By Dr. Stanley Watson/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
Churches across the nation have scheduled prayer services to pray for the nation during this week of the presidential election and now that hurricane Sandy has brought havoc to much of New England we have another reason to call upon the Lord.
Just in case some of us have neglected talking to God lately, remember what Jesus said when Jesus his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. He told them to begin by addressing God as their Heavenly Father and honoring him with the blessing, "Hallowed be thy name."
They were instructed to pray for God's kingdom on earth that it might submit to his will even as his kingdom in heaven does. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
They were told to pray for the necessities of life, "Give us this day our daily bread". and to ask for forgiveness of their sins and to be willing to forgive those who had done harm to them, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us."
Then they were free to ask for safe passage through times of testing and be delivered from the evil one. (Luke 11) Clearly, prayer is not a one way street; when we pray we assume a lot of responsibility because real prayer is a covenant. We have to do our part.
Notice that we began our prayer honoring God and at the close of our prayer we traditionally add a benediction to what Jesus taught his disciples: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen!" These words have remained a proper closing for the prayer so that it begins with praising God and ends with blessing him. To summarize, the Lord's Prayer puts God first, then describes what he expects from mankind. The prayer teaches us to look to God as the source of our physical needs, calls us to repent toward God as we forgive our fellow man, and finally, to ask for guidance and protection.
In a letter to the folks in the church in Thessalonica, Paul echoed the words of the Lord when he called upon them to "pray without ceasing." The statement enjoins us to always remain in constant communication with our Heavenly Father. We use words to try and express our relationship to him but they are simply a weak attempt to say that we submit to his will. Prayer is more than words, it is an attitude of mind that is reflected in all that we do. Our words are not the formal expression of a solemn faith so much as a joyous acknowledgment that God loves and accepts us. When we pray we know that God is giving us victory over the world, the flesh and the Devil. We are not only winning but we have already won.
Is this arrogance? Not if we acknowledge God first, his kingdom second, and ourselves third. Rick Warren points out the true nature of prayer in his best selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” he references a seventeenth century book, “Practicing the Presence of God,” written by Brother Lawrence, a humble cook in a French monastery. It seems that "Brother Lawrence was able to turn even the most commonplace and menial tasks, like preparing meals and washing dishes into acts of praise and communion with God. The key to friendship with God, he said, is not changing what you do but changing your attitude toward what you do. What you normally do for yourself, you start doing for God, whether it is eating, bathing, working, relaxing, or taking out the trash."
In other words, we can thank God for the mess that we have to clean up after the Thanksgiving Day meal because it means we have are surrounded by friends and loved ones.
We can thank God for the taxes we pay because it means we have a job.
We can thank God for the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need washing, and gutters that need cleaning because it means that we have a house to live in.
We can thank God for the gripes against the government because it means that we live in a land that protects freedom of speech.
When the election is over and the votes all counted about half the nation will rejoice and about half will "grind their teeth, cast dirt in the air and rend their garments." Some will threaten to leave this great land of the free and home of the brave and a few will actually do it. Whatever the outcome, the Bible teaches us to honor public officials and to pray for them since they will be our leaders they will need our support. We are instructed to exercise our faith above politics and give ourselves in diligent Christian service wherever we are.
As believers gather to pray for God's blessing this week hopefully they will pray something like this: "May we respect and protect every life that is conceived from the womb to the tomb. May we become a new generation of Americans who are truly born again and when we pray or sing "God bless America" we are in such a relationship with God that he will gladly do it. May we create a national culture based on open, honest, unselfish and successful living that reflects his purpose in our personal lives and in the life of our nation.
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7-14.