No matter where you get your news or how you form your perspectives, these are tense times. While Americans are focused on elections, racial prejudice, and the very historicity that has informed our sense of nationalism; other countries also face turmoil. These are divided times.
I cry with the Psalmist in Psalm 11:3
When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?
We can pray. There is never another action or strategy more effective than prayer. No matter what else is needed, start with prayer.
But what do you pray for? And how? Here is how I am learning to pray:
1. Pray God’s Sufficiency
Too many times we start by praying our fears when something is difficult or catastrophic. Fear won’t solve anything. In fact, it often paralyzes us and makes it difficult to hear what God wants to say in answer to prayer.
Instead, pray God’s sufficiency. We are not enough to solve the systemic problems that divide our world. But God is always enough. The Bible is full of God-sufficiency stories. People of exile were rescued. People set for annihilation were saved. God works through the political structures and perceptions that try to divide us. Keep God’s sufficiency primary as you pray. He is enough for this age!
2. Pray for God’s Kingdom to Come.
Don’t fall far the misunderstanding that blinded so many when Jesus walked this earth. His kingdom won’t always be seen in the White House, 10 Downing Street, or any other address for government offices. His kingdom comes to hearts. We pray for the hearts of our leaders. We pray for softenings and turnings that God can use. What we pray for our leaders, we pray first for ourselves. We ask the hard question: Is God’s kingdom firmly established in my heart? Does Jesus rule my attitudes and actions as I talk about our nation’s problems?
As a prayer counselor I listened to said, “Sometimes we do [and say] Jesus things but not in a Jesus way.” That’s why we pray for God’s kingdom to take over in our hearts. If Jesus is King in our heart, we constantly pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight. Psalm 19:14 NIV
3. Pray for UN-common Sense
One prayer counselor said, “The greatest gift God wants to give us is common sense!”
While that may be an exaggeration to make a point, I believe it is a much-ignored gift God wants to give.
However, it is more appropriate to call this gift UN-common sense because most of the time it goes against our urge to debate, argue, and complain. Using God-given sense means thinking and speaking based on “the wisdom from heaven” that James talks about. Look at the qualities of this kind of wisdom in James 3:17-18 and what it might look like when we apply it.
4. Pray more WE prayers than THEY prayers.
That’s what Daniel did. Read his prayer in Daniel 9:2-4. Circle the number of times he says we and our. Daniel prayed with his people not just for them. He didn’t point a finger. He didn’t blame. He didn’t excuse himself.
This is one of the strongest ways to intercede, to put yourself in the predicament of anyone whose ideologies, philosophies, or moral deficiencies are creating distance with God. Isn’t that what Jesus did. Isaiah 53:12 reminds us that
The suffering servant was numbered with the transgressors.
Daniel had connected with the heart of God so completely that he felt God’s pain and prayed using we not them.
5. Pray for eternal outcomes not just temporary ones.
This is hard because when we pray about difficult times, we want something to change, now. But God is working an eternal plan. Nothing any election or war can do will thwart God’s eternal plan. God is still in charge. This is the thread of hope we hold on to when “the foundations are being destroyed.” We pray with the bold hope that God is still working. We pray knowing that our eternal lives do not depend on an election. We pray so that God can use us in the aftermath to be His representatives called to bring His kingdom to the hearts of people. When we become as vocal and aggressive about God’s heart-rule as we are about any form of government rule maybe we’ll have a little more of God’s kingdom coming to this earth.
Let’s pray it will be so!
Here are two prayers I wrote for our country:
My Daniel Prayer
Another Prayer for our Nation
Pictures: Myriams-Fotos, DG