July 2016: Patriotic Prayer

By: Donald R. Patterson

In his memoirs, George S. Patton wrote that as a boy he frequently prayed God would not call him into the ministry. He said, “You can’t tell God ‘No’”. Patton understood the dichotomy of being a believer in this fallen world. We are citizens of two kingdoms, the earthly and the heavenly. And as the General acknowledged, The Heavenly kingdom takes precedence. Recognizing this dynamic, I believe it is still possible be a patriotic as well as a heavenly citizen. Indeed, allegiance to the Heavenly makes it easier to be truly patriotic and not merely nationalistic.
I find the most difficult aspect of praying patriotically is heeding the biblical injunction to pray for those in authority. (1 Timothy 2:1-3) Praying for those we agree with is a snap. However, it is far too easy to ignore this command when the person in question is someone we don’t respect. We should pray anyway. We don’t have to pray that they get everything their way and have all the blessings they can stand. In the case of those we disagree with, we should pray that righteousness is done by them and they be restrained—even protected—from evil.
Regardless of how I may personally feel about a leader, he is in authority over us. Scripture is clear that temporal authorities are God’s instruments for restraining evil (Romans 13:1-7) There may come a time when authorities fail to restrain evil. Then good men must consider their options. But the Word is adamant that peaceful obedience is what God calls for first. To put it in perspective, the infamous Nero was emperor when Paul wrote those words. Thus, scripture enjoins us to pray for all in authority.
And that brings me to my third point. How should we pray patriotically? I believe that godly prayer recognizes God’s sovereignty. Patriotic prayer seeks God’s will for my country. It cannot be mere “give us good stuff” prayers. Ultimately, the object is that the nation be in God’s will. Sometimes we must confess national sin, calling out in a voice of repentance.
In the current climate I see my country largely turned away from God. Patriotic prayer at this this moment should be a cry to God to pour out his Spirit in revival, lest he visit us in judgment.  That is the essence of patriotic prayer, in my understanding.

Donald Patterson is the pastor of First Baptist Church Warsaw and author of Colombian Kilo.

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