A heavy burden for prayer is on my heart. Last night I came across a prayer in the Bible that is so relevant for our times and challenges today that I experienced goosebumps and suddenly had the thought that I should write my own prayer.
Daniel wrote his prayer (Daniel 9:1-19) around 538 BC after he learned from the prophet Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be desolate for seventy years. (It was. History confirms that they were defeated by the Babylonians. Most of the people were carried away to Babylon.) He was hurting for his country and his people.
Like Daniel, I ache for my country. I smell the smoke in the air from the extensive grass fires throughout Texas. Ash falls like snow on my mother-in-law’s home. The lake that is the source of our water supply is ten feet low and dropping fast. We’ve had earthquakes around our country in places that don’t normally see them. While Texas is experiencing its worst drought in recorded history, other areas of our country are suffering from severe flooding and damage from tornados and hurricanes and storms. Our elected leaders scurry around with big words and no action while many Americans are out of work with no prospects. Single parent households are on the rise with absent parents leaving holes in the hearts of their children. Personal responsibility is pushed aside as our people stop thinking about what they can do for others and instead think about what others can do for them. We have a world in which wrong is touted as right, and right is ridiculed as wrong. We say with our mouths that we are Christians but act as if we are serving Self and Self alone. We’ve pulled the very mention of our Creator out of the public arena — except in instances in which He is mocked. Unborn children are sacrificed at the altar of the god called Self as we rationalize our choices. Human sacrifice was alive and well in Daniel’s day, only it was with children who were already born. Why do we wrinkle our noses at that barbaric practice yet insist that abortion is a fundamental right because a woman’s body is hers and hers alone? Is it no wonder, then, that our country is being shaken? Is it no wonder then that the same God who allowed our country to rise up out of a ragtag collection of colonies in might and power would now allow us to be shaken?
So here is my prayer, patterned after Daniel’s prayer. I cannot hope to be the faithful servant that Daniel was. I have not yet walked into a lion’s den (except, perhaps, with this post!) but pray that if I am called to do so, I’ll not falter. I did not pull any punches. My words may be offensive to some of you, especially those who are reading this but are not believers. But Daniel didn’t candy-coat Israel’s failings, so neither did I.
O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants and prophets and to your Son Jesus, who speaks on your authority to all of us, including to our president and governors and congressmen and senators.
Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, from New York to LA and every place in between, scattered because we have lost our homes to disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, floods, and fires.
We have been disloyal to you in the public arena. O LORD Jesus, we and our ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But you, Lord our God, are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against you. We have not obeyed you. We have not taken up our crosses and followed Jesus. We have cursed our enemies instead of blessing them. We have denied a cup of cold water to the thirsty. We have turned our backs on the poor and needy, the orphans and the widows. We have shoved the care of our needy under the “government’s” care rather than taking care of our neighbors and loving them ourselves. We have not denied ourselves any pleasurable thing at the expense of others. All America has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice or even to acknowledge that your voice is there to be heard in the first place.
So now we reap what we have sown. The consequences of our actions are being poured down on us because of our sin. You have kept your word and turned your back on us because we’ve allowed our hearts to turn to stone. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from you by turning from our sins and recognizing the Truth. We have allowed our eyes to be blinded by the pleasures and sins of this world. Therefore, you have allowed us to experience disasters we could not predict or contain. You Lord our God, are right to do all of these things, for we have not obeyed you. You are Sovereign, and we are not.
O Lord God, you brought lasting honor to your name by rescuing your people long ago from Egypt in a great display of power. You brought even more honor and glory to your name by rescuing your son Jesus from death. But we have sinned and are full of wickedness. In view of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away from us. All the neighboring nations mock us because of our sins.
O our God, hear my lowly prayer! Listen as I plead for America. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on us. Spread a revival of love through the heart of America, touching and changing lives in every corner of our country. Let the Good News of Jesus ripple out with such magnitude that your name is glorified and exemplified by the changed hearts and subsequent actions of all Americans.
O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how our country — the one whose motto is “In God We Trust” — lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve your help, but because of your mercy. Lord, it is difficult for Americans to admit wrongdoing. None of us make the effort to say we are sorry and turn from our sins. Instead we blame each other, we blame circumstances, we blame our genes, we blame anything other than accepting our part in this. We who claim to be Christians accept blame. We have gone to worship you on Sundays yet lived lives that worshiped only ourselves the rest of the week. We have shown hatred towards our enemies rather than love. We do not deserve your mercy, Lord. But we pray to you as Jesus told us — to be like the friend who kept knocking with persistence (Luke 11:1-13). We knock, Lord, again and again. Please rescue us and shine your Light on us. Bring rain where rain is needed. Balance out our weather so we all have what we need. Give us hearts to reach out and help one another in charity and love.
O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for our country is nothing without you. Create in us a new heart, a new mind, and a new purpose: to love one another, as you first loved us. You are the Great Physician — please heal our land and transplant our stony hearts with ones that are pliable, humble, repentant, and willing to serve.