by Dr. Tony Evans
The future of American culture is squarely in the hands of Christians.
Our problem is not so much the presence of unrighteousness as it is the loss of God’s glory. Unrighteousness and evil have dominated our culture because God’s glory has been marginalized, and that marginalization is primarily the result of the removal of Christ’s lampstand from the church (Revelation 2:5).
Make no mistake about it: America’s future is not in the hands of the politicians or the social scientists. Most don’t know what to do. They are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
The reason the future of our culture is in the hands of Christians is that the cause of our cultural demise is spiritual. And if a problem is spiritual, its cure must be spiritual.
You might be saying, “Tony, I’m not sure I’m excited about that, since God’s people don’t seem to be doing the job spiritually.” Well, in many cases that’s true, but there’s hope. The greatest source of hope we have is the promise that we can move God’s heart and hand through prayer.
If we Christians are going to turn our nation to God, we’ve got to fall on our knees and faces before God and pray. We need to not only talk about prayer, but pray. Not only agree on the importance of prayer, but pray. Not only preach on the power of prayer, but pray. To return our nation to its feet, we must first return to our knees.
“If my people…”
Whether you’re talking about restoring a nation, a city, or a family, 2 Chronicles holds everything you need to know. We will set the stage in chapter 6. The occasion is the dedication of Solomon’s great temple.
Solomon offers a dedicatory prayer in which he says, in essence, “Lord, I want to lead this people in righteousness. I want to lead this people in honoring You. Lord, I want to do it the way You want it done.”
Then in 2 Chronicles 7:1-10, God’s glory came down and filled the temple, and the people offered sacrifices and held a feast. Then the text records:
Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the Lord and in his palace. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayers and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and 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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (verses 11-14)
In this hallmark passage, God calls a nation to pray. Prayer is an earthly request for heavenly intervention. It is the tool and strategy that we have been given in order to pull something down from the invisible and into the visible. Prayer enacts God’s hand in history like nothing else because prayer is relational communication with God.
The first thing God says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 about those whose prayers get through to Him is that they are “My people who are called by My name.” … When God says “My people” are to pray, He is talking about His covenant people. In the Old Testament, His covenant people were Israel. In the New Testament, it’s the church, the body of believers who follow Jesus Christ.
God is not obligated to hear the prayers of sinners, unless they are asking for forgiveness. God has no obligation to sinners who pray because they are not His people and they have not been called by His name.
Only Christians get full access to heaven’s ears. Only God’s children have access to the throne of grace. If God has decided to allow America to decline, only Christians can make Him rethink that. If God has decided to allow our cities to continue to deteriorate, only Christians can reverse that.
Let that truth sink in because it is the foundation of our future.
The principle here is that of representation. That is, only God’s appointed representatives get through to Him. His people can get through to Him because they bear His name, which means they are under His authority. When God calls us His people, He is saying, “You belong to Me. You are called to live under My authority.”
Getting it together
That’s who can pray. And that’s why Satan’s main goal today is to keep Christians from getting it together, especially on their knees, because he knows if we ever get it together, he’s in bad shape.
Satan’s big thing is rendering Christians inoperative. He’s not worried about the sinners. He can handle any sinner because the sinners already belong to him. They don’t know they belong to him, but they do. But if he can lull Christians to sleep spiritually, he’s ready to run the show.
Beyond our being His people, God says in verse 14 that we need a specific heart attitude when we pray for our country. He’s seeking those who will “humble themselves.” Humble Christians get through to God.
Humility has the idea of dependency. It marks those who understand that without Him, they can do nothing (John 15:5). Too many of us are autonomous and self-sufficient in our own minds. The Bible calls it being “haughty,” because we don’t really believe that we need God. God is for emergencies only. We say, “God, don’t call me. I’ll call You.”
And so God allows us to go through trials that we can’t fix to humble us and to put us flat on our backs, as if to say, “Now let’s see you get up all by yourself.”
The opposite of God putting you flat on your back is you putting yourself flat on your face before Him in humility. When we kneel, or when we lie prostrate before the Lord, we are demonstrating humility.
God says, “If you want to get My attention, humble yourself.” Humility is tied to prayer because prayer is by its nature an admission of our weakness and need. Many Christians don’t pray because they are too proud.
You say, “But I’m not proud.” If you don’t pray you are proud, because prayer says to God, “I need You. I can’t make this marriage work on my own. I can’t solve this problem at work on my own. I am not sufficient in myself to do what needs to be done and to be what You want me to be.”
Now if God were to stop the rain today or send locusts or pestilence, most of us would form a committee to study the lack of rain. We would get together a commission to do something about the locusts. We would try everything except the one thing that could change the whole thing: Come before God and pray.
This is why the first challenge we must overcome in bringing about change in our land is to get Christians to bring themselves and their problems before the face of God. To put prayer last means to put God last, and to put God last means everything else is a waste of time.