Prayer and the Climate of a Nation

Written by Jack Hayford
Prayer and the Climate of a Nation

I find it amazing the number of sincere believers who carry their political convictions on their sleeve. Not that I think political convictions are wrong. In fact, I believe every one of us has a right to them. But when it comes to the final answers for any nation, how many would agree with me that no politician has the answers that we need? And starting from that base, whoever, in the providence of God’s sovereign purposes, becomes our President, we are called, as believers, to transcend politics and to move into the realm of our Kingdom assignment.

Over the past twenty-five to thirty years, our nation has had leaders who, notwithstanding their humanness and irrespective of their politics, have confessed faith in the living God, and the majority openly acknowledged Jesus as their Savior. And for that, we should take great delight, because the Book of Proverbs says, “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.” And that’s true anyway, but it’s uniquely true when the heart of that leader has been committed to the Savior of mankind. I praise

God for that.

A season of drought

In the opening words of 1 Timothy chapter 2, we notice two things: First it says to pray that there will be a peaceable quality to the culture. Secondly, that in that environment, an increased number will come to the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ:

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. (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Then, James 5:16-18:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Our nation is in a season of phenomenal economic upheaval and financial drought. Our culture even uses the term “cash flow.” The people of the Bible lived in crop-based culture, and they depended on a flow, too—the rain from heaven. The drought that is mentioned in this passage of Scripture is such a dramatic picture of the “climate” that can come to a nation.

In the time of Elijah, it was a three-and-a-half-year rainless season that occurred because of corruption that had taken place in the nation under the leadership of Ahab and Jezebel. They held the throne over people who were in name the people of God, but in practice, exercised grotesque expressions of what we would call Satanic cult worship. Because of that, everything dried up, as a result of the removal of God’s hand of blessing from the nation. Without that hand of blessing, any nation becomes exposed to those things that happen apart from the prevenient grace of God.

The prevenient grace of God is a theological term that references that ongoing, intervening, preventive hand of God’s mercy that is over every human being. If Satan could, he would kill each one of us now. You and I can testify to some moment or incident where, except for God’s intervention, we’d be dead. We all have testimonies of those intervening things of Divine mercy. It is not superstition but wisdom to attribute God’s mercy to them. Those of us who know and follow the Lord do that. For others, it would be wise to look beyond chance and recognize that there was a Hand that reached in your behalf.

A peaceful culture and an atmosphere for evangelism

In 1 Timothy 2, we noted two things related to the prayer of God’s people: “First of all” [here’s a priority for the Church] “I exhort that prayers, supplications, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, for all that are in authority, that you may have a peaceable life.” In other words, that the culture will be flavored with a more peaceful climate.

Secondly, that there would be an ingathering of souls. In other words, a peaceful culture lends itself to a climate that is beneficial to evangelistic outreach—people opening to the love and life of God. I think some people believe that only happens through crises. But the effective, praying Church will penetrate any culture with results. Also, there comes another thing: health to the nation. The Bible says, “If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray, I’ll heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

A rainless, clouded sky

The beginning of James chapter 5 is quite remarkable. The reason for the drought that we read about later on in that chapter is interesting, given the context. I don’t know that James intended to link to that, but it certainly does at this moment in our nation’s history. These are painfully expressed words.

Come now, you rich. Weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. (v.1-2)

This chapter, that states a nation’s climate can be affected and drought ended by prayer, begins by reciting the very challenge we face in our nation. God is not disposed against people who have money. The Bible is speaking about when riches are corrupted—which happens through greed or failure to accept responsibility for how we manage what we have. Precisely both those things are openly on the table in our nation’s life right now: greed and irresponsibility. God takes no glee in the pain and suffering these things bring, and I don’t speak these words of observation as through from some self-righteous pedestal. The spirit of my remarks is that it is an agony to any people when God says, “I have to remove My hand that has blessed you and expose you to the self-inflicted judgments of your own folly.” Not to mention the hatefulness of the Adversary whose first motive is to steal. He’ll take everything he can from you and teach you to blame God for it. In the middle of these things, the call “weep and howl” is not just saying, “Go ahead and eat your heart out.” It’s saying, “Cry out to God!” With that, there is an additional statement that’s expressed in the context of times like ours:

Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Seeing how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. (v. 7)

Not only are we shown the reason for the drought but also the reality within the drought. The Lord says, Be patient when these tough times come. In the time of Ahab, the drought, in its own way, caused people to reassess their values. When we look at the text, we find that repentance did come about as a result of a showdown.

