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Forty Days of Prayer

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(8/10)

A Presidentís Invitation

A Letter addressing the people of the United States from its President read as follows: "It is the duty of nations as well as me to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. Know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted on us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States and, those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the lst Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens. (Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863)

A Precedent

Abraham Lincoln believed that the Civil War may have well been a punishment from God for our pride and arrogance in ignoring Godís plan and purpose for blessing America. He had good reason to believe this. God had told Israel that if they would remain conscious of Godís good hand on them and honor Him with their faith, fear, love, service and obedience (Deut 10:12-13) that He would bless them immeasurably. He warned them of becoming prideful and self sufficient and forgetting that it is God who gives and gives the ability to have what we do (Deut. 8). He also warned Israel that when they forgot Him and or turned away from Him, He would chasten or discipline them. This discipline may have seemed a punishment but it had a purpose of wanting them to know Him and have the best life for themselves and their children as possible. You can read of the chastening that God said he would bring in Deut. 28. His discipline would include drought and famine that would affect both men and their livestock; pestilences; sicknesses and diseases; defeat by their enemies; invasion by foreigners; hopelessness, confusion, and mental illnesses; financial indebtedness to foreigners; and total destruction of their country resulting in their dispersion through out the world. A careful reading from Exodus through 2 Chronicles shows that generation after generation ignored God and God did as He said He would until the nation came together, repented, and cried out to Him and then He would send relief and revival. Sometimes, however, they did not repent or call out to God and generation after generation suffered as a result as in Amos 4. Amos is a contemporary of Isaiah, a farmer called to preach and God sent a message to Israel through him. Listen to what He says in Amos 4. "Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.7 "I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest, I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. 8 So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. 9 "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. 10 "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. 11 "I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. 2 "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" 13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his[c] thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earthóThe LORD God of hosts is His name." Jeremiah reminds us that God will discipline or judge any nation that turns away from Him and ignores His grace. The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. (Jer. 18:7-10). Abraham Lincoln believed that God would do, and perhaps was doing that to America during His Presidency.

A Parallel

In many ways, America parallels Israel. This is a marvelous land of plenty and prosperity. It is, for much of the world, the Promised Land, the land of opportunity and freedom. It is a country founded by religious men and designed to be a country that would honor God. Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our system of government were all fashioned by faith in God and His Word- the Bible, and the result was that God blessed America and His grace was evident to the entire world. But the time came some 50 years ago, give or take, when we began to say, "We donít need God, we donít want God and we wonít acknowledge God any longer. We believe we are the product of a cosmic belch and donít believe in God. We believe truth is relative and not absolute in some ancient book. We believe sex and marriage should be with anyone we want whether it is natural or not. We believe we should kill our unborn if they are inconvenient to us. We refuse to use the name Jesus, because His name is offensive to those who donít want to know Him." America is no longer a "Christian" nation and hasnít been for a long time. Only 30% of Americanís attend religious services and in our part of the country only 20% attend.

A Predicament

Look at Jeremiah 18:11-17. The predicament we face is two-fold. First, our sons and daughters and siblings, and friends are facing the possibility of an eternity apart from God because they do not know Him or have a relationship with Jesus Christ. They will be in hell forever without Him. Secondly, we as a nation will suffer the disciplinary judgment of God. I have stated many times, that it is my opinion, that the natural disasters of the last 10 years; the fires, the floods, the earthquakes, the tornadoes, the hurricanes, and now the drought and heat that is affecting over half of our country, may well be the hand of God trying to get our attention as a nation and saying, "Return to me and I will return to you." If we donít, the day will come when America will go the same way that Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, and even England have gone. All of these countries thought they were indestructible nations, but they all were defeated. What can we do? What must we do?

