CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On National Prayer

Oct 11, 2019

On the importance of national prayer and fasting:

It is not just individuals who pray. Entire nations can be involved in times of corporate prayer as well. Ancient Israel had such times of national prayer, as have other nations. Often in times of crisis or national emergency countries will declare a period of prayer, often with a time of fasting as well.

Right now with drought impacting large parts of Australia, various prayer movements have been undertaken. One such initiative is taking place throughout this month. Put on by the folks at the Canberra Declaration, they say this:

Join together with Christian leaders and churches of all denominations from all over Australia, as we Pray and Fast for Australia from 1 – 31 October 2019. Every state in Australia has encountered some level of drought over the last several years.

This period of unified interdenominational Prayer and Fasting has been inspired by the Catholic Church’s call for Prayer and Fasting for Marriage & Family for the month of October every year for the last three years. We believe we have an opportunity to build on this record of unified prayer, and increase the level of prayer across Australia.

The team at the Canberra Declaration will coordinate daily digital devotions (See them below) from National Church leaders during October, including Aboriginal Christian leaders. FOR DAILY DEVOTIONS REGISTER HERE.
Australia has a desperate need for RAIN, but we have an even more desperate need for God. We pray that as we get down on our knees to pray for RAIN in October, that God will give us the grace of REPENTANCE and the RENEWAL of our love for our Father in Heaven. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
canberradeclaration.org.au/prayer/daily-devotions/prayer-for-rain-2019/

This is part of a long tradition of national prayer and fasting initiatives. Consider the United States where this has long been a recurring practice. For example, the Continental Congress set aside a time for prayer to help establish the new nation back in 1775.

President Abraham Lincoln was especially committed to such periods of prayer and fasting, and he was involved in many such activities. Consider three of these. With the Civil War threatening to tear apart the nation, Lincoln proclaimed a day of fasting on August 12, 1861.

A month before this the first major battle of the War – the First Battle of Bull Run – was fought, resulting in a Confederate victory. Lincoln knew that fighting alone would not turn things around, and that prayer and fasting were desperately needed. The Proclamation opened with these words:

Whereas a joint Committee of both Houses of Congress has waited on the President of the United States, and requested him to “recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities, and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessings on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace:”

Two years later a resolution was put forward to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. On March 30, 1863 a Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day was issued. It began:

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

And on July 7, 1864 he declared “A Proclamation for a Day of Humiliation and Prayer.” It opened as follows

Whereas the Senate and House of Representatives, at their last session, adopted a concurrent resolution, which was approved on the second day of July instant, and which was in the words following, namely:

“That the President of the United States be requested to appoint a day for humiliation and prayer by the people of the United States; that he request his constitutional advisers at the head of the Executive Departments to unite with him as Chief Magistrate of the nation, at the city of Washington, and the members of Congress, and all magistrates, all civil, military, and naval officers, all soldiers, sailors, and marines, with all loyal and law-abiding people, to convene at their usual places of worship, or wherever they may be, to confess and to repent of their manifold sins; to implore the compassion and forgiveness of the Almighty, that, if consistent with His will, the existing rebellion may be speedily suppressed, and the supremacy of the Constitution and the laws of the United States may be established throughout all the States; to implore Him, as the Supreme Ruler of the World, not to destroy us as a people, nor suffer us to be destroyed by the hostility or connivance of other nations, or by obstinate adhesion to our own counsels, which may be in conflict with His eternal purposes, and to implore Him to enlighten the mind of the nation to know and to do His will, humbly believing that it is in accordance with His will that our place should be maintained as a united people among the family of nations; to implore Him to grant our armed defenders and the masses of the people that courage, power of resistance, and endurance necessary to secure that result; to implore Him in His infinite goodness to soften the hearts, enlighten the minds, and quicken the consciences of those in rebellion, that they may lay down their arms and speedily return to their allegiance to the United States, that they may not be utterly destroyed, that the effusion of blood may be stayed, and that unity and fraternity may be restored, and peace established throughout all our borders.”

