"...[B]less them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." (Romans 12:14) This is sandwiched among many things that the Apostle Paul exhorted the Roman Christians to do, in that chapter, so that they might "...prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2) If we believe in God-breathed inspiration of the Word, (II Timothy 3:16), then of course we are exhorted to do the same things, "according as God hath dealt to each man the measure of faith." (God has of course dealt to women their measures of faith also, sometimes more than to us men.)
I admit that I had largely forgotten about this until I heard a radio preacher mention it recently. I admit I was starting to pray very hard that the shame and disgrace that so many in our nation's capital are laboring to bring upon President Trump would be their portion as well. However, this verse was extremely convicting.
God does not change what He thinks of the wickedness of our sin when we turn to the Cross in faith alone, putting our sins under the atoning blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. It isn't that he decides we really didn't do anything bad, now that we're His children. Whatever sinful actions or words or thoughts we committed are still just as sinful in His sight, and those who do not turn to Christ he will still punish in eternity for committing those same sins.
Neither am I saying that, by praying for the blessing of God's salvation to come upon Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Nadler, and the others still going after President Trump, (including some Republicans), we are somehow required to think less harshly of their actions, or to believe that we have to somehow excuse or even justify what they are doing now and continually planning for later.
When Jesus told us to feed our enemy if he or she is hungry, and to give them water if they thirst, He said that by so doing we pile coals upon their heads. For some this will take the form of a burning conviction that they are wrong to attack us, perhaps leading to repentance. For others, the actual burning may come later as God's judgment. By praying for the salvation of our enemies, we not only distance ourselves from the temptation to strike back, we also increase the probability that they will someday come to realize just how wrong they were. This was exactly what happened to the Apostle Paul after the dramatic confrontation with Christ on the road to Damascus. He spoke of himself repeatedly as "the least of all apostles," because of his persecution of the Christian church. Although he knew his sins were forgiven, he grew in the understanding of how much forgiveness that was.
In short, one reason we should pray for our enemies, and for those that persecute us, is that sometimes their salvation is the best revenge.
As the Democratic Congressional committee heads continue pursuing President Trump, take a little time to consider just how much of America's time they have wasted, now that the Mueller Report and Attorney General Barr have confirmed there was no collusion with Russia, and therefore no obstruction of justice.
If only 1 million Americans have wasted only 1 hour a day over 2 years listening to the accusations, insinuations, and inquisitions about non-existent Russian collusion, that is 730.5 million person/hours, which at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour becomes just under $5.3 billion that could have been earned as wages and put into something productive. Apply the increased minimum wage of $15.00/hour to which many Democrats are devoted, and allow for 100 million of us to have wasted that 1 hour per day, and that becomes nearly $1.1 trillion.
That's what Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Jerry Nadler, and dozens of other Democrats have collectively stolen from our economy. Even so, it is growing at a respectable rate - just imagine where we would be if their feet hadn't been on a hundred brake pedals the entire time.
Our nation's leadership is locked in a battle of truth against falsehood, of good against evil, and of good will against malice. Our prayers are of even more importance than ever. Those of us who call ourselves Christians, who claim to be saved by the blood of Christ alone from being subject to God's wrath against our sins, have the incredible privilege of being promised by God to be able to bring our petitions to His throne and to be heard, subject to His will.
The purpose of this website's Monthly Prayer Guide has always been to encourage directing specific prayer at the complex categories and levels of government in the United States of America, recognizing that these are people with hearts and minds who can be influenced by the Holy Spirit, or by God directing events, in their decisions and actions.
No matter how corrupt, obstinate, unintelligent, or unfeeling we may view an individual politician or a political caucus or party as being, as Christians we are supposed to believe God is bigger than they are. Through the prophet Isaiah, (51:12-13), God said to the people of Judah, "I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth...?" I remember how surprised I was when I first read this in Isaiah. I would have expected God to say, "who is a mortal man, who shall pass away like grass, that you should be afraid of him?" Instead, God lays the responsibility on us, on you and me as individual believers, saying, "who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid...?" He holds us responsible to keep His Word in our hearts and base our thinking upon it.
