National Transformation

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“[I]f 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” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV).

Over the next eight-and-a-half months, presidential candidates will bombard us with propaganda, trying to persuade voters that a particular candidate is the solution to America’s problems. Barack Obama, who promised “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign, will try to convince us that his policies are working. (The Bible and my bank balance both beg to differ.) Over the next few months, a field of Republican challengers will insist that they offer the hope and change we need now to undo recent damage to our nation.

While I hope we get the best man for the job, I must be realistic: Our nation’s problems are so severe that a four-year presidential term will not solve them, and the American people are too impatient to wait for the repairs. Our federal debt is over $15 trillion, which means the average American’s share of that debt is $50,000. That debt will not be paid off in the foreseeable future. Add in economic hardship for millions of families and a steady moral decay, and it is obvious that even the best President will not solve our problems.

Many Christians have looked at the passage at the top of this post as the solution to our problems. It is, but we have to understand the passage and act on it. Posting it on a car’s bumper sticker, so your unfriendly neighborhood tailgater gets the message, is not the solution. We must use it as a pattern for revival. That will begin with personal renewal, then renewal within the church, before we can hope for revival in our nation.

Before revival can come, and before we can see our culture take a turn towards God’s ways, God’s people have to repent. As many studies by the Barna Group have revealed over the years, there is not a substantial difference between the lifestyles of Christians and unbelievers. Divorce, pornography, and a host of other sins are almost as prevalent in the church as in the rest of American culture. We have to confess our sins and turn from our wicked ways.

The prophet Daniel gave a good pattern for revival prayer in Daniel 9:3-10. Daniel prayed for himself and his people. In his days, his people were both the people of God and his nation. Today, this would involve praying for two different groups: the Body of Christ (our local congregations, denomination, and the church universal), and for our nation. First Peter 4:17 reminds us that judgment begins with the household of God.

I believe that God is calling for intercessors who will pray for renewal in a sort of four-stage process:
  1. Confession and repentance from our sins. The Barna Group has noticed four common barriers to spiritual transformation: lack of commitment, unwillingness to fully repent, confusing activity for growth, and failure to engage in genuine, accountable community. Before we can point our fingers at the folks in Washington, DC or our state capitals and blame them for our nation’s woes, we need to search our hearts and ask God to show us how we contribute to the problem.
  2. Confession on behalf of the church, for the sins that are prevalent there. We should pray for our own local congregations, then our own denomination and/or church tradition, and for the Body of Christ at large.
  3. Confession on behalf of our society, for its sins.
  4. Prayer for revival and renewal within the church, which will result in a transformation of society.

Prayer for our nation has to begin with repentance within the Body of Christ. God will not eradicate abortion, restore the dignity of biblical marriage and family, or otherwise heal our land, just because a good conservative Republican gets elected President in 2012. While we would love such an easy solution, it is not God’s approach. He works through His church, when His children seek to be salt and light to a darkened world.

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