Divisions in our nation today seem wider than ever before as we’re dealing with COVID-19 and its effects—and as violence and unrest continue night after night on streets across America.
So at this point, what should the posture of Christians be?
We should pray. The Bible reminds us to pray for those who are in government, because they’ve been placed there by God (see Romans 13:1). And by the way, you should pray for your elected officials whether you voted for them or not, because Scripture commands us to do so.
Pray that the Lord will give them wisdom in the decisions they make. Pray for those who advise them. Pray that the will of God would be done. And remember this: God is in control. History is His story.
The Book of Proverbs tells us, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1 NLT). We could take that word king and replace it with president or governor or senator or mayor—or anyone else in a position of power. God is in control. And we need to pray.
When we see problems in our country, we tend to point the finger of blame at political leaders or the media or Hollywood. But when God sees a breakdown in a culture, He points his finger at His people.
Here’s what God said to King Solomon: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT).
God is saying, “I’m looking for My people to live godly lives and turn from personal sin.” God then promises, “I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” So we need to pray.
You may be facing a personal crisis right now. Maybe it’s a lack of employment. Maybe it’s a foreclosure on your home or a loss in your investments. Perhaps you have a marriage that’s falling apart, or you’re facing a serious, life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re paralyzed by fear as you think about an uncertain future.
What should you do? The Bible says you should pray: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NLT).
I’ve lived by those words, especially after my son Christopher went to Heaven. That harsh reality, most notably his absence, overwhelms me at times. So I pray. Sometimes my prayers aren’t long—just a cry to God. And God answers those prayers. He gives me what I need when I need it.
The Bible promises that God will give us a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV). But it isn’t necessarily a peace that gives understanding. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, pray.
David prayed, “From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed” (Psalm 61:2 NLT).
That is what the early church did as they faced a bleak scenario. They found themselves in a situation that would be a complete disaster if God didn’t come through.
A new wave of persecution had come against the church. Earlier, Stephen was martyred, and as a result, the church in Jerusalem spread out and began to preach the gospel. And through Stephen’s courageous testimony, Saul of Tarsus, the notorious Christian killer, ultimately came to faith as he met the living Lord on the Damascus road.
Things were relatively quiet until King Herod came along and arrested James, the brother of John, and executed him. James and John, known as the “Sons of Thunder,” were two of the Lord’s apostles. Next Herod arrested Peter, and it looked as though Herod would execute him as well.
So what did the church do? Did they organize a protest and storm Herod’s palace? No, the Bible doesn’t tell us that. Did they boycott all products that were made in Rome? No, the Bible doesn’t tell us that, either.
Here’s what it does say: “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5 NKJV).
We have a secret weapon in the church, and it’s called prayer. Though all other doors may remain closed, one door is always open: the door into the presence of God through prayer.
The problem is that prayer is so often our last resort. It’s what we do when all else fails. But the first-century church prayed. And they prayed with passion and persistence.
Another way to translate the term “constant prayer” is “earnest prayer.” In fact, in the original language, the word that describes their prayer is the same word that describes the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where his “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NLT). That was a prayer of passion. It was an agonizing prayer.
Here’s something we need to consider: Many times our prayers have no power in them because there is no heart in them. We don’t pray with passion. And we don’t pray continuously.
The early church prayed with great fervency and with great passion. As a result, God answered their prayers by sending an angel to miraculously free Peter from prison during the night.
We see chapter 12 of Acts beginning with a seemingly all-powerful King Herod wreaking havoc on the church, arresting and persecuting church leaders.
But by the time the chapter ends, Herod is dead and Peter is free. The church had on their side the Creator of the universe and the secret weapon He gave them (and us), which is prayer. So let’s use it.