A Prescription of Hope

Our sins have never taken God by surprise. From the beginning He has made a way for men and nations to come back to Him. In 2 Chronicles 6, King Solomon dedicates the temple He has built to the Lord God and then before all the people, he drops to his knees and with his hands lifted to heaven he prays. His prayer is one of praise and anticipation. He praises the God of wonder who is greater than the heavens and has blessed Israel. He also anticipates that his people, being human, will eventually turn away from God. He anticipates that God will do what He has promised and will discipline them. But he asks God, that upon the condition of sincere repentance, would He forgive and restore His people? In ch. 7 God answers and gives a prescription for revival. Look at vv. 12-22

  • Our Hope Ė "If My People who are called by NameÖ." As a nation our hope is not in a President or elected officials. The hope of a nation rests in the people of God and the promises of God. The people of God must return to the purposes for which God saved and redeemed us. Peter reminds us that the people of God are those who by faith have come out of darkness and received the mercy of God by their faith in Jesus Christ (1Pet. 2:9-10).
  • Our Humility- "Will Humble ThemselvesÖ" This includes the willingness to bring every area of our lives as Christians into the light of Godís word and His holiness and to mourn over our sins and our indifference to our sins and the needs of the people around us. This humbling includes the idea of fasting. That this would be of such importance and urgency that we would be willing to forego even essential needs to get right with God and to pray for revival.
  • Our Help Ė "And PrayÖ" This is the prayer of confession, for our personal sins, as well as confession of our community sins, and a pleading or interceding for our family and country. It is a prayer that is willing to covenant with God to honor Him with our lives and seek His purposes for our lives.
  • Our Hunger Ė "And seek My FaceÖ" This is the pleading for the manifest favor of God. Godís face is His approval. Wanting to honor God and wanting God to work on our behalf in a way that will result in His glory. It is admitting that we can not do this apart from Him.
  • Our Holiness - "And Turn From their Wicked WaysÖ" This is identifying the ways in which we have drifted from God; the ways in which we have gone after our own hearts and not Godís holiness and turning away from them.
  • Our Heeding Ė "Then will I hear from heaven,Ö" God will not bring revival until we do as He has prescribed. "Then, will I hear." This is Godís prescription and there is no other for our country or any other country that forsakes Godís ways.
  • Our Healing Ė"and I will forgive their sins and heal their land." When Godís people are obedient to the Prescription of Hope that He has given us, not only will the church experience revival but our country will have a spiritual awakening and the lost will come to Christ. Consider what Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God) says in his book Fresh Encounter (p.60). There are Seven Phases in Godís pattern for revival and spiritual awakening:
    • God is on mission to redeem a lost world. He calls a people into relationship with Him, and accomplishes His work through them.
    • Godís people tend to depart from Him, turning to substitutes for His presence, purposes, and ways.
    • God disciplines His people because of His love.
    • Godís people cry out to Him
    • God calls His people to repent and return to Him or perish.
    • God revives His repentant people by restoring them to a right relationship with Him
    • God exalts His Son Jesus among His people and draws the lost to saving faith in Him.

An Invitation for Participation

All across America churches are going to be preaching and praying for Revival during September. I invite you to go to www.OneCry.com and see what Christians are doing. Our circle of prayer churches are going to do a Concert of Prayer on Sunday evening September 23rd at Westminster Baptist Church from 6-8 p.m. A concert of prayer will be a great evening of worship and times of prayer with a little preaching thrown in. But this isnít an event, this is a process that we are planning for and for a follow up and we want everyone to participate. What you have in your program is a 40 day of prayer plan that will start on August 14th. We as leaders have committed to praying to for you everyday by name. We are asking you to form prayer groups to meet once a week for lunch or dinner, or whatever to pray for lost loved ones and for revival in our nation. We are asking you to meet with us every Weds, evening for these next weeks to join for prayer for revival. On your papers there are morning and evening prayers or instructions about prayer from the Bible that we would like you to use. And, we are asking you to fast one day a week for the next few weeks. You can fast more if you want, but would you think of going from 6 p.m. on Monday to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and fast (unless you have health issues). Donít just give up eating. That was never the main issue. Fasting is to focus ourselvesí on Godís holiness and our own lack of holiness and to seek His forgiveness, help, mercy, grace and favor. Planning for revival to avert judgment is Biblical. Look at Joel 1-2. God tells Joel to tell the congregation to get the whole family involved and to call for a sacred assembly.

Will you join us? Will you commit to praying every day for revival in your family, community and country? Will you consider fasting and seeking Godís favor? Dads and moms, will you get your whole family involved? Will you commit to attending the sacred assembly on September 23rd and asking God to forgive and restore America? Perhaps some of you need to begin by repenting and returning to Jesus Christ today. Letís pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman