This blog is part of our 2021 Prayer Series, inspired and guided by Luke 11:09.
Praying for our Country
Back in November, our social media specialist and I met to hash out a series of prayer blogs for 2021. As an organization, we are inviting our friends and partners to pray with us each day at 11:09 – for the church and for church planting, of course, but also for the components of our world that help the church thrive, grow, and multiply. We landed on things like healthy marriages, racial reconciliation, the thriving of children.
But for January, with an impending inauguration and transfer of power, we thought, “Let’s focus on praying for our country.” Because of the short timeline, we decided I’d write the year’s first prayer blog reflecting on Luke 11:9 and how it applies to prayers for our country.
In light of last Wednesday’s events, I confess that I feel unqualified for the task that this Friday morning presents to me. How on earth do we pray for a country full of people who believe that its thriving is comprised of such different things? Where do we even begin?
Well, since our guiding verse for prayer this year is Luke 11:9, it seems best to start there. That verse tells us to Ask, seek, and knock when we engage in prayer. So how can we apply those actions to our prayers for our country?
ASK: When we pray for our country, we should not be praying for POLITICS, but for PEOPLE.
I consistently find myself coming back to Jeremiah 29 when I think about prayers for a nation. In a letter penned to the exiles in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah sends a message from God to His people. In a time when false prophets are predicting a quick end to the exile and a return to “life as normal,” Jeremiah is the dissenting voice. Through him, God tells his people to build houses, get married, and plant gardens – because they will be there for the long haul. And then He goes on to say,
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
When we pray for our country (where we live as strangers and aliens), we must remember that when every person in our country thrives, our country itself thrives. Praying for the success or failure of a particular party, candidate, or political ideology is not the best way to ensure our country thrives, because those kinds of prayers do not seek the good of all, but only the good of all who agree with us.
Instead, we should pray for leaders on both sides of the aisle – for wisdom, discernment, and conviction. When we feel convicted about certain policies or stances, we should pray for people’s hearts to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, molded by the truth of God’s word, and changed by the transformative power of Jesus Christ. When we pray for our country, we must not turn those prayers into prayers designed for only our people to thrive – but instead, into prayers prayed that all people may thrive.
SEEK: When we pray for our country, we must pray for our own discernment and humility.
With so many things that vie for and influence our beliefs, we have a responsibility to test our personal understanding against the will of the Holy Spirit. We must constantly seek to re-anchor our understanding of current events and politics in the truth of Christ. James 1:5 says,
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’
Praying for wisdom in our own lives helps us remember that we are not always as wise as we believe. The remembrance of out need for God’s wisdom fills us with holy humility and allows our hearts room to receive God’s TRUE wisdom.
But there is another step. James continues in his first chapter to say, ‘Do not merely hear the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’ When we receive His wisdom, we must then hold up our own thoughts against His truth and discern where our own wills, desires, and beliefs have led us away from the true wisdom of God.
When we pray for our country, we must also pray for wisdom from God, and seek to understand how our own hearts and ideologies have strayed from His truth.
KNOCK: When we pray for our country, we must always remember that this country is not our true home.
I often think about Jesus’ final night on earth before His crucifixion. He spends hours praying in the garden, girding Himself for what’s ahead. And though He does pray for Himself – “Father, if possible, remove this cup from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done” – He also prays for US. Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard of? We were on His mind in His final moments. And this is what He prayed:
“I’m praying not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us… Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me…They’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.”
Our love for each other is evidence of Christ’s love for the world – the beacon pointing people to their true home. Our unity as Christians guides people to the feet of Jesus, so our prayers for our country should be guided by Jesus’ desire for our unity, and not simply by our political affiliations or national pride.
In a season of political upheaval, when many are mourning and many are celebrating – when many feel cheated and many feel relieved – when many feel lied to and many feel lied about – it is imperative that our prayers transcend the human boundaries of partisanship. Prayers for our country that will truly impact our country are prayers focused on people, prayed in humility and with discernment, and focused on our eternal home.
Each day this month, please join us at 11:09 to pray for our country and our churches – outposts of hope in a land threatened by despair.
Josie Barton was on the launch team of a church plant in Baltimore in 2013, and as a result, has come to learn first-hand the immense value of church planting and the hard work the job entails. She and husband Trevor were married in 2012, and they now have three incredible boys – Abbott, Branch, and Calder.