God, Politics and National Election (4 of 5)14 min read
GOD & NATIONAL PRAYERS
“Christians need to stop praying. Praying has not achieved anything for us as a country.”
Unless you have been living under the rock in Nigeria, you would have heard this expressed now and again.
But any Christian who pushes this sentiment is signing up for a job with the Dark Side – and it ain’t with the Sith Lord.
Jesus said “men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” Luk 18:1 and the Bible encourages us to “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thes 5:17.
If Jesus expects us not to stop praying, it means praying is important.
But I understand the reason for the sentiment. People have been praying for things to get better in the country but things have been taking a walk on the downside.
If the problem is not in the activity – “praying” (Jesus says it’s important), the issue might be with the people doing the praying.
There are two reasons why this may be so.
First, the people are not praying in a way to get God’s attention.
Praying for one’s country comes under the function of an intercessor. To intercede for your country, you need to take up a role in the court of heaven.
Doing that is really where the rubber hits the road.
For most of us, we show up to pray for our country by complaining about what others are doing.
It’s kinda like showing up like the pharisee in the story that Jesus told who went to pray with a clear sense of “I’m the good guy, so pay up God.”
Daniel & Nehemiah would be able to explain how this works better.
Living in Babylon, Daniel remembered that the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied that the captivity of the people of Israel would be for 70 years.
Perhaps, a part of him wasn’t sure when the 70 years started to count from. Was it from the first siege after which Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah as king or from the second siege during which Nebuchadnezzar took out Zedekiah and everybody else in rebellion?
Anyhow, this is not about the 70-year business, it’s more about how Daniel prayed. Let me rehash it here:
I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfil your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Dan 9:4-6.
Taking a cue from what Daniel did when he first got to Babylon, he was probably not part of the big bad crew in Israel. We are sure he was one of the good guys while living in Babylon.
But he starts up by putting himself as part of the bad boys. And he confesses all the naughty things they all did. If you want the whole gist, you can read verses 4 – 19.
Daniel’s approach got God’s attention and He sent the angel Gabriel to him.
Nehemiah had a plum gig at the king’s palace – he got a sip of every cup the king would drink in before the king did.
He was probably not born when the destruction of Judah happened. He was sad to hear that the returned exiles were having a hard time.
Before taking action, he prays. His approach follows almost a similar pattern to Daniel’s.
When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Neh 1:4-7.
He could have gone with the “those people really messed up, I ask you to forgive them and help me do what I want to do.”
Like Daniel, he put himself in the arena of the whole gig.
He stood as an intercessor taking responsibility for the sins of his people and asking for forgiveness.
I see the reverse now and again. We blame the leadership and the people before us.
And we expect God to ignore the set pattern and listen to all the noise we are making under the guise of praying for our country?
I got a hot tip for you.
It’s ain’t gonna work aka “ko le werk!”
Nehemiah sets us up for the second wrong thing that people who claim to be praying to God for the country are doing wrong.
We don’t invest our future in the future success of the country.
After Nehemiah prayed, he put all his eggs in the small basket of Israel by asking the king to give him time off to go and fix the city walls.
He doesn’t just get the fix-it gig, he gets appointed as the governor. A classic case of taking over a sinking ship.
But he made the ship float and sail. It sailed so well that it got the attention of the bad guys’ dynamic duo of Sanballat & Tobiah and their henchmen.
For most of us that pray, we pray for the prosperity of the country while living every day for it not to prosper.
I heard the story of a guy during the early days of the COVID pandemic, he refused to store up USD dollars.
There were projections that the Nigerian Naira was going to do badly against the USD dollars. He knew about this and could take a strategic position.
But he said “no”. In his words, “I can’t be praying for the prosperity of Nigeria and be investing on the premise that things will get worse for the country.”
His refusal to make money off the future negative prospects of the country was his way of living a life that matched his prayers.
Some people pray that God should appoint political leaders and yet in everyday conversations complain that it is a “cabal” or a certain group of people that choose their leaders – talk about not believing the power of your prayers.
Some people pray for a better Nigerian future and in conversations say “I am moving my family abroad because Nigeria will not be a good place for the future of my children.”
There is nothing wrong with relocating and sometimes relocating now and again may be a part that some of us will play in the overall grand plan God has for mankind.
But when you pray for a better Nigeria and every day choose to live a life that is contrary to what the better Nigeria will be like – your prayers are just noise.
Up till now, I have given you the impression that unanswered prayers for a nation are a result of the persons praying.
It’s true but I was also setting you up for a curve-ball.
Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the person praying. Rather, it’s because of God.
You have to understand a national destiny is not birthed by one singular action most of the time.
It’s through a collection of multiple activities.
Even prayers sometimes need a certain level of outpouring before they cause a change in the national story of a nation.
Let me share some examples from scripture.
In Genesis 15:13, God tells Abraham that his future kids are going to hang out in a foreign land for 400 years – part of it as slaves, before they create an event that would be the inspiration for Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic movie “The Ten Commandments” (you should watch in all its technicolour glory, nothing beats that).
But his kids end up staying an extra 30 years. And I think part of it is because enough prayers had not yet been made.
Exodus 2:23-25 sets it up like this –
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.
I love the last sentence – He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.
