Yes, I know we're not Israel and the promises God made to his chosen people don't apply to our nation. Last Independence Day a denominational leader narrowed the scope of our prayers for the United States by making God's assurances to Israel off limits to us. OK, I get it. Still, God's Word is universal and eternal truth. Seeking him in the welfare of our country cannot be spiritually wrong, especially as we pray the words of Scripture. So, I'm still praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 for us.
If 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 and will
forgive their sin and heal their land.
Of course, like most believers I know God can hear our prayers, forgive our sin, and heal our land. Scripture is annotated with occasions of just that, his listening to their pleas for deliverance and then providing answers to strengthen and guide them as they sought to fulfill their covenant. But, honestly, that's not the stuff of my prayer before him today and in the days to come. No, as the day of election 2016 nears I'm praying that God will teach us the harder lessons of humbling ourselves, praying and seeking his face, and turning from our wicked ways. My plan is to spend a segment of the next 20 days in the prayer closet so I can enter the voting booth with confidence on November 8. They are two important rooms that are significant right now.
Humans have a hard time with prayers like this. Self-absorbed to the core, our innate mind set cringes at the idea of a humble spirit. In many circles humility smacks of cultural softness, having a target painted on our backside, the sucker born every minute, or the dream persona of scammers. There's been a momentary resurgence of character as a leadership quality in this election because both candidates are so questionable in this regard. Yes, we desire character, even humility, in our leaders. But, out in the mean streets every day it's every man for himself and humility doesn't always cut it when success is weighed. Sadly, having the applause of other humans is the deal right now and most of us are boosted in the ego race by making the most noise, spending the most money, driving the best cars, attending the right church, and choosing the right candidate, among a long list of credentials. Having a gentle, quiet spirit isn't a resume bullet in a dog eat dog world.
And, that's a problem today. We've all staked out our ground, established our bonafides, belittled and ridiculed the lesser minds/hearts/theologies/opinions of those on the other sides with the arrogant pridefulness of Goliath and the Philistines. With a wink and a nod we excuse the differentials as mere politics or counsel others with sophomoric bromides about political saviors, messiahs, and redeemers. What is needed is a little humility.
About which the Bible speaks volumes. It's been on my personal lesson plan for more than five years, the need to humble myself. I remember a Bible verse falling into my lap on the night our son Brian was murdered, July 18, 2011. In our grief we had wept and prayed for God's healing. That verse came to me via the ministry of a good friend. it was 1 Peter 5:6---
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up
in due time.
Harriet and I both thought it was God's Word for us in our time of sorrow. Since that night we've tried to learn the discipline of humility so that we could experience, in due time, God's lifting us from the grip of this grief. What we've learned is that the grace of humility is a hard one for us self-absorbed humans.
And, that's a conundrum too. You see, self-denial, perhaps another biblical idea of humility, is actually the first step of this Christian journey. Jesus explained it this way---
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me.
Luke 9:23, ESV
This grace of humility should be a visible element of the evangelical influence in our nation in all times, perhaps more so in times of national stress. And, that's the puzzle of this electoral season. The Christian community is divided like never before. Of course, I'm part of that community and the absence of a humble spirit in me is one small pixel of the much larger picture.
So, the prayer to humble myself is the order of the day for the next 20 days. I'm praying many others will join this prayer. No doubt the voting booth is one important room in the next month. But, the prayer closet may be the most important for life.
It's been on my lesson plan for more than five years.