Summary: As with everything else in life, prayer is the key to influencing secular culture and human government. Solomon's call to prayer serves as a pattern for discovering the power of prayer.
Every four years, this nation elects a political leader we call the President of the United States. This year’s election is fifty days away and there is both anticipation and anxiety as that day approaches. We go to the polls seeking to change the direction of the nation, or to stay the course because the circumstances of the nation are such that the majority is pleased with the direction the leadership has set. This year, we will not “stay the course” necessarily, for we elect a new president. Some people believe electing one particular candidate will, in essence, be staying the course, though that candidate has done much to draw distinctions between herself and her predecessor. Others believe electing another of the primary candidates will lead the nation in a new, more prosperous direction. And, so it goes…
It’s interesting to me to watch the reaction of people as this election cycle has progressed. I’m a bit of a political junkie myself. I don’t try to hide that fact. I don’t (well, not often anyways) make my political views known. You won’t see me posting political articles on social media, promoting particular candidates or particular parties. We’re all in this together and part of our problem is not being able, or willing, to put aside our differences in order to overcome the divisiveness our system finds itself in. This election cycle is an historic time for our nation. As in the election cycle of 2008 when we elected our nation’s first African-American president, we may this cycle, elect our nation’s first female president. Some say, “It’s been a long time coming,” while others say, “This is not the woman we need to elect.” And, so it goes…
The anxiety of the moment is heightened by the cultural circumstances we are experiencing as a nation. Consider these circumstances—a stock market, that while reaching new heights, its volatility is shown by the constant swings from one day to the next, a world economy that still languishes mostly in recession, job market volatility (CenturyLink announced this week layoffs that could impact as many as 3,500 employees nationwide), and when we factor in the shifts in cultural values over the past eight years, there’s no wonder anxiety is up. My generation is concerned whether Social Security will be around for our retirement. Healthcare costs, in spite of an overhaul of the system, continue to rise. We have 19.5 trillion dollars of debt as of this past Friday morning. We continue to fight a war on terror with an enemy that is hard to identify and even harder to trace, and we face aggressive nations having the capabilities of nuclear weapons. Do we believe a new president will change any of these circumstances? Perhaps that’s not the appropriate question. Perhaps the appropriate question is “Whom or what do we trust?” Is our trust in a political party? Is our trust in a candidate for president or the government? I am reminded of the words of King David (that’s right KING David) writing in Psalm 20:7—
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Ps. 20:7 NIV).
As those who are called to follow Jesus Christ, our hope is in him and in him alone. We are citizens of the United States, but we are disciples of Jesus Christ, and if our hope is in the government or a political candidate, it is a misdirected hope.
When the nation of Israel left Egyptian bondage and became a nation, Moses and then Joshua was their national leader. They weren’t elected, but rather chosen by God for leadership of the nation. Afterward, God led with a group of judges over the people. There were twelve tribes with different leaders yet they were not united. They had problems working together. The leadership they did have was corrupt and made poor choices, so the people demanded that God give them a new leader. They wanted a king like all the other nations around them. In other words, when things were not going well, the people thought what they needed most was a change in leadership, a new administration, a new structure of government. The people thought:
“If we just get this new leader everything will be okay. He’ll solve all of our problems. He will protect us from our enemies, he will bring a sense of unity among our divided people (bipartisanship?), he will stabilize our economy, he will provide a new direction, he will provide the change we need.”
Sound familiar? Certainly! All the presidential candidates are promising it.
God had a response to the nation in those days. Listen to what God told the prophet Samuel, who was the judge of the nation at the time:
7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. (1 Samuel 8: 7 – 9 NLT)