Christians are responsible for the government they live under. If you would take less time to criticize and more time to pray, you would have less to criticize.
There are various ways the church can make her authority effective in this country. I would suggest four ways: prayer, witnessing, preaching, and doing good. These are the primary ways in which God expects the church to exercise her influence.
God desires the church to exert a controlling influence in the affairs of this world through prayer. This is clearly stated in the Scriptures. If the church fails to do it, the church has become salt that has lost is savor.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This is a revelation given by the Lord to Solomon after he had dedicated the temple. Some of you undoubtedly have the attitude: That promise was spoken to Solomon a long time ago in the Old Testament and it does not have much meaning for us today. Let me deal with this objection briefly.
In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” Not some of the promises—but all the promises! Not were, not will be—but are! Not merely Yes, but if you are still doubtful, Yes and Amen! in Him(Christ) to the glory of God through us. “Us” refers to all Christians, including you and me. How do we glorify God? By claiming His promises! The more of God’s promises we claim, the more we glorify God. All God’s promises are available to us in Christ today.
Referring back to the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, I believe you can see how this promise refers to you and me today! God speaks of “...My people who are called by My name.” This is the New King James Version. The literal Hebrew translation is: “...My people upon whom My name is called.” God’s people are those upon whom His name is called. If you are a Christian, what does that mean? It means that the name of Christ is called upon you. You are associated with the name of Christ. You are identified as a Christian by the name of Christ. So this promise applies to Christians: God’s people upon whom the name of Christ is called.
God says that if His people will do four things, He will do three things. God’s people have to do four things first, before God will do the three things that He is committed todo. It is a conditional promise. God does not say He will do it unconditionally, but He says, “If My people will meet My conditions, then I will do these things.”
Looking to the end of the verse first, the last thing that God will do for His people is to heal their land. It is clear that this is the land in which they live. God says that it is within the power of His people to do things which will cause God to heal the land in which they live. Look at the land in which we live. Does it need healing? There is only one answer. Yes! The fact that the land needs healing indicates that God’s people have failed to do what God told them they should do. The responsibility is with us—not with the drug addict, not with the prostitute, not with the man who never darkens the door of a church. The responsibility is with the people upon whom Christ’s name is called!
If our land is not healed, there is only one reason. We have not done the things that God requires. I believe that this is precisely the truth. It is simply another way of saying what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out, and trampled underfoot by men.” If our land is not healed by our presence, then our salt has lost its flavor.
What does salt do? First of all, it gives flavor. As long as we are present in the earth, we give flavor to the earth in the sight of God. In other words, God accepts the world because of the Christians. God deals with the world in grace and mercy, rather than wrath and judgment, because of our presence.
I believe emphatically that it makes a difference where I go. I discovered this during World War II. Other soldiers were safer where I was. Unsaved soldiers knew this. When we were in tight corners in the North African desert, some of those blaspheming soldiers would turn to me and say, “Corporal Prince, I am glad you are with us.” What did Elisha say to Elijah? “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2:12).Where were they? Not around the kings but around the prophets.
We are the people who are the defence of the country. We are the bulwark of any nation. Consider the example of Sodom. Abraham said to God, “If there are ten righteous men, will you spare the city?” And God said, “Yes.” But He could not spare the city because He could not find ten righteous men. I do not know how many men there were in Sodom, but I know that the same proportion still applies. Ten righteous men can save a city the size of Sodom. One hundred righteous men can save a city ten times the size of Sodom. One thousand righteous men can save a city one hundred times the size of Sodom. And so on in proportion. I feel sorry for this earth when the church leaves. There will be no more salt. Then wrath and judgment will be poured out without any limitation or restriction. But while we are here, we are the salt of the earth.
Salt also preserves. It holds back corruption. In the days before refrigeration, meat was preserved with salt. It kept back corruption. What are we here for? To keep back corruption. Corruption in all its forms—moral, social, political. As long as we are here, we do this. Jesus said, “If the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” When the church ceases to fulfill its function as salt, it will be thrown out and trampled underfoot of men. These men may be communists or nazis or followers of some other “ism” that has not yet come forth on the horizon. But it will be men who will trample underfoot the church that is not fulfilling its role in the world as salt.
What are the things God requires His people to do? First of all, “...My people shall humble themselves.” That is the hardest thing for religious people to do. I do not say this in jest, I mean it sincerely. You hear some people say, “God, make me humble.” God never said that. God said, “Humble yourself.” He did not say,“ I will do it for you.” God cannot humble you. God can humiliate you, and He may have to, but the only person who can humble you is you, yourself. Humility must come by an inward act of your will. It cannot come in any other way. If you do not choose to humble yourself, you can be humiliated in the dust but still be as proud as a peacock.
The first condition is to humble yourself and submit yourself to God. If we are submitted to God, we will also be submitted to His Word and His authority. It is easy to say that you submit yourself to God, but God’s Word says: “Submit yourselves one to another.... Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.... Children, obey your parents....” (Ephesians 5:21-22; 6:1). That is where it is not so easy. Many people claim, “I am submitted to God,” but when the test comes in their relationship to other people, it is obvious that they are not.
If you are to humble yourself, you must be the doer. It is not a bad thing every now and then to get right on your face on the floor before God. Have you ever done that? Say, “God, here I am and here is where I belong! I am a worm. I came from the dust and the dust is my place.” Do you think that is fanaticism? Read through the Bible and see the number of men who were on their faces before God: Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel. There is practically not even one of the great, outstanding saints of God of whom it is not recorded that he was flat on his face before God. If it was a good place for Moses, David, Daniel and others, I do not think it would be beneath your dignity.
