How Should I Pray for my Country?

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Prayer, Revival, America

John F. Kennedy made famous the saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In the last 10 years since September 11, 2001, many thousands of people have answered that call.  Thousands have entered the military to fight the Global War on Terror.  Thousands more have given their service in support of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as volunteers, contractors, and civilian government workers.  Many have given all that they had.  2669 Americans died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Nearly 6,000 military personnel have been killed in the Global War on Terror and nearly 43,000 have been injured. Americans have supported our fighting men and women through the last years with millions of tons of care packages, messages of support, financial support through charities, and by volunteering their time to serve personnel.  Many Americans have answered the call to do for their country.

My sermon today asks the question, “How Should I Pray for my Country?”

I. For Rest and Peace

First of all, I think that we should pray for there to be rest and peace.  In the book of 1 Timothy, chapter 2, beginning in the first verse, we have this exhortation, “Therefore, 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.”

Paul makes this an exhortation.  He says, “I exhort first of all...”  This way he sets forth for us a principle we ought to follow.  Principles are given to us to keep us from stumbling; they keep our feet planted firmly on the path of righteousness.

Principles are different than outright laws. They are not rules to be obeyed, but are good practices to be implemented. If we abide by principles we will be better off ... we will reap a more abundant harvest of blessings. I sort of think of principles of Scripture as fertilizer for a garden.  It may not be entirely necessary that we use fertilizer in our gardens.  The ground by itself will allow plants to grow. But if we use the fertilizer we will reap a much more abundant harvest.

For example, one good principle to live by is to not drink alcohol. This is not a law.  We are not commanded in Scripture to not drink alcohol.  We are commanded to abstain from being drunk with wine, or by extension, any intoxicating substance such as alcohol. But we are not commanded not to touch it. However, if we live by the principle to not drink alcohol, we will never be in any danger of ever being drunk by it – it is utterly impossible. However, if we drink, even if only moderately, we do put ourselves in a position where it is possible for us to drink too much and become drunk. That would be breaking God's law and we would reap the negative results of that sin, including God's discipline.  But don't you see the benefit of the principle of not drinking?  We never worry about stumbling into drunkenness, because we are never placed in that danger.  And who knows what other dangers or negative consequences we avoid by not every partaking of alcohol?

In 2 Timothy Paul is giving us a principle to live by. It is this: “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.” Our country stands at a crossroads.  We need good men and women in office who fear God, who are pro-morality, pro-family, pro-life, and who are that way based on principled character – not based on political convenience. Men and women who are not afraid to stand up and speak out for what is right, and who are not afraid to enact and enforce laws which are based on morality and family and the sanctity of life.

Paul exhorts us to do four things: offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks for all men, kings and all who are in authority.

Supplications means to pray to God based upon some type of need.  The root word for supplications is “supply.” We are thus to pray to God and ask Him to fulfill the needs of all men, kings and those in authority.  The most pressing need of any man or woman is the need for salvation. We should always be asking God to meet that need in others who are lost. This holds very true for those whom we elect. This is the highest form of supplication that we can offer to God. Often we wonder about those who are lost. Why do they not come to church? Why do they not believe in Jesus Christ as I do? Why isn't the preacher able to convince him that he needs Jesus? But salvation from start to finish is the work of God. We ought to ask God, therefore to supply that need in the lost.  Do not simply wonder at the lost person and feel pity for him or her. Do the work of an evangelist. Pray for that lost soul. Pray earnestly and continually and never give up praying!  Don’t just mention them in passing, but do the real work of praying – asking God to supply all their needs in Christ Jesus. This is the prayer of supplication we must offer for our leaders.

Also, consider other needs that our elected officials and other authorities have. One need that they all have is wisdom.  They need to have knowledge of how to govern and the ability to apply that knowledge.  Our authorities also need courage. Pray for those who govern to have the courage to stand on their principles, even when people come against them and try to get them to buckle and go against those principles. We cannot imagine the pressures they face by the world. It is difficult to stand up to such pressure. But stand they must. We need them to stand. Pray that they have courage to stand. Thus these are the three needs for our leaders that you can pray for: salvation, wisdom, and courage.

Next, Paul writes us to offer prayers. “Prayers” is a much more general term which is the word most often used in the New Testament to refer to prayer.  It is actually a compound word in the original language - a combination of two words, the first of which means, “to go towards,” or “to gain access to.” It implies motion or movement towards or into something. The second word means “will or wish.” Put these two words together and the meaning is: “to go towards wishing something,” or “to access willing something.”  We go to God, entering his Holy presence, willing for Him to do something.

Ultimately our will ought to be that of God's.  As we pray, our going to God ought to be an effort to conform our own will to His sovereign will.  Even Jesus prayed in this way.  The night he was betrayed he entered the Father's presence with a heavy heart asking, “Father, not my will, but thine be done.”

When it comes to this type of prayer for our leaders we are encouraged to approach God to seek from Him our desire concerning the authorities. Because of this injunction I don't think that it is wrong for us to pray for a certain candidate to win an election. If there is a particular candidate that we determine would do a better job than another, we ought to entreat God to have favor upon that person and ask Him to appoint that one to office Do not forget the overall purpose of our prayers, which is that we can lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence. In order to live quiet lives, free from governmental intrusion and disturbance, we need leaders who understand the issue of religious freedom.

