This month we celebrate the 245th birthday of our nation.
"Only God can bring awakening both to our nation and to the nations of the world."
Almost two and a half centuries ago, fifty-six good and decent men signed their declaration of dependence on the might of God: "[W]ith a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred Honor." These were not idle words. These fifty-six men knew that if they succeeded, it would mean many years of hardship and struggle. And they knew that if they failed, they would face the hangman's noose as traitors. Though our nation's history hasn't been perfect, these brave souls and so many others throughout history sacrificed tremendously to give us a nation founded on freedom.
But today, as morality is scorned, sin is glorified, and Truth is reviled, many are saying this is not the America envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Historians have described the decline of great civilizations: They go from bondage to faith, from faith to courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence all the way back to bondage. I fear we are in the stage of apathy. But apathy should not define those of us who are Christ-followers. We should not stand with those who hate this nation and wish it harm. Nor should we give up hope like those who believe America has sinned too deeply for God to intervene. We must stand boldly and bless our nation.
WE ARE COMMISSIONED
We have a model for this posture in the book of Jeremiah. The Lord—after years of pleading with His people to turn from worshiping false gods, of warning them that compromise results in consequences—brought judgment on Israel through the king of Babylon. God allowed the most vicious nation on earth at that time to terrorize His own people and take them into captivity because of their refusal to turn to Him, the one true God. Then through Jeremiah, He commissioned His exiled people living in Babylon: "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:7). The Lord tells Israel to bless the land they live in. He's telling these faithful people to be involved as good citizens. He calls them to be good stewards, even though they are in a foreign land, held captive and exiled. God told them to pray for the peace of Babylon.
Like the Israelites, we Christians are also exiles waiting for the day when the Lord will bring us home. As we wait, we too are to seek the blessing of our earthly home. We are to pray for God's mercy on America. We are not to wring our hands but fold them in prayer and get on our knees—ready to pay any price required to speak the Truth lovingly, carefully, and thoughtfully and lead men and women to Jesus. We are to pray for a genuine Holy Spirit awakening so that lost people and wayward believers may repent and return to the living God.
THE HOPE OF REVIVAL
We can seek the peace of America with hope. Our God is the God who loves to answer the prayers of His faith-filled people. He has done it in America before. On September 23, 1857, a layman from the Old Dutch North Church in the financial district of Manhattan invited people to join a lunchtime meeting to pray for America. The first meeting drew six people, a miniscule percentage of New York's million residents. But the following week there were twenty. The week after, there were forty. So, they decided to start praying daily instead of weekly. By early 1858, there were 5,000 prayer groups meeting in neighboring churches, public halls, and adjacent buildings. This one layman's desire to pray and bless his nation resulted in a revival. Ten thousand a week were coming to Christ in New York City alone. Church bells would ring at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m., and people would show up and pray. The revival spread largely by changed lives, going up the Hudson River and down the Mohawk River, crossing the Appalachian Mountains and spreading into the West, and in one year more than 1 million people came to Christ. The revival crossed the Atlantic, touching Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and parts of England, even reaching south India. The effect of that revival was felt for forty years.
This is why we pray for the peace of the city and of the nation. We pray urgently; we pray diligently; we pray intentionally. Because only God can transform hearts. Only God can heal political divisions. Only God can release captives from their chains. And only God can bring awakening both to our nation and to the nations of the world. So today, let's pray for America.