Other times of prayer and fasting were declared throughout American history. On April 17, 1952, for example, President Harry Truman proclaimed the National Day of Prayer with a bill to that effect passed into law. A National Prayer Committee was formed in 1972. And in 1988 President Reagan amended the law, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer.

Individual US states also did this often. One very recent example is the state of Tennessee where the new governor has issued an official proclamation naming October 10 a “Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting.” Republican Governor Bill Lee said this: “We know that prayer accomplishes much. Prayer strengthens our families and it strengthens our communities. It strengthens our relationship with our neighbors. It strengthens our relationship with God himself.”

The brief proclamation ends with these words:

Whereas, the people of Tennessee acknowledge our rich blessings, our deep transgressions, and our complex challenges, and further acknowledge the need to give thanks to God Almighty, to turn from our transgressions and ask for God’s forgiveness, and to humble ourselves and seek God’s wisdom and guidance; Now, therefore, I Bill Lee, Governor of the State of Tennessee, do hereby proclaim October 10, 2019 as a voluntary Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting in Tennessee and encourage all citizens to join me in this worthy observance.
www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/tennessee-gov-declares-day-of-prayer-and-fasting-give-thanks-to-god-almighty.html

Nations, like individuals, desperately need God’s help, God’s provision, God’s direction, and God’s sustenance. Without God we are all toast. When we fail to acknowledge God, depend upon God, and seek to serve God, we are simply opening ourselves up to big trouble – both as individuals and as nations.

Let me close with some words from one famous national prayer of ancient Israel. I refer to Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication as found in 1 Kings 8. Here are verses 22-30:

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”

We can use such prayers today.

[1825 words]

8 Responses to On National Prayer

  • Thanks Bill. Praise God we’re already seeing some kindly, merciful responses from our Lord. The Gold Coast hinterland, Scenic Rim and Darling Downs, parched and bone dry for months – as evidenced by the recent bush fires in the area – have finally seen some light/scattered falls the last day or two and the immediate forecast is for afternoon storms and the same tomorrow, Saturday. May we be blessed to receive it, and likewise for all where drought has been severe. Keep praying and fasting good people: the Lord hears our prayers!

    As for national repentance I suspect – and I hope I’m wrong – that it may well take an act of ‘severe mercy’ to shake this nation out of its complacency and bring it back to reverent awe of God. Into Your hands we commit ourselves and our nation O Lord God almighty!

  • Wow! Thank you again, Bill, for this powerful and enormously important challenge to every believer!

  • I have nothing against Aussies but it bothers me when people keeps using this verse (2 Chronicles 7:14) for a nation OTHER than israel. So many, especially here in America seem to think either a) this is some blanket promise to any nation out there or b) that this, a specific promise to israel regarding HER land, can be claimed by christians. WE have no land in that same way they did as such we can’t have our nations healed like they could. yes if we the church repent we could get the proper people in ministry and that in turn could change the nation, “heal it”, but that is not how people are using the verse when they use it. it seems to be a ‘well in true democratic fashion if we get 50%+1 of (either the people as a whole or sometimes just of the church) to repent God will miraculously heal our nation and set everything right HIMSELF’. for one thing democracy has no weight in God’s court. for another 50%+1 is hardly national. (look at elections that are won that way) For those who want to try and claim this promise for their own nation let’s talk when you have 90% or more of the people on their knees repenting. That would be national.

    for another God doesn’t have to PERSONAL intervention to have done something their is a hebrew word t?shûw?âh [strongs H8668 t?shuw`ah {tesh-oo-aw’ or tesh·ü·ä’} meaning deliverance (usually by God through human agency)] that shows he can work through people. (reminds me of the old joke about the man, sometimes priest, and the flood and a boat came he told them no i am waiting on God to saved me then another boat same answer then a helicopter after he ended up on his roof still same answer he finally drowned and asked God why did you save me and God replied I sent you two boats and a helicopter.

    lastly a lot a people seem to want to claim the promises that were given to israel but don’t want to claim the curses too. It has alway been a package deal. but some always want the good parts without the bad. the OT promises weren’t a smorgasbord where you picked and chose what you wanted and left behind what you didn’t like you got it all. the NT is the same way you get it all lock, stock and barrel.

