Many Americans are troubled by the state of the nation. It is an unusual feeling.
Our national psyche is accustomed to being on top. To progress. To winning. Our challenges, for the most part, were external. And while we have always had political divisions, there was rarely any doubt we shared a broad consensus.
What do we do now?
The first and most important step is prayer. But it is a different type of prayer to which I would like to call our country. It is a form of prayer I have learned from being a foreigner, living abroad. Before that, however, there is hard work to do first.
Fall on your knees, and pour out your heart to God.
It is far easier to complain to likeminded people—often on social media. Instead, take your frustrations to the one who will not offer you an echo chamber, but a refiner’s fire. To him, curse the darkness. Plead your case. And as you cry out before him, allow the slow but steady transformation as he nudges you closer to the image of Christ.
And then consider next this form of prayer—additionally.
For me, it started in Egypt. Having grown to appreciate the country of my residence for two noneventful years, the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 filled me with hope for positive change. Before too long, it filled me with dread. Riots in the street. Police violence. Demonization of opponents.
It took about four months of anguish, but I began writing a prayer for the country. It started as above, as I wept for a nation I had grown to love. But I wanted to push through, and offer my plea publicly, so that others might pray also. This, however, confronted me with a dilemma. Every segment of society interpreted events according to their own viewpoint. How could I get them to pray, together?
I had my own personal interpretation, of course. But if I wrote my concerns, surely some would applaud, while others would cringe. Some actors, certainly, only pursued their own interests, manipulating and cheating to gain the upper hand. But who was who, and were any pure?
Even so, I believed most people wanted to see the victory of peace, justice, and reconciliation. They valued transparency, consensus, and the common good. They calculated them differently—often vastly so. But if I could model a prayer that all could pray together, then God could sort out the details.
Remember, this is the second prayer. The first is to do your own hard work. God has given you unique discernment in the affairs of the nation. Beg God to accomplish the good that you see—and then work in the world to convince others.
But do not neglect the work of unity.
I have since moved to Lebanon, another nation that now breaks my heart. Please join me in prayer for the land of the cedars, every Sunday.
But more to the point, would you consider a broader prayer for America, or whatever nation in which you dwell, and call others to join you?
If so, here are five principles to keep in mind:
1. The sincerest prayers are for God alone. Do the hard work with him before sharing your prayer with others.
2. If it is a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.
3. If it is a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.
4. If it is a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, religions, or nations. Such a prayer may be appropriate—but save it for your prayers alone before God.
5. In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.
As Americans, we are not used to our nation being in such need. In your personal prayer, long for your vision. But in your public prayer, call our nation together. Then each of us can place our vision before God in pursuit of his kingdom principles, from which all our approximations derive.
About the Author: Jayson and his family are IDEAS Associates who have lived in the North Africa/Middle East region for 15 years. Click here to read other stories and articles from Jayson's work as a journalist with Christianity Today.