It’s election time — how should we pray?

Every election season the call to prayer goes out.  We should pray for our country, we are told. We should pray for our leaders. We should pray for the election. And one of the verses that is usually trotted out to support this call is 2 Chronicles 7:14…

“…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.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14

People tend to think this verse applies to their land in their day. I know many Americans think this. I used to. I used to think that this verse meant that if Christians in America would repent and pray that God would heal America.

I was wrong.

2 Chronicles 7:14 has a specific context. Do you know it? Do you know who spoke these words and to whom they were spoken? Do you know the occasion? Context is the key to understanding Scripture. Let’s take a look at the context…

“Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.’” — 2 Chronicles 7:12-15

God spoke these words to Solomon immediately after the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This message was specific to Israel and the Temple. It was specific with regard to things that Israel might suffer and to prayers offered in the Temple. It has nothing to do with America. (Click on the image below to learn more about Solomon’s Temple).

Max Lucado, an author and well-known figure in evangelicalism, has issued a call for “40 Days of Prayer for the U.S.A.” He used 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Now, I certainly agree that Christians should be praying in the days leading up to this fall’s election. But I think we should pray how we’ve been taught to pray by our Lord…

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:7-13

According to Jesus our focus should be God’s glory and His kingdom. We should earnestly desire that His will be accomplished in His way. God raises up empires when it suits His purposes. He also destroys empires when it suits His purposes. Yet, we tend to pray according to our desires. We want America to be strong, safe and prosperous — and we pray to that end. Max Lucado’s call to prayer asks you to pray for three things:

  • Unite us
  • Strengthen us
  • Appoint and anoint our next president

In case you missed it, the acronym is USA. On it’s surface that prayer seems to be aimed at America’s glory — not God’s.

What if the time has come for persecution to come to the church in America? What if God’s will is to purge His church of the unregenerate? What if His will is to make life so difficult for the church that the goats go running into the night, leaving only Christ’s sheep? What if, like Egypt, God raised up the United States so that by her destruction He might be glorified? Our focus should be so fiercely kingdom-centered that America is a mere afterthought (if that).

Regardless of who wins the next presidential election, there are things that will be just as true then as they are now…

  • The world (including America) will still be a mess.
  • America will still only be a temporary, earthly kingdom — it will cease to exist one day.
  • Christ will still be King.
  • God’s kingdom will still advance.
  • His will will still be done.

Maybe it’s time for us to pray accordingly. You know, like Jesus taught us.

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

8 Responses to It’s election time — how should we pray?

  1. Pingback: God Bless America? « LewRockwell.com Blog

  2. Pingback: God Bless America? | The Penn Ave Post

  3. PhillO says:

    I know the scripture cited was spoken directly to Solomon. That does not mean we cannot apply it to ourselves. But too many of those who attempt to do so stop short of turning from their wicked ways, both personally and nationally.

    • Chip says:

      Clearly there are texts that can (and should) be applied to ourselves. However, I believe it is a stretch to say modern Christians in America can expect God to “heal” the United States if they will turn from their wicked ways — God’s promise simply was not to America in this text.

      • Libertymike says:

        More Christians should follow your lead and that of Laurence Vance.

        In my view, a man can not at once be saved and chant USA USA USA.

  4. Brenda says:

    Well stated. Context is crucial to understanding and discerning scripture. Man is quick to pick and choose scripture to fit whatever circumstance he finds himself and more often than not it is to support whatever man wants and not what God wants. May God’s will truly be done and to Him be the glory for it all.

  5. Brian says:

    Powerful stuff. I think most American Christians have so bought into the “American exceptionalism” meme that they have become blinded to our “stranger in a strange land” status as believers. This is so definitely not our home.

    Very well said, Chip.

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