“Peaceful” in this case refers to a life free from inward strife. Are you not inwardly sickened and full of turmoil when you see the moral decay of our society?  Does it not cause you to become sick when you see the things people do to themselves and to others? We do not live in a society within which we can live peaceably. Our society has become like Sodom in its culture. Lot lived in the culture of Sodom and this is what Peter reports about him, “[God] delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.)”  (2 Peter 2:7-8).  The words that Peter used to describe Lot's life were “oppressed” and “tormented.”  The picture that he paints is not a pretty one, but it is the same picture I see being painted of our country today. To be tormented and oppressed is not to live a quiet and peaceful life. Instead, we are to entreat God to give us leaders who will enact and enforce laws that allow all to love quiet and peaceful lives.

The third word that Paul uses is “intercession.” This word is slightly different from the preceding two. It means to seek the hearing of God on behalf of another person or persons. Let me again use a legal illustration to help you understand the meaning of this word.  The word “intercession” is similar to the role performed by a defense attorney.  Defenders are often looked down upon because they sometimes enable guilty criminals to go free.  But they serve a very important purpose.  They intercede on behalf of an individual who cannot fend for himself.  The average person is lost in the legal jungle of the court system.  Even a criminal needs someone who knows how it works to help him or her through it. While the prosecutor is pleading with the judge or jury his will – to have the accused thrown in jail – the defender is interceding with that same judge and jury seeking leniency or even proving innocence.

When we intercede for one another, and in this case for our country and its leaders, we come to God and seek His hearing on behalf of that person. Often times those whom we pray for are not Christian.  They are like the average person who gets lost in the legal jungle. They do not know how, nor do they have the ability to approach God. But we have access to God through faith and can pray on their behalf.

We are to pray for our country that we might live quietly and peaceably.

But there is another more urgent and pressing need for us to pray for our country.

II. For Revival

The other night I was reading a book outside on the patio as I grilled some chicken. It was dusk and the sun had already dipped below the horizon.  I was riveted by this book.  I felt that I gained more and more truth every page I read.

But gradually the words became harder and harder to make out in the darkening sky until soon I could no longer read the book. It had become dark.  The truths from the book were no longer discernible because it was too dark to see the words.

The reason we need to pray for our country is because it can no longer read the words. It has become so dark that the truth of God seems to have become indiscernible. Why? It is because the church has become stagnant. The city set upon a hill has lost its power and the lights have gone out. The greatest prayer we can offer for our country is for God to awaken His church.  It is to pray for revival.

Prayer for revival is not a prayer for the country, but it effects the country.

It is not a prayer for the world, but it impacts the world. Prayer for revival is prayer for the church.  It is us, the individual members of the church crying out to God asking Him to use us, to touch us, to revive us.

In 2 Chronicles 7 God appears to Solomon in the middle of the night.

Solomon had finished building the temple and a ceremony of consecration had been completed. God was pleased with what Solomon had done.  In his visit with King Solomon God said to him that there would come a time when pestilence and suffering would come upon the Israelites.  But if those who were called by his name would humble themselves, and pray, and seek God's face and turn from their wicked ways then God would hear from heaven, he would answer their prayer, and he would heal their land.

God's people of this generation are the church. We are those called by His name. In that age it was Israel, but in this age it is Jesus Christ.  We, church, are the body of Christ, ambassadors for Christ to the world around us.

God's promise to Solomon reveals that revival is about four things. There are four actions the church must take to effect revival.

A. Revival Requires Humility

The first action is to humble ourselves. To be humble means to turn from pride. It means getting the focus off of me and on to God. It is realizing that this life isn't about me: what I can get out of it, what I want from it, or what I want to do in it.

Life is about Jesus, what He will get out of it, what He wants from it, and what He wants to do with it. Humility means coming to the realization of the truth that this life is not my own, that I was bought with a price, that my purpose is to glorify God in all I do. It also means coming to the realization that because of pride I have not done so.  How have you brought God glory this week?  This month?

This year? Our minds are always on bringing me satisfaction, on bringing me happiness, on making sure I get my piece of the pie.  Humility means throwing away the pie, forgetting about happiness, rejecting satisfaction.  It means Jesus is the master, His will becomes my own.

B. Revival is found through Prayer

The second action that will effect revival is prayer. I spoke earlier of the need for the church to pray for the country and the authorities.  But the prayer for revival is focused on the church. God works when His church truly prays.  A church with a weak prayer life suffers from a weak presence in its community. If the only presence a church has in its community is the real estate it possesses and the bank accounts it fills it does nothing for the kingdom of God. The kind of presence that God wants in our community is the presence of people who have lives that are transformed by a personal relationship with the living God, Jesus Christ.  That is the kind of presence that makes a difference in the community.

C. Revival is about Seeking God

Third, revival is about seeking God. A church needs to seek the face of God.

This is accomplished through prayer, but it is also accomplished through worship. When we come before God to truly seek Him, our worship will be transformed. Revival will happen through our worship.

D. Revival is about Turning from Wickedness

Fourth, revival is about turning from wickedness.  When we humble ourselves, and pray, and seek God's face, He will reveal to us things in our lives that are not pleasing to Him. That is no fun to face. No one wants to be confronted with their faults. We avoid that if at all possible.  But God doesn't reveal them to us to make us feel bad about ourselves. He reveals the sin in our life so that we might repent of it and be forgiven of it. Think about that feeling. It's like the feeling of coming in after working outside all day, sweaty and dirty and then taking a shower and being made clean all over. Except it happens to our hearts. What joy! Though for a short time we mourn our sins, our mourning shall be turned into joy through the mercy of God!


Church, today I want to challenge us to a deeper prayer effort for our country and for our church.  Whenever you think about that challenge by President Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” I want you to take some time to do the most important thing that you can do for our country – pray! Pray for our leaders. Pray for their souls, for their minds, for their courage. Pray for our church to be the light, the city on a hill for all to see, calling those in darkness to come to the truth. Pray for the church to be revived.