Because a Nation at Rest Will Stay at Rest…
Until Christians at Rest Cease to Rest…and Act Upon It
“Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for Your own sake, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” Daniel 9:19
Today, May 4th, is our country’s National Day of Prayer. It is a day that has been marked to honor our nation’s Christian heritage and to call upon believers within this land to pray for America. This day is rooted in history in that, as far back as George Washington, our leaders have recognized their dependence upon God to found, form, and fuel this country. On this day, many will meet outside courthouses and city halls to offer up prayers for our country’s government, military, educational system, churches, and families. Many of us will stand side by side and will pray heart to heart…but will we act one by one? When the prayers end, will our intentions end too? After praying on behalf of our country, will we now act on behalf of our prayers…or will a nation at rest stay at rest until Christians at rest cease to rest?
It’s interesting to note that our country’s motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, one. The meaning, as you know, is that from a group of diverse and divergent individuals, one nation was formed. Though as a country we stand together, as individuals, we’re set apart. And that’s a good thing…except when it’s not. Somewhere along the way, we traded the idea of individuals forming groups to that of groups forming individuals. Rather than acting alone, we act with the group; rather than speaking our views, we mimic the group’s; and, rather than thinking for ourselves, we think like the group. We’ve nailed down the unum, but in doing so we’ve unhinged the pluribus. While the group fought for the rights of the individual, at some point, the individual ceased to practice those rights…if it meant he had to practice them…alone.
This realization hit me as I read the prayer written for this year’s National Day of Prayer. It’s a beautifully written prayer inspired by Daniel 9:19 where Daniel prays to God on behalf of Israel and Judah. In much the same way, this prayer calls upon God to hear our nation’s pleas, to forgive our nation’s sins, and to heal our nation’s wounds. That’s when I saw it… the separation between the individual and the group. While I can (and should) pray for my country, I cannot pray in place of my country. While I can confess my sins and ask for forgiveness for my transgressions, I cannot make confessions for America nor seek forgiveness on her behalf. It’s not that we shouldn’t pray as a group nor pray for a group. The problem arises when we only pray as a group and for a group. When we stand beside others, thankful for our individual freedom to worship, proud of our individual right to assemble, and grateful for the individual freedom to speak our mind, yet only practice these freedoms through collective conformity, have we relinquished our individual freedoms?
God traced over this newly drawn revelation again and again in my mind as He showed me how we (how I) prefer the shadows of the group to the spotlight of the individual. How often do we pray as a group, but then fail to pray as an individual? How often do we silence our convictions, if they don’t resonate with the group we are with? How often do we hold our tongue if we think our words won’t align with the thoughts of those around us? And from the shadows of where we’re “making our stand”, do we look around and wonder when everyone else is going to make their stand? And, what if those in the group are wondering the same thing as they look at us…while we’re hiding behind them?
So, on this day, as we gather in groups to pray on behalf of our country, let us first pray on behalf of ourselves. Through our prayers, may we praise our Heavenly Father individually, may we confess our sins individually, may we give thanks to God individually, and may we personally pray for one another. And should we find that when we stand to pray, we stand alone, may we stand even taller, reach our hands even higher, and lift our voices even louder, embracing and exercising the freedoms that are ours individually. For if we do not inhabit our individual freedoms, we will inhibit our collective freedoms; and if we are content to stay at rest, we will remain at rest…until an External Force intercedes…and moves us.
Just as Daniel prayed for Israel and for Judah, so too should we pray for America. When he cried out, “Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act!”, he did so as an individual who was interceding on behalf of his country. May we do no less today, and every day. May we fall before God unilaterally that we may stand before Him universally. May we never cease to be one people under God because we first failed to be many persons under God. And may we never forget that a nation at rest remains at rest until believers at rest cease to rest…and act upon it!