Something I’ve been thinking about…
Abortion is unjust. Human trafficking is unjust. They both need to end. We should be praying fervently that they do end. But that doesn’t mean we have to start yelling and condemning things and binding things and moaning to God about what a sad state our country is in.
Now, of course it’s true that our country is trouble. Of course there are things that need to be broken off and brought to an end. Such prayer is very valid, especially if the intercessor is gripped with the burden of it. But if we spend our entire prayer lives binding this and breaking that and coming against the other thing, we’re going to end up becoming very tired, jaded people who don’t enjoy prayer very much.
One of the things I have learned to appreciate a lot since coming to Kansas City is the value of praying positive prayers. When I first showed up for Fire in the Night, I thought it was kind of cool, but didn’t really understand how much it mattered. After four and a half years of both praying and hearing postively-focused intercession, I understand it a lot.
When approaching issues of justice in our country, it’s very easy to get negative about it. Often, one of our first tactics is to inform God about what miserable shape our society is in. Rest assured, He already knows. There is absolutely a place for repentance and sorrow for national sin (i.e. Daniel 9, a chapter I love), but my point is that there’s a lot more than that going on.
After we have sufficiently described the woeful state of affairs, then we begin breaking, rebuking, and binding things. We begin coming against things. We begin condemning things. We begin asking God to judge things. Again, this is legitimate, and God hears it and responds to it, but if you want to sustain intercession on this for a long time, and still enjoy it at the end, a different approach is needed.
The inherent weakness of both these approaches is the same. Our hearts are very small and our zeal is easily exhausted. If most of our prayer time is simply listing the grievances in our nation, we lose heart very quickly. If it’s mostly coming against all those bad things, and the massive principalities behind them, discouragement soon sets in. We see a gigantic social problem that seems too big to stop, overwhelmingly daunting in the face of our small faith and weak prayers.
I suggest a different approach to these very important subjects. It’s important to remember that when we pray, we’re doing a lot more than asking for something to go away. We’re asking for something better to come. When we ask for abortion to end, we are asking for righteousness to come. When we ask for human trafficking to stop, we’re asking for justice and liberty to come to the oppressed. When we’re asking for the dissolution of gangs and drug culture, we’re asking for life and salvation to break in. And there’s your new angle.
We’re asking, really, for revival. During the First Great Awakening, bars and taverns in New England began to close down. This wasn’t because they were consumed with fire from heaven, nor was it becasue they suddenly became illegal. They shut down simply because people stopped coming. When the United States began to seek God, societal problems were then resolved, not the other way around.
When we pray, we ask God to release what is in His heart. He loves righteousness. He desires all to be saved. He brings freedom to the captives. Instead of kicking and screaming against something that seems unstoppable, we are instead approaching a throne of grace and inviting something that we know will win at the end of the day. Suddenly, things look a lot less bleak and a lot more hopeful.
When we ask for the kingdom and will of God to be done (Luke 11:2), hope begins to stir in our hearts. When we ask the God who loves righteousness to have His way in our city, we become more fascinated by Him and more confident that He has heard us. When we pray for good things to take place in a city, church, or people group, our hearts begin to grow in love towards them. It’s a manifestation of the principle, “beholding unto becoming.” If we focus on the darkness, we will begin to feel the oppression and anxiety that comes with it. But if we focus on the good God who wants to break in with light, we find our faith rejuvenated and our hearts encouraged.
So if you find yourself continually exhausted and bogged down after praying for issues of justice, take a moment to consider your language. If it’s full of “stop this” and “break off that” and “we’re in such a mess,” try adjusting your angle a little. Take an apostolic prayer (Eph 1:17-19 is always a good one — you can’t go wrong with asking for people to know Jesus), and see what happens. Focus on asking for God’s kingdom to come, and for His will, the desires of His heart, to be done. Praying for justice just may become one of the most refreshing times of your day.