human body does when it experiences a headache or a stomach ache. A nation isn’t any different. There are people in Colorado now homeless because of a raging and out of control forest fire. We hurt for them and pray for them and desire to support them. There are people in Florida who were flooded out of their homes because Tropical storm Debbie decided to hang around a few days too long and dumped all kinds of rain. We hurt for them and want to help them.
When the killings in Columbine and at Virginia Tech shocked the nation a few years ago, we hurt. This happened in our nation. It affected us. When we hear about the national drug problem and the godless behavior of so many, we are driven to our knees just like Ezra and cry out, God be merciful. We pray with Ezra, “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” There is a frustration among Republicans because our president has done a lot of apologizing for things our nation has done in the past. Republicans often say that there is a good old American exceptionalism that has made our nation great. Lots of people have been innovative and have inventions that have made America great and prosperous. When disaster occurs somewhere in the world our nation is almost always the first to respond. Our president believes that many in the world have been wronged by capitalism and taken advantage of.
First of all, if there is an American exceptionalism, remember that in the end our God and creator is the one who provided it. Let’s give thanks to Him. Frankly, Mr. President if there is remorse to be expressed let’s do it like Ezra did – let’s bring it before the Lord. Our country is indeed guilty of countless sins. We call things that are our rights when they are really sins before our God. There is the lack of respect for life and property; the epidemic of pornography and drugs and promiscuity and pedophilia and perversions of every sort. There is the smugness and braggadocio of ripping off the system; there is the re-election of government officials who have been convicted of wrongdoing to positions that ought to be reserved only for people of integrity and character. The list is virtually endless, isn’t it? Dear President and people of God, get on your knees before him whom we have offended and who only can forgive.
Moses spoke to the nation of Israel as they were about to enter the land God promised them, “After the Lord your God has driven (the people who occupied the land) out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Ezra was contrite before the Lord. All nations, including our own, need to express remorse before the Lord and at the foot of the cross.
But Ezra also saw God’s grace to forgive. They were allowed to return from Babylon and worship again in Jerusalem . “But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia : He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem .” Now don’t get me wrong; they were still subservient to the Persian king. Yet the Persian kings allowed them to rebuild the temple. They even gave them money to do so. But greatest blessing they had was the freedom to worship the God of their fathers, the LORD. They could bring sacrifices to the altar. They could wait for the Savior to come, the Savior they really needed.
There is a psalm that was written by someone in Babylon where the writer expressed what the worst part of the captivity was. They were deprived of worship at the Lord’s house. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion . There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion !” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem , may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.” He missed the temple in Jerusalem .
I pray that you feel the same way about missing our weekly appointment at the Lord’s house! I pray you would miss the words, “In the place of and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I pray you would miss seeing the baptismal fount as a reminder of your baptism where through the water and the Word God washed away your sins and dressed you in the robes of his righteousness. I pray you would miss this intimate meal our Lord gives to us of his body and blood and the promise of forgiveness it brings. I pray you would miss the public reading of the Scripture that assures you that by faith in Jesus Christ nothing can separate you from him. I pray you would miss, as the psalmist says the whole church experience, “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” There is a searching our hearts and finding what Jeremiah said is true, “The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” But then there is the heart of God, full of love and compassion. It trumps all.
So how do we react? What’s our response? The Hebrew people who returned fell right back into the same pattern. The Lord wasn’t very important. They mingled with the heathen people and got burned. There wasn’t a “and they lived happily ever after” ending here. They returned to their old ways.
It happens to nations. It happened to ours. A 9/11 occurs and slaps us in the face. But it only affects people a little while. The reflecting pool at the site of the tragedy was trashed by some middle schoolers this week. How soon people forget! How soon people forget to remind their children. A generation of moochers begets another generation of moochers. A generation of lazy bones begets another generation of lazy bones. An unpatriotic and ungrateful generation begets another generation of unpatriotic and ungrateful people. A generation of selfish, country serve me people propagates into the same.
Generations of people are just that - lots of individuals. One by one we need to change. It starts with you and me, seeking forgiveness and then seeking to change with the help of our dear Lord. When we pray for change, we start with ourselves and ask God to change others. As changed people we are models. Let that be our prayer – a prayer just like Ezra.