Right now, at Christmas in 2018, the main media focus is on the Federal Government and on the partial government shutdown which started at 12:00 AM Saturday, December 22, because of the "border wall funding" issue. Make no mistake, however: there are confrontations and unannounced usurpations of personal and religious freedom occurring on state, county, and municipal levels as well.
None of us, myself included, will ever have a perfectly diligent prayer life. Even if we did, no one individual could possibly pray for every need that exists. The purpose of the Monthly Prayer Guide is simply to keep presenting a visible reminder of the complexity of the structure of government in our country and to provide a pattern for aiming prayer at specific persons, or categories of persons, in authority. Scripture makes it clear prayer can be more powerful when it is specific. All I can do is to put this reminder out there and trust in God for enough people to become interested in the concept for more prayer to start occurring for all levels of our leadership so that truth will gain ground against falsehood, purity of heart will gain ground against malice, and generally good will prevail against evil.
We all need to do a lot better. The state things are in makes that clear. But the power of prayer is in God's answering of it, not our making it. Faith is what all of this is about.
Blessing Our Enemies
Clearly, Christ's admonition to love those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us is the litmus test of our dedication to His teachings. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, (he is currently entitled to the title, though not yet on the Supreme Court), seemed to come closest to being moved to tears when telling how his 10-year-old daughter showed that she took that seriously.
Equally clearly, no one could have done a more thorough job of qualifying to receive prayer under this clause than the Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee, some of the outlandish accusers that they brought forward, and some of the media personalities and pundit consultants. (Because Justice Kavanaugh graciously declined to describe Dr. Ford's basic assertion of having been assaulted as false, limiting himself to assert he had nothing to do with it, the term "some" was used.)
Much has been said by Kavanaugh and others about the threat posed by the tone, tactics and techniques of these "confirmation' hearings to the future of America as we have known it. It is difficult to "stand on the sunward side of the mountain", as the Justice said, when one feels one is standing on the slopes of Kilauea, erupting around us.
Whatever our hopes or fears for America, we Christians are ambassadors for an eternal King and a flawless Kingdom. We must continue to let Christ's light shine through us. Reagan described America as a "shining city on a hill," and continuing to shine Christ's light will help maintain that, but there is always the ultimate shining city for us to remember and represent.
Rep. Maxine Waters has taken her opposition to the Trump Administration to the point of encouraging people to verbally harass Cabinet and White House staff members in public. To give them no peace.
It remains to be seen what legal or procedural recourse the President and/or her fellow Congresspersons have to deal with this tactic. We know what recourse we have as believers who know Christ: the privilege of prayer.
We don't need to pray for anything dire to happen to her or those who choose to follow her. Nor should we. The Scripture says not to "return evil for evil."
We, ourselves, often don't appreciate how the grace of God shields us from what Shakespeare calls "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." Flat tires. Dropped calls. Broken ATMs. Automotive gremlins, so to speak.
Let's just pray, fervently, that those who set their hearts to engage in this petty tactic, (and we know that the Lord knows every person's heart), will themselves richly reap petty obstacles and opposition that will hinder them from being where they can do it. May their thoughts be preoccupied and their minds distracted from noticing whether the person(s) they wish to harass come near them. May their frustration be so petty that they are embarrassed to mention its cause.
We don't need to wish any harm on them. Just a thousand petty harmless things that will render them harmless in turn.
Long before Donald Trump entered the 2016 Presidential race, I remember watching a documentary which said that the city of Washington, D.C., had more than a million active spies at work within its boundaries. While I was surprised at how high the number was, I was not surprised that it could happen. The government of the strongest free nation on earth is centered there and that is where all of the information that spies would want is generated.
