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Prayer for the Nation – Plan B

April 28, 2014

Well, this Thursday, May 1st, is the National Day of Prayer.  The tradition of declaring days of prayer goes back a long ways in our country.  Indeed, the tradition is older than the nation and goes back to colonial times.  For the most part these calls to prayer were unscripted; people were just urged to pray and it was left open how to pray and what to pray, even as it was understood there was a basic theme to the call.

Of late this concept has become, in their own words, “a movement” and is run by a specific segment of the population, primarily evangelicals, with specific agendas.  That agenda becomes clear as you read their website.  Whether you agree with their agenda or not is up to you but is clear you are expected to pray pretty much as you are told.  This is particularly obvious in that they actually have a suggested prayer for you.

Now, as someone who grew up evangelical I’ve never been at ease with scripted prayers.  I’ve always seen prayer as sort of a personal thing; that the prayer of your heart, no matter how badly worded, is better than reading someone else’s prayer.  That is why I was puzzled by the idea of a suggested prayer coming from the evangelical camp.  I went and took a look at the prayer and you can follow the link to it if you want to see it.  But there are a few problems I have with it.

My main theological problem is the way they use II Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”, a verse pointedly talking about the Old Testament nation of Israel.  They have, in effect, stolen it and applied it to 21st century America.  I don’t see any justification in the Bible for our nation, or any other, to say that it applies to us.  Repentance is fine, turning from wickedness is great, but I can’t see a nation saying “this is MY verse now.”

Right after that claim the next passage got me excited; it was something I was happy to see.  It reads as follows:

“So we choose to stop pointing our finger at the sins of others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin–our neglect and defiance and ignorance and even rejection of You.”

But the more I read it, and the more I read not only the rest of the prayer but the rest of the website, the more I realized it was what I call an “Ezra prayer.”  In Ezra 9, on being told that the people of Israel were intermarrying with the Canaanites, he prayed a prayer of repentance that included him, even though he had not married outside the faith.  He, as the spiritual leader, identified with the people in this sin.  The prayer, in the end, became more of a sermon to the people who gathered to hear it.  I see this prayer the same.  It may be possible that Mrs. Graham Lotz and others are involved in self-examination and personal repentance but I suspect, based on the wording of the rest of the prayer, that it is aimed more at the horrible sins the rest of us are committing.

I had a personal experience of Ezra prayers when, as an elder, I was called some years ago to mediate a dispute between two key church members.  Thinking it best to start our discussion with prayer I was appalled to hear both men start by offering up earnest prayers that God would forgive the other guy and lead him to repent of the error of his ways.  God, and prayer, became a tool to carry on their dispute and push their agendas.

Perhaps Anne Graham Lotz actually is repenting of her personal sins.  Perhaps she, unlike the greater website, sees her personal repentance as the key to her prayers.  Perhaps she, and others like her, actually have no intention of pointing her finger at the sins of others in our country.  But I can’t shake the feeling this is more of a sermon than a prayer.

So I decided to do my own prayer, sort of a Plan B prayer.  I’m not going to give you the whole thing, you can write your own, but I think I have my theme set.  There are things that go on in this country that trouble me, worry me, and disturb me.  I doubt those things exactly line up with the National Day of Prayer folks but I agree that prayer is actually a pretty good idea.  So here is my suggestion if you intend to pray on that day.

Let’s assume that when I think I know the things that are wrong; that maybe, just maybe, I am the one that is wrong or at least partially wrong.  Maybe my agenda on what needs to change doesn’t actually line up with the glory God will bring to himself.  Let’s pray with the humble admission that, no matter how strongly I believe something, I could be wrong.  How about something like this:

Lord, I confess I see things in my life and in the actions and attitudes of some in our nation that trouble me.  If I am right and they trouble you too, please heal them, starting with my judgmental nature.  But if I am wrong; if what I see as troubling is part of your perfect will to bring glory to yourself, then I ask you to change my heart.  I ask you to show me MY error.  In all things, Lord, I ask you to give me the grace to speak in love and compassion to all, particularly those I think are wrong


From → Christianity

  1. Very good article on this rare topic.

  2. That’s a beautiful prayer. Well done.

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