Editorial: Prayer—every Christian’s patriotic duty
by JAMES A. SMITH SR.
Executive Editor

Article Date: Sep 5, 2012

Politics is unavoidable these days.

With the major party political conventions, the seemingly endless onslaught of campaign television commercials, social media pontifications by family and friends, and 24-hour cable newscasts’ breathless reporting on every twist and turn in the campaigns like they are horse races, there are few harbors for those uninterested in election season.

For some, likely many, November can’t get here soon enough.

A new effort by the Florida Baptist Convention, however, is an ideal way to turn the omnipresent reality of politics into a spiritual opportunity for Christians and our churches. And, it’s centered on an activity every Christian—no matter their political persuasion or level of interest—can participate in: prayer. Also, this worthy effort rightly centers America’s ultimate hope not in the temporal, political solutions, but eternal, spiritual hope.

Developed by Rick Shepherd, strategist for the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team of the Florida Baptist Convention, “56 Days of Praying” is organized around a calendar with focused prayer subject matter, beginning Sept. 16 and concluding on Nov. 10. The overarching theme of the effort is “For His Name, For My Neighbor, or Our Nation” with each day of the week dedicated to seven specific topics: glory (Mondays), purity (Tuesdays), authority (Wednesdays), family (Thursdays), security (Fridays), economy (Saturdays), and eternity (Sundays). Scripture readings and brief prayer guidance are offered for each of the 56 days.

“No one needs to convince us that our nation is in great need, primarily deep spiritual and moral needs,” Shepherd writes. “Facing remedial judgment and on the edge of greater judgment, people need to turn to God, repent, changing their minds and hearts, forsaking their sin and turning to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Shepherd—a wonderful Christian leader with keen insight on revival and reformation—has also written and compiled many resources for individuals and churches to multiply the ways to get involved (www.flbaptist.org/56DaysofPraying). Guidance is offered for use of the resources individually, with prayer partners, small groups, churches and groups of churches.

The 56 Days campaign stands alongside and compliments other similar efforts to get Christians praying for America, including a joint effort by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and North American Missions Board, the 40/40 Prayer Vigil (www.4040prayer.com).

In 2010, I wrote about the 40/40 Prayer Vigil, and some of those thoughts are equally applicable—if not more so—today.

There are multiple biblical commands to pray for our government and leaders (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:1-4). Andrew Fuller, a 19th century British Baptist pastor, understood this.

In a sermon, “Christian Patriotism; or the Duty of Religious People Towards Their Country,” Fuller declared: “There is another duty which we owe to our country; which is, that we pray to the Lord for it. It is supposed that a religious people are a praying people. … My brethren, your country claims an interest in your [prayers]; and I trust that, if no such claim were preferred, you would, of your own accord, remember it.”

This quote helps to underscore Baptists’ historical commitment to Christian patriotism, which included prayer.

In “A Revival Sermon” preached Jan. 29, 1860, Charles Haddon Spurgeon spoke to the urgency of prayer for society:

"God has sent this day, over this great city, a divine cloud of his grace. Now, ye Elijahs, pray it down! To your knees, believers, to your knees. You can bring it down, and only you. ‘For this thing will I be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.’ ‘Prove me now herewith,’ saith the Lord of hosts, ‘and see if I will not open the windows of heaven, and give you such a blessing that you shall not have room to contain it.’

“Will you lose the opportunity, Christians? Will you let men be lost for want of effort? Will you suffer this all-blessed time to roll away unimproved? If so, the Church of one thousand eight hundred and sixty is a craven Church, and is unworthy of its time; and he among you, men and brethren, that has not an earnest heart to-day, if he be a Christian, is a disgrace to his Christianity…

“Let us meet together as often as we can, and plead at the throne; and each man of you in private be mighty with your God, and in public be diligent in your efforts to bring your fellow-men to Christ.”

Indeed, to our knees, believers!

So there is no confusion, I’m not suggesting here an either/or proposition—either you can pray for your nation or you can be an engaged, active citizen who understands your obligation to participate in your government by voting.

Indeed, it’s a both/and proposition. (For more on faulty views of how Christians view politics, see my July 26 editorial, “Why your view of politics may be wrong.”)

Still, some are less comfortable with the nitty, gritty of the political process. For those, the 56 Days of Praying is an ideal way to play a meaningful role in seeking God’s favor on our nation.

No true Christian can deny our duty to pray. No matter what your own political party identification or even for those who are currently disillusioned with politics, there can be no debate that our nation is in a desperate moral condition that must first be addressed by prayer.

I pray (and that’s not just an expression, by the way—I sincerely do) that Florida Baptists will embrace this and other efforts to focus our people on prayer during this critical time in our nation.

Politics is indeed unavoidable these days. But rather than seeing that as a burden, let our churches embrace it as an opportunity. Let us not be found sleeping as when Jesus asked His disciples to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46).

Undeniably, this is no time for Christians to be sleeping. Let us awake to our citizenship obligations, starting first with prayer.

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