In the Bible, the small walled city where the prophet Elisha was staying became encircled by the soldiers of a foreign kingdom and the prophet's personal servant was having a panic attack. The king of Syria had sent the soldiers to capture and kill Elisha because he had been told that Elisha was worse than a spy. After trying to mount repeated unsuccessful surprise attacks on the kingdom of Israel, because somehow they always saw him coming, the king had said to his council, "Tell me which of us is for the king of Israel" - in other words, "Who's leaking information?" The answer he received was that no one was leaking information from inside but rather the prophet Elisha was always sending messages to the king of Israel and warning him. The king got fed up and tried to deal with it.
In Scripture, God used this situation to show the prophet's servant a glimpse of the spiritual world or dimension existing behind or above the "material world" we perceive with our senses. Elisha prayed that God would open his servant's eyes, and the servant could suddenly see chariots and horses of fire drawn up in a circle between them and the opposing army. He realized that there was much more going on than he was physically capable of seeing. We Christians are told in the New Testament that these lessons were written in the Old Testament Scriptures for us to learn from also.
If there are a million human spies at work in the city of Washington, D.C., then how many of the unseen angelic agents of God and the opposite side are at work there as well? How important are our prayers in the working out of God's will to defeat the entrenched influence of corruption, deception, and lust for power?
The prayers of God's people are the "pumps" that will drain the spiritual "swamp" and expose the malignant effects of the Enemy's spies. We have only begun to see the swamp draining. We must not lose heart at how ugly, malevolent, and downright smelly it is. Keep praying. The words of Elisha that encouraged his servant were that, "those who are with us are more than those who are with them." The word of encouragement to us is that, "greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." Keep that spiritual swamp water draining. Keep praying.
(UPDATED 09/01/2018): I am not sure whether to be grateful or disappointed that no one has commented during the past seven months that I had the two prophets Elijah and Elisha mixed up. That has now been corrected. Both prophets actually had situations where a king had sent soldiers after them to kill them. Both accounts are in the Bible's Second Book of Kings. It was Elijah who was sitting on a hilltop when the soldiers came, so this blog post was partially correct in saying that. However, he was not "encircled" because the king of Israel, Amaziah, only sent groups of fifty soldiers. The son of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had had an accident, (falling through a lattice, which may have meant falling out of a window or off a balcony), and had sent messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask if he would recover. While his paganism was no surprise to Elijah, or God, he was still the King of the country named Israel which the other nations still associated with Jehovah God. At God's direction, Elijah went and met the king's messengers and sent them back to tell the king he would die because "it was because there is no God in Israel" that the king had sent to enquire of a false god. Angrily, the king sent a captain with fifty soldiers - three captains, actually. The first two arrogantly ordered the prophet to come off the hilltop, saying, "Thou man of God, come down." He answered their disrespect by saying, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from God and consume you" - which it did. The king still didn't give up but the third captain he sent realized whom he was dealing with and begged for his life and his men's lives. God told the prophet not to fear to go with him, and no harm was done. They took Elijah to King Amaziah where he delivered his message in person. What this has in common with Elisha's story is that God protected the prophet and showed He was greater than the earthly ruler who disliked his message. It still illustrates that, "greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."
I probably should have changed the August calendar to call for prayer for Texas when Hurricane Harvey was pouring its trillion tons of water on them. It is partly because of the unprecedented nature of this year's hurricane season that I have made any change to the normal pattern to give Sunday, September 10, to Florida. I cannot recall any year when a hurricane has exceeded the size of the entire state of Florida, in both width and length. That, in addition to Harvey's record-setting rains before it and Hurricane Jose coming after it, make it clear that our efforts must be aimed at everyone in the path of this storm.
The effects of this storm season will be profound on America as a whole. Fuel supplies have been affected by Harvey's assault on the Gulf oil refineries. Citrus crops will be greatly reduced after Irma, possibly for years to come. Other food supplies will be affected as well. We have not seen the end of this, yet.
