May 5 is the National Day of Prayer in 2016. Therefore, I invite you to take an extra 15 or 30 minutes out of your day to pray.
But how should we pray? If you happen to attend one of the local city gatherings for prayer, or follow a movement on TV or the radio, what will you likely hear? People on their knees in prayer? Unfortunately, no. ‘Prayer rallies’ typically have strong political overtones calling for leaders to “take back America for God”. These prayers tend to follow…
Some Christians will pray for a movement of leaders who will legislate morality within our country. I find this interesting, because isn’t that what God did by giving the nation of Israel the Mosaic Law? Yet, even while God was physically in their midst, they rejected each of his 10 commands. If you take a sweeping overview of Scripture, you’ll notice that God gave the Law in order to prove that morality cannot be legislated. No one can keep the Law apart from a living relationship with a merciful God through faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:20, Heb. 11:6).
Some Christians will pray for a movement of leaders who legislate freedom of choice — saying that God’s spirit will move again when there are no more restrictions, coercive language or policies which perpetuate various forms of slavery. However, there is a Scriptural problem with this as well. The masses of people, even God’s people, tend to make the wrong choice! “Let us choose what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25)” “Let us have a king (1 Sam. 8:20)!” “Crucify Him (John 19:6)!”
Other Christians will pray for a movement of leaders who will legislate compassion for the immigrant, the elderly, the orphan, the poor and mistreated outcasts. However, lasting and eternal love, kindness, goodness, etc. are all ‘fruit the Holy Spirit.’ This kind of fruit cannot be humanly manufactured or governed! They are grown exclusively through an abiding relationship with Jesus (John 15:5).
Now suppose it was possible to lump these political movements together into a corporate Christian prayer which declared, “We want people to return to Biblical morality, not out of obligation, but willingly in order to show compassion for their neighbor.” Oh, now there’s a political party worth supporting! In fact, it sounds a lot like Jesus.
So, how did Jesus exercise his leadership over this kind of movement? By petitioning in front of the Sanhedrin? By calling for Roman reform? By backing Pontius Pilate in order to win him over to the cause? No.
Jesus invested his time in 12 men and several women and taught them over three years to 1) graciously preach repentance from sin, and 2) model kingdom living while depending upon the Holy Spirit for boldness to repeat messages 1 & 2. Therefore, how would Jesus invite his church to restore America? To invest our energy, time and support into the slow work of faithful, personal, relationship-based disciple-making while politicians battle among themselves for power.
I recommend that we pray for repentance from sins and full allegiance to Jesus to sweep across our country and for each Christian to boldly lead in disciple-making within their context…beginning with me. This is how I am praying in 2016 and I invite you to do the same. Let’s pray.
Aaron Yoder is pastor of First Mennonite Church in Morton, Ill.