As many are praying about the myriad of troubling issues facing our nation, we need to remember the bigger picture and purpose from heaven's perspective. What God is up to is not what we think. Even in the most challenging times, God isn't after changing our circumstances as much as He is after changing us. His goal is to transform us from the inside out so as to reflect the fullness of His glory to a crumbling world system. His priority is to work on our heart condition before anything else, and He will use every setback, enemy attack and disappointment to cleanse us, sanctify us and make us more like His Son. If we want to be effective in our prayers, we must remember our place in His kingdom and what it requires of us in the midst of the battles.
As we pray about the divisive political spirit, the troubling immigration issues, the growing hostilities between people groups and the unsettling state of our nation, I recommend we pray with these five priorities in mind:
1. Focus our prayers on declaring His purposes rather than on fixing the problems.
It's easy to get fixated on the issues at hand and forget His ultimate purpose in transformation. Until we can displace the godlessness and rebellion with true righteousness through Christ, cycles of sin will continue. This requires a change of values and beliefs as we align our hearts and our prayers with His eternal Word. Pray beyond the problem and declare His promise! Pray God's heart and will over the situations at hand, and don't get distracted by the seeming discrepancies.
2. Focus our prayers on God's increasing kingdom instead of the world's crumbling systems.
Apart from Christ, this world will continue to fall apart. We shouldn't be surprised at the failure of man's attempts to secure peace and freedom. God will continue to shake everything that can be shaken in order for the reality of His kingdom to be clearly demonstrated through His people (Heb 12:27-28). Instead of praying "against" things, pray for the purposes of God to prevail! Spend time in worship and praise so that the King of glory may come in (see Ps. 24:9).
3. Address the sin issues (dying carcasses on the land) instead of fighting the devil (shooting the buzzards).
The only reason our spiritual adversary has any foothold, both personally and corporately, is because of sin and unbelief. These attract the enemy just as rotting flesh on the ground attracts buzzards. Rebuking the enemy (shooting the buzzards) won't do any good if we don't deal with the sin (removing the flesh). Living a holy and righteous life is one of the best means to attracting heaven and repelling hell (2 Cor 2:15; Eph 5:2). Pray for obedient hearts that quickly respond to His Word. Pray that we would not only "turn from our wicked ways" but demonstrate holy lives that attract heaven.
4. Shift from a warfare mentality to a presence reality.
Spiritual warfare may be necessary for a season but it was never intended to be a lifestyle. We were created to live from and in God's presence (Acts 17:28; Isa 63:9; Ps. 27:4-6). We need to remember the supernatural power of God's tangible presence (Isa. 63:9). Throughout biblical history, the greatest victories came because of God's presence, not because of man's skills at warfare (the battle of Jericho in Josh 6; Jehoshaphat's army in 2 Chron. 20; the cloud of His presence at the Red Sea). There is no glory in battle. Our glory should be in the one who has already defeated the devil. Spend time in celebrating the victory of our King and avoid fighting an enemy who has already lost.
5. Know that our spiritual authority in prayer comes more from who we are than from what we pray.
It is not the specific words of our prayers that change things, but the condition of our hearts and the obedience of our walk. A transformed life is one that loves to do what we ought to do because we live, speak, and pray from a relationship that has radically changed us from the inside out. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).
In our desire to see things change in our nation, let us remember that we are the ones who must change first. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside us and has power to bring new life to every nation and every tribe. As we are transformed, everything around us will begin to reflect the power of His kingdom. Let our prayers reflect this goal.
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