I had the great privilege of being a part of the Prayer March that was held in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. Tens of thousands gathered on the National Mall to pray for our Country and to seek the Lord. There was something I witnessed in the first few moments of the March that bears repeating. It changed my heart and my hope is that it will change yours too, as well as our Nation’s.
As the Prayer March began, participants were surprised to see Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen approach the stage. He wasn’t expected. The crowd cheered at the announcement that he was there while he made his way to the microphone. There was a small percentage of people that began to chant, “Four more years! Four more years!” Their chant lasted just a few seconds and it was a small minority who participated in it.
The March was never meant to be a political rally. In fact, participants were told not to bring signs or other paraphernalia that showed support for any candidate. It was not the purpose of the event. It was meant to be a time of quiet, solemn prayer.
The Vice President gave some encouraging opening remarks and welcomed the prayers of everyone in attendance. He encouraged prayers for all the leaders of our Country at every level of government, for our military and their families, for law enforcement, and for all of those who continue to fight the pandemic. He spoke personally of how touched he is by the people he meets who tell him that they are praying for him. As he finished his remarks and after we prayed for him, the President, and their families, the Vice President and Second Lady left the stage. Another chant rose from the crowd only this time it was, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” There were more voices joining in, but still relatively few in comparison to the size of the crowd.
And then, just seconds later another chant began. It was a chant louder than the two previous chants put together and it seemed as though every one of the 100,000 in attendance joined in. We began chanting, “JESUS! JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!” With one voice we lifted the Name above all names, and the King above all other kings. As His name swept across the crowd, with it came a monumental shift in focus. It brought that crowd of strangers together – one mind, one heart seeking Jesus and calling out His name.
That shift in focus set the tone for the rest of the March. I can only speak for myself, but it was convicting. As I walked from place to place on our National Mall, praying for various groups of people, the Church, our government, our leaders, and others, the conviction in my heart grew. I began to see my own foolishness. Even though I thought I had seen the traps the enemy was setting through all the divisive arguments in our country, I was suddenly seeing them even more clearly now. And, I had fallen for far too many of them! I had been praying for months for God to intervene, to bring healing to our country, for unity in His Church, but at the same time I was still clinging to an idol. I was choosing to view the world not through His eyes or His heart, but through the hand-carved idol of my political viewpoint.
I was struck by the ridiculousness of it all. The fragility and meaninglessness of these strongholds that make me want to categorize a person or group as either with me or against me, suddenly looked so foolish. It’s the wrong lens for me to look through. Jesus is the only lens I should be looking through. What is His heart? What are His commands? How do I live my life with Him as my leader? How does He see the people around me and how does He want me to see them?
I felt a sense of shame as I could see myself coming to Him like a 5 year old child pointing at her playmate after getting caught doing something wrong and saying, “Yeah, but God, her sins are way worse than mine are!” Our political parties, or whatever group we are defining ourselves by these days are imperfect creations of man. They are never going to be right 100% of the time because we are never right 100% of the time. I could see in my mind’s eye how shackled we are as believers as we hang on with our fingernails to the ideologies of this world. Jesus Christ is not an ideology. He is the Son of God and He has given us in His Word a set of instructions to live by. We won’t be perfect carrying out His instructions either, but that is why we call Him Savior and Lord. We need Him. We depend upon Him. He alone must be the Lord of our life.
One of the Bible verses that has been used often as Christians are being asked to turn to God in prayer during this time in our Nation’s history is 2 Chronicles 7:14. It says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
The context of this verse is just after Solomon dedicated the beautiful Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. With all of the people of Israel gathered, Solomon lifted up a prayer of dedication (2 Chronicles 6:14-42). He tells the Lord that even the highest heavens cannot contain His presence much less the Temple that was built for Him, but His prayer was that God would hear the prayers of His people that were lifted up from that place. It was a place where God promised to put His name. Solomon outlined in his prayer a variety of circumstances in which God’s people would pray at that Temple, from national sin, to natural disasters, to personal sorrows. And if they couldn’t pray at the Temple but would pray in the direction of it, he asked that God would hear the prayers of His people.
Solomon then invited the Lord, the God of Israel, to enter the Temple that was built for Him. As soon as his prayer was over, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the sacrifices that were on the altar. God’s presence filled the Temple so much so that the priests could not enter it. And for the next 7 days the people celebrated this grand opening of the Temple and relished in the Lord’s presence.
It was one night after all the festivities were over that God appeared to Solomon. He told him that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and that the Temple Solomon built would be where He would receive the sacrifices offered to Him. He said that when He sent drought, or locusts, or plague to His people, if they would humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wickedness, He would hear them from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore or heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)
I can imagine that as all of Israel gathered in front of that Temple there may have been a small portion of them that perhaps began a chant, “Long live, King Solomon! Long live, King Solomon!” I can also imagine that there may have been a swell of national pride among the Israelites. This was a huge day for them in their nation’s history. The long awaited Temple was finally open! Perhaps there was another contingent there who began chanting, “IS-RA-EL! IS-RA-EL! IS-RA-EL!”
But once Solomon finished his prayer of dedication, there was a monumental shift as God’s presence came down upon that Temple in a burst of fire falling from heaven, His glory filling that place. The Bible says everyone there fell face down on the ground and they began worshipping the Lord saying, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” (2 Chronicles 7:3b) A monumental shift, for sure.
When the First Century believers received His Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost, flames of fire fell from heaven then too. Each person there was filled with His presence. That same holy presence now inhabits US! We don’t have to go to a place for our prayers to be heard. God’s name is on us. We are sealed with His Spirit as His children. Therefore, as believers, we cannot let our hearts cling to the idols of this world. God will not share the Lordship of our life with another god that we have created. He alone must be our Master and our Lord. It is through His lens that we are to see, respond to, and interact with the world. Of course, we need to vote and participate in the political process of our country. That is our civic responsibility. But we need to do so with the mind and heart of Christ Jesus our King. It is Jesus and His Word that should direct our decisions.
In spite of what some critics might say about this past weekend’s events in Washington, D.C., it was never about politics. For me, it was not even about nationalism. It was about calling on the name of Jesus. It was about repenting, turning away from our sin. It was about seeking God first, above everything else. And it was about humbly asking Him to bring healing to our land. If we want to see a country united, it needs to start with The Church. If you are a believer, you are The Church. Let go of the lenses of your idols and seek to see the world through Jesus alone.
Father, may your Spirit convict our hearts and continue to convict us each time we reach for the lenses of our idols to determine how we feel or how we should respond to a crisis, a person, a group, or a candidate running for office. Father, forgive me, for deceiving myself, for not wanting to let go of my ideologies or see the world as you see it. Lord, make me an effective light and witness to the world of your great love. I pray that your Church, your Bride, will be united like never before, seeking your face, shouting your name as a rallying cry. Father, we need you. Your word says that the way the world will come to know you is through the unity of your Church. Holy Spirit convict us as to how we are contributing to the disunity and help us to turn from our ways. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Thank you that your Son, Jesus, is the Name above all names and King above all other kings. We worship Him, “for He is good and his faithful love endures forever!” It is in His name we pray, amenFor