Every Fourth of July in the United States, we celebrate our liberty with parades, cookouts, and fireworks. But during the rest of the year, we tend to take our freedom for granted, believing that we’ll always have it. When we hear news reports about uprisings and conflicts in other nations, we can’t imagine those kinds of events unfolding here. After all, this is America, the land of freedom and opportunity. However, if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that our country has changed. As a result, many of us are wondering what we can do to help our nation recover its Christian values.
One evening shortly before a presidential election, while I was eating at a restaurant, three people at a neighboring table recognized me and came over to ask a question. They all had the same concern: Which candidate should receive their vote? Even though I couldn’t tell them how to vote, I listened and advised them to seek God’s guidance. Despite our nation’s problems, I believe there are enough Christians in this country to make a difference. God is able to display His mercy, grace, and love through us as we seek to obey and serve Him. Our most effective influence is always prayer.
The question is: What are we to pray? The apostle Paul reminds us God’s will is that we pray for those in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:1-4). No matter our political affiliations, we’re often quick to complain about our governmental leaders. Do we even know their names? Even if we see no evidence that our requests are being answered as we desire, the Lord clearly tells us He expects us to pray. In fact, prayer is our privilege. God will answer according to His sovereign will and plan.
God’s purpose for our prayers is “that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (v. 2). In the day that Paul wrote this letter, Nero had absolute authority over the entire Roman Empire. He could take someone’s life in a second without giving an account to anyone. And since he reigned for life, his subjects were left with little opportunity to effect a change in most matters.
The primary focus of believers’ prayers in the first century was not on altering the policy of the government but on seeking peaceful conditions that would allow them to live out their faith and serve the Lord without hindrance. Today, as we intercede for our leaders, we must trust God to work through the men and women He’s placed in authority over us to provide an environment where believers are free to grow in Christ and accomplish His will.
Sometimes in our longing to strengthen the United States’ foundation of Christian values, we forget that the Lord’s priority is people, not countries. Our prayers should focus on God’s desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (vv. 3-4). Although patriotism is a wonderful quality, as believers, our true citizenship is in heaven. We have been left here on this earth to bring as many people as possible into God’s kingdom. That’s why we should ask the Lord to work through our government so that we have the freedom to spread the good news of Christ’s salvation effectively.
Finally, in our intercession for our country, we must remember that God is sovereign overall governmental leaders and authorities. Paul stated this fact clearly in Romans 13:1: “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” This foundational truth is what allows us to have peace, regardless of who’s in power. Although it may seem to us that our nation is declaring its independence from God, He has never loosened His hands on the reins. We may be tempted to think our leaders achieved their positions through good campaigns and majority votes, but Daniel 2:21 tells us that the Lord “controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings” (nlt). Our peace comes in knowing that the Lord is always in control.
Isn’t it a blessing to realize we have an opportunity to make a difference in this country? The Lord has put the most powerful tool at our disposal—prayer. It reaches up to the heavens and is more effective than the ballot box.
As you intercede for our country and its leaders, remember God’s ultimate goal. Ask Him to keep the door open for the gospel in America and to draw the hearts of the people to Christ.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. Independence Day is a great time to gather together with our families, churches, and communities to celebrate our freedom. May you experience the joy of the Lord as you remember all the blessings He has given this nation.