Prayer for the Nation

For years we have been watching our nation slide away from God and the people abandon the godly principles on which it was founded.  The nation called to be a light to the world has deteriorated into violent chaos with the virus adding to confusion and fear.  God warned us about the judgement that would come if we turned from Him, but He also gave us a way out. When I finally got serious about asking God how to do a prayer that met the criterion of 2 Chronicles 7:14 He gave me an answer that I’d like to share. 

 

What was happening to cause God to give this verse? 

 

It’s in the context of the dedication of the Temple of Solomon.  It follows Solomon's prayer for wisdom and the fire falling to consume the burnt offering and sacrifices and the glory of the Lord filling the temple. The celebration, dedication and feasting followed and went on for seven days.   After all this is over, God comes to Solomon at night and gives him 2 Chronicles 7:14 as an answer to what the people must do when they have sinned and are faced with His judgement. 

 

The context of a scripture is critical.  In 2 Chronicles 7:13 God showed us what judgement looks like before He gave a way out.

 

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

 

2 Chronicles 7:15 goes on to say:

 

"Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place."

 

When will His eyes and ears be open to hear?  When HIS people...

  1. Humble themselves

  2. Pray

  3. Seek His face and when it is…

  4. Made in THIS place

 

What place?  In the Old Testament it was the house of sacrifice, the temple.  But the temple was only a shadow of what was to come.  Where is the temple now? Jesus is the true temple and He has invited us to be born from above and become living stones in this temple--the Body of Christ.  

When His people, called by His name, (Christians--you and I) enter the presence of God as His children, His redeemed, to do what He requires then He will see, hear, forgive and heal our land. 

 

As I sought the Lord on how to offer a prayer that He would see and hear, I was led to Daniel 9:2-19.  Daniel began to pray when he saw in the prophecy of Jeremiah (1) that the captivity in Babylon was for 70 years and the time had come for a return to Jerusalem. (2)  The Bible tells us that God not only heard but sent Gabriel in response to his prayer. Daniel 9:21-23

Daniel’s prayer is a format similar to the Lord’s Prayer, a template that provides basic principles for us expand. (3) When Jesus told us to start praying to Our Father  by hallowing His name, He didn’t mean to just say the prayer but to come to the Father in praise and thanksgiving stating His majesty and greatness and how blessed we are to know Him.  It’s the same thing with Daniel’s prayer, it doesn’t mean to just read it back to God, but to give a personal response to each guideline.

The first thing Daniel did was to “Set his face toward the Lord, his God.” Dan 9:3a.

 

What does it mean to “set your face?”  Think of when Jesus “Set His face” to go to Jerusalem knowing it meant the cross. Luke 9:51(4) Or Paul going to Jerusalem despite warnings of what awaited him there.  They would not be deterred.  As for Daniel when he “set his face,” he committed to pray until He heard from the Lord.

How do we “set our face?”  There is a precept that says, first the natural and then the spiritual.  We need to start!  God says if we ask in His name (in His will and character) we shall receive. Shall is an absolute word, no doubt, it will happen.  So ask in faith that He bring us to a place where we will not let go, that He move this request from a natural cry based on “we really should do this” to a cry of anguish from our hearts.

How did Daniel do this?  He made request by prayer and supplications, Daniel 9:3b.  Prayer is not just talking.  Prayer is communication with (not to) God.  Prayer is pouring out our hearts and it includes being quiet and spending time listening for an answer. 

And who do we pray to?  To one greater!  That’s what supplications means—to make a request to one greater.  So we confess the truth, declare the immeasurable greatness of who He is and helplessly cry out to the One who can forgive our sin and heal our land.

Daniel adds to his prayer and supplications--fasting, with sackcloth and ashes.  Daniel 9:3c  We need to look in His Word to find true spiritual meaning of these words.  Take a look at Isaiah 58 (There’s an NIV copy in the endnotes (5)) to see what God means by a fast that is acceptable to Him.  This is a study in itself but reading it may help us.

Sackcloth is a rough uncomfortable cloth serving as an outward sign of mourning and repentance.  Ashes are symbolic of death and/or deep repentance and grief.  All three, fasting, sackcloth and ashes are outward signs, but God looks for them in our hearts.  We can’t put them there, but He can.  Psalm 51 (see endnotes (6)) is an excellent guide to repenting.  Like David we can ask for “truth in the inward parts.”  Ps 51:6 

Daniel uses five (5) things as He seeks the Lord.  Five is God’s number for GRACE.  We are asking for His grace toward us.  To humble ourselves and pray and seek His face takes time.  True fasting, repenting, and mourning do not happen overnight.  May God grant us the persistence to bring our hearts into line with His and save this nation from the total judgement we deserve.