I am probably not the only American Christian who had concluded that God was not planning to judge and destroy America just yet when Trump narrowly defeated Mrs. Clinton for the Presidency. So, what am I concluding now, with these storms making one assault after another on our people, our property, and our long-term prosperity?
God is not the only spiritual force with an influence over the weather. He has to allow things for them to happen, but they are not necessarily His direct will or desire. The book of Job in the Bible shows Satan afflicting Job - with God's permission, because He was trusting that Job would teach Satan a lesson - and those trials included a whirlwind destroying the house where his children were banqueting, taking them all from him at once. Job's response was to say that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. God may not be the primary cause of these storms. Satan may be the one planning our destruction.
Our response, like the patriarch Job, should be trusting in God with the great added benefit of His written Word in the Bible, which Job did not have. He did not have the examples of faith written for him in Scripture that we do. Indeed, Job is often called the oldest book in the Bible, which means none of it had been written in his day. Like the patriarch Job, God is looking to us as his children in Jesus Christ to have faith, and to frustrate the Devil.
As I have said before, Satan has dished out discouragement, doubt, depression, and frustration to Christians throughout the world, through the centuries. It's only fair we should give him some, too.
The late Averell Harriman, the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, said that there were two statements which would show him a person was foolish or idiotic. One was, "Alcohol doesn't affect me." The other was, "I understand the Russians." I have always agreed with that. The late Sir Winston Churchill described Russia as "a riddle inside a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma," although he did believe that they could be counted upon to act to preserve their own interests rather than anyone else's. That is why the word "understanding" is in quotation marks in the title. We must always be willing to try harder to understand what kind of a threat or problem the Russians represent without fooling ourselves we have achieved it.
One particularly rich source of insight about the direction in which Russian social and political development has been going in the past, present, and future is the work of Russian author Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. That includes a collection of eight short stories in a book entitled, "Apricot Jam and Other Stories," written soon after his return to Russia from a long exile in 1994. The writing of this blog post especially stems from the story titled, "Fracture Points." This story indicates that Solzhenitsyn devoted a lot of thought, and probably research, to the way both civilians and government employees were responding to the uncertainties of the immediate "post-USSR" period. He constructs a haunting, chilling metaphor of a former State Security official's view of the Soviet state intelligence apparatus, known recently as the KGB, as a formerly majestic and grand Moscow skyscraper now full of holes and falling apart with "bitter winds" blowing through it and gradually carrying things away. I do not share that view and I doubt that he did either. His point was to make the reader realize that there were people out there who did.
I had already found it chilling to read parts of "Gulag Archipelago," his most famous work which laid out for the world the Soviet penal camp system, about the amoral upbringing suffered by children consigned to the prison camps at a young age. With the Soviets putting so many of their citizens in detention camps it only follows that they had to do something about their children, and it only follows from the heavy-pawed "Russian bear" tactics of the Soviet state that their choices were bad. There were accounts of young children in gangs in the camps luring women assigned to guard them into traps and gang-raping them. These children later grew up and we are now contending with their children and grandchildren. Solzhenitsyn's later story, "Fracture Points," while it does not deal with such blatantly immoral violence, still makes us think about the mental framework with which everyday Russian citizens, and government officials as individuals, try to deal with the shifting uncertainties of post-Soviet life and not only survive but thrive and try to build what they perceive as security for themselves and their families. As a whole, Solzhenitsyn's work points in a chilling direction: he shows us traumatized, uncertain, cynical, but sometimes unbelievably innovative and adaptable people whose basic philosophy too often is, "Anything goes," or, "The end justifies the means."
While the public part of the testimony before the Senate of former FBI Director James Comey has seriously crippled the Democratic Party's persistent false accusations of Republican collusion with the Russian state in last year's Presidential election, and hopefully killed them entirely, the reaction of our government and our media and ourselves to these accusations seems to indicate a serious lack of imagination or effort to keep up to date with just what, and with whom, we are dealing in Russia.