  • Thanks Paul. Yes the primary interpretation has to do with ancient Israel. But a secondary application may apply to modern nations. See more on this here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/05/02/2-chronicles-714-in-context/

  • In the 1640s, when Puritan influence was strong in England, there were regular fasting days for the Parliament. These days were described as “days of public humiliation”. On one such fasting day, in 1643, Puritan minister, William Greenhill preached to the House of Commons on the text from Matthew 3:10: “Now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewen down and cast into the fire.” [For details and text of the sermon, go to: http://tei.it.ox.ac.uk/tcp/Texts-HTML/free/A85/A85664.html ]. How things have changed since then….!

  • If if does have an application for modern nations then it would hinge on the word NATIONAL and of all the nations that claim this, ESPECIALLY AMERICA, I have yet to see numbers anywhere NEAR national levels in fact I haven’t seen anything approaching 50%. just having the remnant repent wont be enough. hard part sometimes is just as you can’t accept christ for someone else, which can be very hard when you care so much for someone who wont accept christ, you can’t repent for them either (I couldn’t repent for your nor you for me). those must be done individually not on behalf of others. (my dad takes the Lords name in vain a lot but I can’t repent for him)

    how do you witness to stubborn people???? someone who as soon as something happens they figure it out, wrongly (because they don’t ask question they just jump to a conclusion), and no matter what you can’t get them to change their mind. at most they will agree with you, most likely to end the conversation, but a day or two later go back to what they believed and don’t even remember talking to you about it. (and their memory is not bad as they can remember something you did or said to them 20 or 30 years ago)

  • Thanks again Paul. I few thoughts:
    -God almost always works through a remnant.
    -God was willing to spare Sodom if a handful of righteous could be found.
    -The other side gets heaps done with just small but active numbers.
    -Yes it would be nice to get more Christian involved. We must work and pray toward that end.
    -See more on all this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/07/16/so-where-are-all-the-real-christians/

  • my point was simply the remnant repenting couldn’t be called a national repentance because of how small a part of the nation they make up.

    I have seen some say that God wont destroy America because there are 10 righteous here as if somehow that is the standard (sodom was MUCH smaller than America so it is reasonable that the number would be higher for US.) and that somehow we don’t need to do anything because we will have 10 righteous in America. (some have used a similar argument against making America better that since we are better off then several other nations there is no need to do anything as if the only time we should get busy n improving America is only after we are worse than every other nation on earth[at which point it would be too late])

    I read the article but the problem is it isn’t just the homosexual 3% it is there allies in Media, entertainment, academia, Government (money buys votes),and Judges. these add up to far more than 3%. That said the point is valid if a small portion of those who claim christ were actually involved we wouldn’t been in this mess and could change this nation. the church has been compromising for over a century (it burst forth publicly in the 60’s but was going on for sometime under the surface) It would not only take a good number of us being involved but also take a long term plan and willingness to fight a generational conflict.

    Does the church have the stomach for that??? homosexuals did get here overnight push back wont happen over night either. Way too many christians have the idea we simply pray and God does it all: the Joel Osteen way of doing things ‘when you remand at rest almighty God fights your battles’ in the bible God alway partner with man he always had man do something he didn’t say “sit back I got this”. with this belief is it any wonder you find many christians don’t want to do anything after doesn’t God do it all??? (I don’t watch Osteen but his program is on a station I watch and I see commercial for his show that is where I got that line)

    sorry I am late in replying my back is hurting so bad.

Leave a Reply