The Lord, by His Spirit, permits times that shake people awake to what their real needs are. There is no human resource, no calculated human plan that can assure anything of our futures. Only the One who has designed the future can assure our future, of which He says, “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for evil. To give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

The amazing thing about this passage that it is telling us to be patient, because what the Father is looking for is a harvest. It’s a harvest of souls that will come, and He is taking time to patiently deal with the people whose attention will only be drawn to Him through the present stresses. As He does that, He gives us very clear guidance for ourselves. Verse 8 tells us, just as He is patient, we should also be patient. Establish your heart, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. He tells us to get our hearts settled where we know there is an anchor point. Be sure you’re on the foundation that becomes unshakeable to emotions, unshakeable in the assurance of His provision.

There are great promises in this passage. Be patient because the Lord’s coming is at hand. That is not just talking about the coming of Jesus when the last trumpet sounds and we are caught away to be with Him. The Lord’s coming is at hand—in the middle of whatever we face. Invite Him into it. And if you build it with prayer, He will come.

An ordinary guy

With this, we are called to look at a very ordinary guy. Elijah was a man with like passions as us. In other words, he had all the same feelings, all the same limitations as you and I do. Elijah goes through mood changes that almost seem defeatist. But there is a remarkable grace upon him. No matter how he feels, he calls out to the Lord anyway, and then does exactly as the Lord says, even though he has such severe doubts about himself. And this is not just an observation about Elijah—it’s a summons to you and me. And it’s in a context. Look at James 5:16-18: “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” And it immediately turns the corner and says, “The effective, fervent prayer of righteous people…” And that means people who open their hearts to the love of God in Jesus, so it’s not attained righteousness that earns answers, but received righteousness through Christ that holds the promise of answers.

We pray for the forgiveness of our failures and sins, but we are also called to come before the Lord in behalf of a nation, where there are oftentimes things that we bewail and regret because we know they have in them the seeds of impending judgment. And in that context, the Word of God is saying, You do it because you know the Lord. We’re not called to sit in judgment on a culture, but to intercede before God, which means to take a position of prayer for people who either cannot or will not pray for themselves. That’s what intercessory prayer is.

The ultimate Intercessor in the Bible is defined at the end of Isaiah chapter 53, where it speaks of Messiah coming to make intercession for the sins of many. Our Savior went to the Cross for us and interceded for us, and He continues to make intercession Remember, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). He did it while we could not or would not pray for ourselves. And He calls us to give ourselves in the same way in prayer for a nation, that its climate be changed.

Elijah was an ordinary guy who did that. The parallel promise is that healing will take place when people come to pray, according to 2 Chron. 7:14: “If My people…” Note that it doesn’t say everybody in the country needs to pray. It says, “If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and turn from our wicked way….” That “wicked way” is oftentimes sectarian bigotry and a disposition of anger when the selection of a national leader isn’t the person we preferred. That is unrighteous for a believer. I don’t say that to make a political observation; I say it making a biblical observation, and it’s critical that we see that.

I cannot say that I bore animosity toward him (I never let myself become embittered toward either candidate) but at the time of the first candidacy of Bill Clinton for the Presidency, I did not want him to be elected because of the record of things that had stained and blighted his past as a leader, and the kind of thing that disqualifies a leader for respect and capability of God’s highest blessing.

The morning after the election, I went outside and picked up the newspaper in my driveway and opened it, and it said Clinton had been elected. And I said, “Lord, touch my heart.” It is no tribute to my righteousness that instantly my heart was filled with love for the man. It didn’t have to do with politics. It didn’t have to do with his history. It was for him as a man. Because there is a God whose heart is full of love for every one us, and we are all sinners. And He calls for us to pray for those who lead us, irrespective of where they are or what our opinions about them are, because it is only in the prayers of God’s people that there is hope for any nation. You can only do that with forgiveness in your heart. Ordinary people like us can do that. A very righteous prophet did that, and it turned around a nation in the time of Elijah.

A God who will supply

First Kings chapter 17 is what happened during the drought. Chapter 18 talks about the breaking of the drought. Let me just jump ahead and make an observation from the end of chapter 18. The end of the drought takes place in that famous encounter when the fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. There was a showdown between the prophets of Baal and the prophet of God. And in that confrontation, the net result was the overthrow of evil and repentance on the part of the people. And that’s good any time.