“If My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves.” This is step number one and you cannot leave it out. God has His spiritual program arranged in grades: grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4. Until you pass in grade 1, you will never get to grade 2. It does not matter if you have to repeat grade 1 ten years in a row, God will not promote you. That is why some of you have been stuck so long in the same grade. Do not think, “Lord, I couldn’t make it in grade 1, but I will make it in grade 2. Let me pass this one and I’ll make the next.” No, it will not work!
The second step is prayer. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray.” Do not start to pray until you humble yourself. Humility comes before prayer.
“Pray and seek My face.” The third step is to seek God’s face. What does that mean? I understand it means to get directly into the presence of Almighty God—where every barrier and every hindrance is removed, and you are face-to-face with Almighty God. You may have a prayer meeting, but that is not necessarily seeking God’s face.
A young man came to me seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He was a youth worker in a church. I told him I could see him on Wednesday evening. He said he had to attend a prayer meeting that evening. I said, “I suppose that would be no good.” “Oh, no,” he said, “that would be OK. We pray from 8 to 9 o’clock.” That is a prayer meeting, but it is not seeking God’s face. When you seek God’s face, you do not stop until you get into God’s presence—even if it takes all night. There is a lot of praying that is not seeking God’s face. It stops short of contact with God.
The fourth step: “... turn from their wicked ways.” Who? The alcoholic, the young people that won’t go to church? No, the Christian—God’s people! The hindrance to revival is inside the church, not outside. It never has been outside.
Do you know where judgment begins? At the house of God. “For the time has come,” Peter says, “for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). To make it doubly clear, he adds, “It begins with us first.” Then he asks, “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” God has always operated this way. He begins with the people who know the most. “To whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke12:48). You say, “Brother Prince, I don’t have any wicked ways.” I reply, “You never got close enough to God to see. If you had gotten into God’s presence, you would have seen your wicked ways. The very fact you say you have no wicked ways just shows how far you are from God.”
After these four steps, God says, “I will hear from heaven.” God has not committed Himself to hear every prayer. Did you know that? I am convinced that in many churches prayers go no higher than the ceiling. God has not committed Himself to hear every prayer. In fact, God says, “If we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15). The difficulty is not getting God to answer, but getting God to hear.
“...Then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.” Whose sin? The sin of the prostitute or the dope addict? No, the sin of the church!
“...And heal their land.” To me the issue is clear. If a land is not healed, the fault is with the people of God. I have considered this, prayed over it, and meditated on it. The responsibility for the condition of modern America lies at the door of the professing church. I believe that this is exactly the truth. If our land is not healed, the responsibility rests with us. I share the responsibility with you. I am not telling you something that is true about you but not about me.
Healing Through Prayer
How can we bring healing? I am going to speak to you about prayer. I will base my teaching on the first four verses of 1 Timothy chapter 2:
- “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
- “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
- “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
- “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Let us consider these words.
Paul says, “First of all, pray!” If you bypass prayer, you can have all sorts of plans, systems and programs, but you do not have the power to operate them. It is like having a building wired for electricity, but not connected to the generator. Nothing is going to work. The wires may be in good order and the light fixtures may be wonderful, but you are not going to get results, because there is no power. The powerhouse of the Christian church is prayer, and Paul very logically says, “First of all, pray!”
Then, what does he tell us to pray for? First, “for kings and all who are in authority.” Now my experience is that the majority of God’s professing people scarcely ever pray for those in authority, let alone praying for them first. If you are an Episcopalian, I will grant you that in your prayer book there is a prayer for those in authority. It is a good thing it is there. But I will tell you something else from personal experience as an Anglican. It is one thing to say a prayer, and another thing to pray. These two things are not the same. A lot of people say things out of a prayer book and if you ask them five minutes later what they said, they cannot remember. It is simply a formality.
What is the first specific topic for prayer? “All who are in authority”: the prime minister, cabinet, members of parliament, city councilors, police commissioners, all. Do you pray for them? When did you last pray for the government? Which did you last do—criticize or pray? If you pray for people in authority, you will have less to criticize. God did not call you to criticize, He called you to pray. If you are not praying, you are disobedient. I am just a Britisher, but living in the United States, I pray for the president almost every day. My wife will bear me witness. We pray together, and there is rarely a day that we do not pray for the leader of this nation. I am sure that he needs prayer. What are we to pray for in relation to those in authority? It is the most logical unfolding of prayer that I can find anywhere in the Bible. In the second part of verse 2 we are told to pray “ that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” In one simple phrase: “good government”. Would you not agree to that? If we are to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, we must have good government.
In verse 3 Paul continues, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” To what does “this” refer? To the preceding clause, “...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”—more briefly, “that we may have good government.”
Why does God want quietness and order and good government? For a very real and practical reason. Because He desires that all men be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth. Under what circumstances is it easier to bring the truth to all men? Under a government that is just and impartial and maintains law and order and civil liberties? Or under a government that cannot suppress violence and disorder and cannot control the situation and is unjust and dictatorial? Which kind of government makes it easier to bring the truth to all men? Any sensible person would have to answer: a good government. That is why God wants good government, because it forwards the propagation of the gospel, which is His aim in this dispensation. There is nothing difficult, there is nothing complicated, it is entirely sensible and practical.
Part 2: Praying For The Government