While the Russian government today may be seriously unable and possibly not entirely willing to deal with the looming moral implications of such forces in their society, that does not mean they fail to perceive opportunities to make use of the cunning, intelligent, and completely amoral individuals which the Soviet lifestyle has spread and fostered widely within their ranks. Not every threat from Russia to the United States will originate from the Russian government. Not all cyber crime or acts of espionage that originate from this riddling, puzzling enigma of a culture and country will have been funded or sponsored by the state.
I think that the Russian state as an entity, and its leaders as individuals, may be quite happy with that situation.
On April 29, 2017, the arbitrary political milestone of 100 days first set up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt was marked by the President bypassing the traditional White House Correspondents' Dinner in favor of a rally he organized himself in central Pennsylvania. I did not listen to either. (I was busy.) This was similar but not identical to the way he bypassed the last Republican debate of the 2016 primary season and instead organized a benefit which raised millions for American veterans. (Unless I missed something, this was not a charity event.)
After the largely dysfunctional start to the relationship between the Trump Administration and most media networks, I respected the President for not wanting to pretend he enjoyed the company of people who were repeatedly trying to misrepresent his efforts and intentions. Again, as he did on the night of the debate, he did not just "sit out" the event in protest but took the initiative, took action, and put out a message of his own.
President Trump's marketing and communications instincts, and his intellect, combine to form a powerful force when all are operating together. Occasionally part of that triad has been "out of synchronization" and that has hurt him. There clearly was not much of his intellect at work on that day years ago when Billy Bush goaded him into his unwise comments on the "Access Hollywood" video. (After months calling politicians in Washington "all talk and no action," he was forced to fall back on that as his primary defense regarding those comments.) While I do not believe there is any connection between him and Russia regarding the election, he has partly himself to blame for the flaming rhetorical urge at a campaign rally to dare the Russians to hack the DNC, trying to make the point that the thousands of missing Clinton emails were out there for someone to find.
It is still difficult to convince me that Russia in general or Vladimir Putin in particular had any reason to prefer Trump in office when they could have had Hillary Clinton. (Or Senator Bernie Sanders, who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.) I am quite ready to believe that even if the Russian government did not provide the damaging e-mails to WikiLeaks they were all too happy to try to cripple Trump politically by making us think they did and that his team was involved. That was much less work on their part just to plant a rumor than to actually do anything. The American people seem to forget that the Russians in general and Putin personally are chess players and well accustomed to planning for several possibilities at once, several moves in advance, and that psychological gambits to demoralize, distract, and discourage opponents are part of competitive chess.
For the benefit of our country, our President and his family and his Administration - which intersect a bit more than is usual - need our prayers. We cannot fool God. Prayers submitted in a spirit of arrogant refusal to listen to anything positive about President Trump or an attitude of gratuitous hostility towards those who disagree with us - or whom we assume to be disagreeing with us because we are not the same gender or color or nationality - are a waste of time. Many of us - myself probably included, since having Swedish and Norwegian ancestry means I have a strongly combative side which has definitely gotten stirred up - have to spend some time getting back in touch with the King who is on the Throne of Heaven before we can pray meaningfully about the Oval Office.
The "first 100 days" of a new President's first term are a convenient device for discussing his efficiency and effectiveness, but that is all it is. The 101st day (April 30) being mostly over now, there are 1,360 days left. Let's get busy, and let's make sure God is not finding our prayers as annoying and empty as some of us say that either President Trump's statements, or the media's coverage of them, are.
