In these particularly dark times, we, as a Nation and a People, face myriad existential threats. Our nation is under attack from within and without. The great American Experiment – that Shining City on a Hill which offered the American Dream and acted as a bulwark against tyranny – is vanishing before our eyes.
We all need God’s help!
But before we beseech God for His providence, we must seek individual and corporate renewal. We must look inward and upward, emulating the prophet Ezra (9:6), who said, “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”
King David is a splendid, godly example for us. After his grievous sins of adultery and murder, David cried out to God and implored Him, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).
None of us has clean hands. No, not one.
In 1863, responding to a request from the U.S. Senate, President Lincoln proclaimed “a day National prayer and humiliation.”
Lincoln perfectly set the stage, proclaiming (emphasis added), “And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
Lincoln could have been describing this very present day, writing, “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
The prophet Daniel was of a similar mindset (chapter 9), praying, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.”
Daniel, who was a righteous man, nonetheless identified with the sins of his people, saying, “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.”
Daniel continued, “Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.”
Daniel’s heartfelt outpouring of repentance and request for mercy ended with these words: “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
May we all implore our Father in heaven to cleanse and renew us; to hear, forgive, listen and act.
[This year’s National Day of Prayer is on May 5, 2016.]