Time to act because the folks had known how to cry”out for help.” They didn’t do that earlier.
I guess that they were thinking “this pharaoh is old and he’ll soon be gone. The next guy will be better.” It was when they saw that the next guy was as bad as the guy before and things weren’t changing that they decided “let’s cry out to God.”
I think they could have gotten a faster deal if they started calling out to God earlier. They could have gotten the right level of prayers necessary to move deliverance if they started earlier.
I’ll give you another example from something I experienced.
I had my national service in Nguru local government of Yobe state in north-east Nigeria.
When I arrived, I had a sense that I was serving more than my fatherland by coming there. I had a part to play in changing the future of the local government.
I wasn’t the only one on this. About 7 of us joined this enterprise.
Before doing spiritual battle, we did some reconnaissance.
Some local pastors had also been doing warfare. They told us more about the history of the place and some of the agreements that had been made over the land.
Let me tell you one of them – some of the folks had found a way to control the weather to boost their personal economy against the interest of everyone else. They made an agreement to limit the volume of rains. This allowed them to hoard essentials like beans which they stored in thatched mud stores (yep those things still exist).
Well, the 7 of us joined our prayers with the prayers of the people before us.
As a sign that we had broke though, it started raining from the end of March the next year. And it wasn’t light rains – it rained gorillas and baboons.
I recall one of the first heavy rains. I had gone out and was making my way home when I ran into another one of the 7. I told him – you need to get home because it’s going to rain heavy.
He had lived all his life in the core north. He smiled and said, “no, it doesn’t rain heavily but maybe because you said so it might.” But he wasn’t fully convinced.
We got our baths with a full shower experience in the rain. I laughed through it all because I saw an answer to prayer.
And this is well before the buzz about global warming. Yes, I know about that thing but this ain’t it.
The rains meant the hoarding of essentials had to stop.
It was God in motion.
I don’t claim it was the 7 of us that did the job – we just came in to add to what other generations have been doing. We brought the last “oomph” to move the needle.
So, yes, sometimes, you may do everything right as an intercessor but not see the results.
Keep at it. You may be the one starting it. Others will complete it for you.
But I am not dumb to assume that you are fully convinced that prayers will do the magic.
I bet you have heard people reel out examples of countries where most people don’t believe in God or prayers.
And yet things are going peachy for them.
In the second post of this series, I talked about ungodly nations experiencing prosperity because of the impact their prosperity will have on ensuring that more people get to hear the gospel. (you check it out at the end of this post)
I will not rehash that reason.
There is another I want to talk about.
God allows bad nations to continue enjoying prosperity because they have not become big and bad enough to experience the kind of judgement He wants for them.
The first example in the Bible was the Canaanites.
In Gen 13:14-17, God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham. Yet, He did not give him the order to clear out the current inhabitants.
According to God, He would let the current inhabitants stay there for 400 more years so they could be as “big and bad” as they wanted. (Gen 15:12-16).
It seems God gave the land to the Canaanites but because of their sin, He was taking them out. But He would still give them time to become as “big and bad” as they could.
If we add the numbers up, the Canaanites had about 685 years before God executed the wipe-out program on them:
– God promised Abraham the land of Canaan about 25 years before Isaac was born,
– 60 life years of Isaac, since Jacob was born when he was 60 years old
– about 130 years from Jacob since he moved to Egypt at age of 130 years
– Add 430 years of living in Egypt,
– 40 in the wilderness years.
During the 685 years, the land was in prosperity. They could have been writing hit songs saying stuff like “been bad is good”, “I can do all bad and get good” and the likes. You get the drift.
The more bad stuff they did, the closer they got to experience the wipe-out protocol.
The next example is the people of Israel.
Jesus tells the teachers of the law and Pharisees that they are becoming so bad that “upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Matt 23:35.
But they needed to do more bad stuff before God could bring the judgement He planned. So Jesus tells them “Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.” Matt 23:34.
Interesting, when they think they are winning by taking out people (prophets, sages & teachers) that disagree with them, they are setting themselves up for a huge fall.
This culminated in the destruction of the temple in AD 70. But if you read the historical highlights of the event, two things stick out.
The first, the selection of moderate Pharisees to lead the revolt, after victory over the Roman legate of Syria, Cestius Gallus, is seen as a flaw.
The leadership of the revolt was taken from the Zealots and given to the more moderate and traditional leadership of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Lacking sufficient military or administrative skills, these were not military leaders but rather the men deemed able to conclude a negotiated settlement with the Romans.
The second was the in-fighting among the Jewish defenders in factions, with some factions killing members of other factions.
Yes, you saw that right. Titus (before he became emperor) was leading a siege against Jerusalem and the people were fighting themselves instead of preparing to fight the Romans.
These explained things on the outside but the foundation was the prophecy that Jesus had given.
In the same way, the Canaanites could also explain that the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert training and building an army to take them out.
In simple lingo, don’t let the prosperity of non-praying nations discourage you from praying for your country.
Every country has a role to play in God’s grand plan. And our prayers for mercy will never go unheard if we continue to do the right things.
Click to read Part 1 – GOD AND ELECTIONS
Click to read Part 2 – GOD AND NATIONAL PROSPERITY
Click to read Part 3 – GOD & NATIONAL PRAYERS