For these past two weeks, Donald John Trump has officially been President of the United States of America and Michael Pence has been Vice President. This came from enormous effort by Mr. Trump himself and many supporters. I believe it also shows intervention by God in answer to prayer by Christians saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Not only has Mr. Trump overcome repeated predictions of failure, in the process he repeatedly set milestones of voter registration and participation which were called "unprecedented." It was predicted that he was not a serious candidate and would withdraw. It was predicted that he would fail to become the Republican nominee and would instead run independently and ruin Republican chances of achieving the White House or Congressional majorities. It was predicted that he could "never" defeat Hillary Clinton. We see what has come of those predictions.
The predictions of failure and the obstructive efforts of his political opponents continue. We need to continue to pray for our President and for all those in the many positions of authority at multiple levels who together govern our nation.
His executive order to temporarily limit immigration from seven countries involved in the conflict with Islamic State radicalism has been blocked by a federal judge in Washington state and called "illegal" and "unconstitutional," at least in part because it affects Muslim-majority countries. What we need to bear in mind is that the true religious hate and religious discrimination is in the aims of the Islamic State organization to set up a Caliphate to carry forward their goal of attacking and killing or subjugating whoever is not a Muslim or a sufficiently dedicated one. The fact that the Muslim religion itself is having internal problems between these Sunni radicals and the Shi'ites does not lessen the focus which Islamic State itself has put upon making their conflict religious. Some may call it "childish" to say that, "They started it," but they did.
Much of what we face now is the "legacy" of a President who for eight years gave every conceivable advantage to Muslims whenever he could. Whenever there was a choice between one or more Muslims benefiting or somebody else, it was always the Muslims whom he favored. (If there are exceptions, they are few.) The establishment and existence of the Islamic State movement can be attributed to how we handled our withdrawal of troops from Iraq by announcing it well in advance and then leaving exactly when we said. The existence of arguments against whether we should have been there in the first place, or whether we still should be there, did not make certain basic principles of military strategy go away. We neglected to observe them and they held true whether we wanted them to or not.
I do not have the academic or political credentials to prove that the present situation can ultimately be blamed on how the League of Nations handled the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, early in the twentieth century. I can point out that the idea of making one country out of Iraq with its bitterly opposed factions of Sunnis and Shi'ites and Kurds came from the League of Nations, which placed it under the United Kingdom's authority as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. Sir Winston Churchill, in his early government career, was involved in this Mesopotamian mess and was known to have asked when Britain would be getting out of the "quagmire." One reason Saddam Hussein came to power was that Western governments decided he had the strong hand needed to bring things under control and supported him. Once we overthrew him, things became a quagmire again.
As a nation, we now face an enemy which has stated its plans to infiltrate us and wage a campaign of terror from within. They are not fighting by "our" rules. They have made the rules of this conflict and one of those rules is that their quarrel with the United States, and other countries, is religious. We cannot avoid this as a factor in trying to screen out their efforts at infiltration. We have to deal with it. President Trump has tried to do that and been obstructed.
While I believe that being a Christian and trusting in Scripture involves seeing things certain ways, I must still acknowledge that seeing things differently does not mean someone is not a Christian. Whatever our views and opinions of how Trump should govern the nation, all of us who put our faith in Christ should obey what the Word of God says in [I Timothy 2]. Our prayers may not agree. That is no surprise to God. He can deal with it. But we need to pray for President Trump and the Cabinet Secretaries and Congress. If we feel we need to pray for God to restrain and redirect the President or others, we should do so. But we should genuinely recognize God as the answer to our problems.
President Trump has shown that he has a way of disproving the pundits who criticize him. He may well keep doing so. The important thing is whether God hears our prayers to give him wisdom and perseverance. Paul said that the blessing which comes from praying diligently for those in authority is the ability to live peaceable lives in "all godliness and honesty." Few of us would disagree that we want that. We need to labor in prayer if we want it to happen. Whatever our views.
A Christian man living in Southeastern Pennsylvania, USA. Came under conviction in 1978 or 1979 to begin believing the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Came to saving faith in Christ in October 1982 by confessing I was a sinner by nature and only Christ could save me.