Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Heritage of Prayer - Call2Fall Sunday

“Call2Fall” Sunday
July 3, 2011
Fr. Philip Eberhart

A Heritage of Prayer

Over the past two years or so I’ve been involved with the Family Research Council in Washington DC as a prayer partner here in Denver and as a pastor who intentionally shares the spiritual concerns of our nation, with my congregation and with other pastors. I’ve made a commitment, along with several thousand other pastors around the country to Preach, to Pray and to Partner for Faith, Family and Freedom.

Tomorrow is July 4th, the commemoration of our national independence - of it’s ‘declaration’, on July 4th, 1776. We are 236 years into what some have called “The American Experiment” – an experiment in self-government – what Abraham Lincoln called, “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” But what we often miss is the heritage we have as a people of calling out to God for His aid in this experiment.

As I’ve read in preparation for this day I’ve been looking at notable calls to prayer through the history of our land, and there are many to recall. From the first prayer in Congress, which predates the Declaration itself by 22 months, dating from Sept 7, 1774, to the calls to prayer by various founding fathers; to calls to prayer by Ben Franklin and John Adams, during the Constitutional convention and afterwards, as the new nation was in its birthpangs, led by George Washington, a devout man who prayed fervently throughout the struggles of the Revolutionary War and into his presidency.

From our beginnings the call to and the continuing necessity of prayer for our nation has been central in our understanding and in the formation of our national consciousness of our dependence on God – what the Declaration refers to as the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” And this consciousness continues among us today, from the setting aside of a National Day of Prayer in the 50’s to the adoption of a national motto, “In God We Trust”, to the words in the pledge of allegiance affirming that we are a nation, which was formed and lives its daily life “under God.”

As you know, today a creeping secularism has taken over our national life and the institutions of our government to such an extent that even these simple tokens of acknowledgment toward God are being challenged and are suffering the attempts of the godless at their erasure from our culture. And these attempts are the final blows of an onslaught on the faith that founded this nation, on prayer to the Christian God, and on any form of public expression of that faith or prayer.

But God… who is faithful, still stands at the center of our life and witness as a church and desires to be at the center of our national life, blessing our national concerns and needs in these trying times.

And so the call to prayer necessarily comes down to us today along with the promise of God, regarding its usefulness in the life of His People and of the nation they inhabit.
Let me quote from some of the lines of notable proclamations which have gone before us, as we bring the reality of God’s providence and His provision for us as a nation into the forefront of our thinking today:

From the prayer of Rev. Duche’ in 1774:

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee.

“Henceforth dependent only on Thee!” Lord, may this be true of us today, as it was of the first framers of our independence, that we find in our freedom a true dependence on you who is the author and finisher of our faith and from whose hand all good things come down.

As Abraham Lincoln penned more than a century later,

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people;

And Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation came in the midst of one of our nation’s greatest conflicts, and on the heels of another time of prayer, ordered by his predecessor, President James Buchannan:

The Union of the States is at the present moment threatened with alarming and immediate danger; panic and distress of a fearful character prevails throughout the land; our laboring population are without employment, and consequently deprived of the means of earning their bread. Indeed, hope seems to have deserted the minds of men. All classes are in a state of confusion and dismay, and the wisest counsels of our best and purest men are wholly disregarded.

In this the hour of our calamity and peril, to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our fathers? His omnipotent arm only can save us from the awful effects of our own crimes and follies -- our own ingratitude and guilt towards our Heavenly Father.
Let us, then, with deep contrition and penitent sorrow, unite in humbling ourselves before the Most High, in confessing our individual and national sins, and in acknowledging the injustice of our punishment. Let us implore Him to remove from our hearts that false pride of opinion which would impel us to persevere in wrong for the sake of consistency, rather than yield a just submission to the unforeseen exigencies by which we are now surrounded. Let us with deep reverence beseech him to restore the friendship and good will which prevailed in former days among the people of the several States; and, above all, to save us from the horrors of civil war and "blood-guiltiness." Let our fervent prayers ascend to His Throne that He would not desert us in this hour of extreme peril, but remember us as he did our fathers in the darkest days of the revolution; and preserve our Constitution and our Union, the work of their hands, for ages yet to come.

These are but a few of countless examples throughout our short 236 year history of our national reliance on prayer and on the God who hears our prayers. We are once again in a place as a nation when a fervent outcry to God is demanded of us. This morning we want to make that cry to God for our nation, for its leaders and people, and for His providential oversight and provision for our land.

Nine years ago Pastor Joe Wright opened the Kansas State Senate with a prayer that stirred the nation, and laid out the malaise of our times for all to see. The prayer was reprinted and sent on the internet around the world several times. It was picked up by Paul Harvey, before his death, and resulted in the largest audience response ever to any of his programs. This morning I think that prayer bears repeating, as we begin to call out to God in repentance for our own part in the sins of our nation.

Nehemiah, the great rebuilder of Jerusalem, began his journey with a prayer similar to this, as he acknowledged his own sins and the sins of his people against God. The journey toward rebuilding our nation, begins here, with the simple acknowledgements of our own part in the direction our nation has taken, and with a new commitment to be a part of the answer – seeking the Kingdom of God first and the righteousness of that Kingdom, and allowing God to be the provision of our needs in this land. So let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that -
• We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism,
• We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery,
• We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare,
• We have killed our unborn and called it choice,
• We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable,
• We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem,
• We have abused power and called it politics,
• We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition,
• We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of statement,
• We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.

I invite you to kneel now, or to come and with me, fall on your face before God, as we continue in our prayers this morning in answer to God’s invitation:

“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 will heal their land.”

Let us join together in prayer:

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