 

Daniel begins by declaring the awesomeness of God,  “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,  Daniel 9:4   The point is not to use Daniel’s words but to note the framework.  But if we remember that we are seeking One greater it follows to begin with praise and thanksgiving and to include the fact that God keeps His covenant and has mercy on those who love Him and honor His Word. 

In the next verse he gives opportunity for repentance.  “we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” Daniel 9:5

God always keeps His part but Daniel confesses that the children of Israel, like us, have broken God’s covenant word.  He confesses this by using the specific terms sin, iniquity, and rebellion. 

Sinned means to miss the mark; like an arrow missing its target we have missed the goal or standard God has set.  Iniquity has to do with all forms of immorality along with a self-centered arrogance that ignores the warnings of judgement. Transgression and trespass are other words for rebellion.   They are deliberate acts of turning away from the God of truth.  When we trespass we are in a place we have no right to be.  What follows these actions is judgement.

The judgement for Israel was captivity in Babylon.  Have we seen judgement of our nation even before today?  I believe Johnathan Cahn’s book The Harbinger clearly shows us that the terrorist strike of September 11 was a warning of what happens when His hand of protection is taken away. 

September 11 did not bring repentance. Instead this nation has thumbed its nose at God and continued to turn away.  Think of what’s been done.  We have broken every commandment, rejected God,  called good evil and evil good, placed our trust in human abilities and solutions…the list goes on and on.  Now a virus has attacked that human beings are helpless to stop.

 

The founding fathers warned us that our form of government could not survive without a godly citizenry.  While many no longer believe, there is a remnant who  can do as Daniel did and confess, ignoring warnings, following ungodly leaders, believing that we humans have the power to save ourselves.  We can declare who God is, how He has promised to forgive. 

Here’s where it gets personal.  Open your Bible and follow Daniel’s model asking God to help you relate it, not only to general repentance, but also to specific sins both personal and national that He calls to mind.  No need to rush.  Covering an individual verse could be used as our prayer for the day.

Daniel 9:7  Compare His righteousness to the humiliation (“shame of face”) of His people for our unfaithfulness 

Daniel 9:8  Confess our shame for the actions of our leaders.  This is a place to pray for godly leadership, that God would turn hearts of local as well as national leaders.  It’s even a place to pray for individuals—be specific. 

Daniel 9:10  Declare our guilt because of our clear disobedience to His Word and ignoring of the prophets both ancient and modern who have warned of judgement.

Daniel 9:11-12  Note that God has confirmed His Word with disasters.

Daniel 9:13  Confess that we have neglected prayer that might have turned us from our iniquities and back to God.  Instead we have behaved as though humans were all powerful and God was a figment of our imaginations

Daniel 9:14   Concede that God has kept His word as disasters have declared God’s promised response to our rebellion, but still we have not listened.

Daniel 9:15  Proclaim who God is and what He has done for us and then confesses sin.  How have we missed the mark?

Daniel 9:16 Cry for His mercy – that His anger be turned away from this nation despite our sin and iniquity and that of our leaders which has led to this judgement.

And a final cry;

Daniel 9:17  Lord we cry to you, the only One who can save us—do it for Your own sake for without you we are desolate.

Daniel 9:18  Lord look at this nation that You brought into being.  Open your eyes and see our wretchedness for we are called by Your name.  We come, not calling on our righteousness, but because we know Your great mercies.

Daniel 9:19  Hear Lord listen and forgive!  Act now for Your own sake, for this nation and Your people who are called by Your name. 

Amen

ENDNOTES

 

1.  Jeremiah 25 and 29

 

2.  When Gabriel comes Daniel learns that the “70” years was not only for then, but also prophecies how long until Messiah comes the first and also the second time.

 

3.  Jesus says to expand on each of these areas as we pray to OUR Father:

  1. Hallow His name,

  2. Ask for His Kingdom to come

  3. Ask for His will be done

  4. Ask that He meet our needs spiritual and physical

  5. Ask that He forgive our trespasses

  6. Ask that He deliver us from evil

  7. Declare His glory and our dependence

 

4.  Isaiah 50:6-7 prophecies that Messiah would “set His face like flint” to do God’s will. 

 

5.  Isaiah 58 New International Version (NIV)

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

6.  Psalm 51  A Prayer of Repentance

A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

 

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.