This is what the LORD says about this people: "They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins." Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague." (Jeremiah 14:10-11)
Is it possible that it is too late to pray for America? God told the Prophet Jeremiah not to pray for Judah, because the people’s sins had exhausted God’s patience and ensured the nation of divine retribution (Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14). Is it possible that America’s sins have exhausted God’s patience and ensured us of divine retribution?
An old French riddle calls upon children to consider the story of a lily pond. The pond is implanted with a single lily pad. On the first day the lily pad doubles to two. Afterward, the lily pads in the pond double everyday until the pond is completely covered on the 30th day, blocking out all light and oxygen and choking off all life in the pond. If one waits to deal with the problem until the pond is half covered on the 29th day, how long does one have to solve the problem? The answer, of course, is only one day.
What is the moral of the lily pond story? It is that we should not wait until it is too late to solve our problems. Have we been so busy with and distracted by others things that we’ve neither paid attention to nor addressed our country’s constantly doubling spiritual decadence? If so, have we waited too late to do anything about it? Is the die cast, the divine patience exhausted and divine retribution inevitable? All we can do is hope and pray that such is not the case; that is, that it’s not the 29th day in America!
If, as we hope, it’s not too late to pray for America, then, the question becomes: “How should we pray for America?” To many Americans this question will sound silly, but to the spiritually astute, it will not. After all, the Scripture not only attributes spiritual want to missing prayers but also to praying “amiss” (James 4:2-3).
In Daniel chapter 9, the beloved prophet prays for his nation. In this divinely inspired prayer, we find a model prayer for us to follow in our praying for America. There are four essentials for national prayer that we can glean from Daniel’s prayer for ancient Israel.
I. OUR PRAYERS FOR AMERICA REQUIRE SERIOUS CONSECRATION
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:” (Daniel 9:3)
Notice, when it came to praying for his nation, the Prophet Daniel determined to seek the Lord in prayer “with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” He wanted everything—his appetites (fasting), his apparel (sackcloth) and his surroundings (ashes)—to keep him singularly focused on praying to God for his nation.
In the shallow pond of today’s contemporary church, prayer meetings are called within which a prayer or two is hoisted up for our nation between praise choruses and refreshments. In our poorly attended and vanishing midweek prayer services, we spend more time on prayer requests than we do on praying. And most of our requests have more to do with praying saints out of heaven than with praying sinners out of hell. In other words, most prayer requests are for the sick in our church rather than for the lost in our world.
Needless to say, such praying won’t do for America. As it is often said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” These are desperate times in America, times that call for desperation in prayer. Until we get desperate before God in prayer, there is no hope for revival in America; and apart from revival, there is no hope for America’s survival!
II. OUR PRAYERS FOR AMERICA REQUIRE SURE CONFIDENCE
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.” (Daniel 9:9)
The Bible teaches us that confidence is always a prerequisite in prayer. For instance, consider the following:
- “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
- “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
- “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Perhaps, the bigger question for Christians in America is not whether we have confidence in God or in Him answering prayers prayed according to His will, but how we can pray confidently for God to spare our nation when it is so steeped in sin. Notice, Daniel prayed for his nation on the basis that even though they had “rebelled against” God, the Lord still possessed “mercies and forgiveness.”
It is here alone that we find any basis for confidence in our prayers for America. It is not found in our nation’s merits, but in God’s mercy. It cannot be found in our goodness, but in the possibility of forgiveness, thanks to God’s grace.
III. OUR PRAYERS FOR AMERICA REQUIRE SINCERE CONFESSION
“And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord…We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled…And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (Daniel 9:4-5, 20)
Along with serious consecration and a sure confidence, there must be sincere confession in our prayers for America. Continuance in sin will certainly bring judgment, but confessing our sins results in forgiveness, as the Bible promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Notice, it was not just the national sins of Israel that Daniel confessed, but his individual sins as well. If America is to corporately turn from sin and back to God, then, it must begin with Americans individually turning from sin and back to God. This means, IT BEGINS WITH YOU! Before you can pray for America to repent and get right with God you must repent and get right with God. Confession and repentance will never occur collectively in this country until it has first occurred individually among its citizenry.
IV. OUR PRAYERS FOR AMERICA REQUIRE SPIRITUAL CONCERN
“O LORD, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” (Daniel 9:16-19)
As much as it may have meant to Daniel, it was not his desire to return from captivity to his homeland with his fellow-Jews that formed the heart of his prayer for Israel. Neither was it Daniel’s hope for a prosperous future for his nation. Instead, it was his concern for God’s glory that fueled his prayer for the Jewish people. Knowing that the Jews were “called by [God’s] name” and that their becoming “a reproach to all that [were] about [them]” was detrimental to the name of God in the world, Daniel prayed primarily for the restoration of Israel for the “Lord’s sake,” not Israel’s.
We need to ask ourselves: “What is at the heart of our prayers for revival in America?” Is it our economy? Do we want revival so that more people will find work, fewer people will lose their homes and all of us will do better financially. Is it national security? Do we want revival in America because we believe it will result in God putting an impenetrable shield over our country, a shield which will protect us from all enemies, both foreign and domestic? Or is it civil rights? Do we simply want revival in America so that everyone will be treated fairly, equally and justly?
Although all of these things are good, none of them should be at the heart of our prayers for revival in America. At the heart of our prayers for revival in America must be a spiritual concern. It must be the glory of God. If our prayers are fueled by any other motive, regardless of how good it may be, there is no chance of our prayers being answered or of revival coming to America. Therefore, let us ask God to send revival for His sake, not our own, and for the glory of His name, not the mere good of our nation.