Chapter 17 breaks almost evenly in three portions: verses 1 to 7, verses 8 to 16, and verses 17 to the end. During the drought, when the Lord had directed Elijah to pray that it would not rain and Elijah did so, He told him first what to do. He said, “I’m going to provide for you. I want you to go to the Brook Kerith and I’m going to provide ravens to bring you bread and meat, and I’ll sustain you there.” Forgive me, but if I’d have been Elijah, I’d have wondered about that because ravens are crows. If I were Elijah, I might have said, “Crows are going to bring me bread and meat? Fat chance! They are the most selfish birds I’ve ever seen. They get it in their beak and it’s gone.”

But the Lord said He would provide, and despite how it looked, He did. That demonstrates His remarkable, supernatural provision. Not just that God knew where Elijah was and provided for him, but also that He directed him to the brook where the water would continue for a season. The brook did later dry up, and God told him where to go next. But the provision for Elijah never dried up.

In times we are experiencing right now, dear ones, there is a promise for you. There’s a drought in our culture that is impacting many precious people. Everywhere you turn, people’s retirement funds have been ransacked, people’s jobs are on the line, or possibly they’ve lost their jobs. There are prognostications in the economic community that say this difficult time is not over yet, and we don’t know where it’s going. But we do know what we can do—we can pray. We can establish our hearts in the thing we know—that is, Who our Provider is! And we can walk with Him in obedience, praying all the while for a nation and its climate, even during the period of drought. We can pray that whatever is going on, there will come an awareness and reassessment in people’s lives of what really counts. God in His great mercy says, “I’ll provide for you during this time.” And He says something else. The next passage in 1 Kings 17, beginning in verse 9, tells us that God says through us, no matter our apparent “poverty,” will come provision to others.

In 1 Kings 17:9-24, Elijah is directed by the Lord to go to a family that he apparently knew. The husband had died, and when Elijah arrives, he asks the widow, “Will you fix me something to eat?” She replies, “As a matter of fact, I just went out and gathered these sticks, and there is only this much oil in the jar and this much meal. It’s all we have. I’m going to make a cake for my son and me, and” [listen to the despair] “then we will die.” By the word of the Lord, having watched God provide for him, Elijah speaks now words of God’s grace that will come upon her. Listen to what he says. “The oil in the jar will not fail, and the meal in the bin will not fail until the rain comes again.” And it happened exactly that way.

You and I are called not only to believe God will provide for us but to encourage other people to believe regarding His care for them, and to minister that to them. Be a part of the answer to their fears.

Finally, that chapter says that while Elijah was there, the widow’s son became seriously ill and died. When she told Elijah, he took the child into the chamber that had been provided for him, laid the child on the bed, covered him with his body, and prayed three times, “Lord, bring life to this child.” It is one of three occasions in the Old Testament scriptures that record a resurrection that is forecasting the ultimate resurrection in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The child was restored to his mother.
I believe where the people of God take their place in the middle of a drought and walk with Him, God will flow resurrection power, and His life will transmit through them. It requires us to take hold of our responsibility and begin to cover those things in prayer, rather than to abide in despair. Hold a position of faith in the presence, power, and promise of God.

Church, this is do or die!

The Scripture says, “The effectual, fervent prayer….” [and that’s the central phrase of this whole text in James 5]. Literally, the word, energeo, the Greek word that occurs there, is the word for spiritual energy. It’s always related to spiritual things in the Bible—even evil spiritual things. It is the energized prayer that is fervently entered into—the fervent prayer. That means there is passion on our side. We don’t persuade God, but our love and our pursuit with an anointing of the Holy Spirit on us is what opens the door that begins to introduce something of divine grace into circumstances that are dead, dying, or rainless.

Things will die if we don’t take the position, but if we do, there is a birth that’s guaranteed. I’m impressed by the fact that in 1 Kings 18, the Scripture says that Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees. Elijah took a posture of passion, and he prayed seven times.

The clouds of promise came and rain exploded out of what had been a clear sky.

As he sought God, Elijah’s face was between his knees, which brings me to a text in Isaiah 66 that says that when Zion [the people of God] enter into the labor of prayer like a woman in labor, then she gives birth, and there comes an entry of divine grace and life.

Dear ones, the effective, fervent prayer of righteous people counts much. And it can change the climate of a nation.

Copyright © 2009, 2011 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries

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