In recent weeks, some fairly well-known Christian leaders have urged the Church to pray for judgment to come to America. A few seem to feel that they are partnering with God’s righteous indignation by taking this position. Some have reasoned that only severe judgment will cause the people of our nation to repent and return to the Lord. I think such a viewpoint might end up as a “You know not what you ask for” kind of prayer philosophy.
One problem with the “pray for judgment” approach is the assumption that what worked to get people’s attention in Old Testament times will still work exactly the same today. It is argued that when catastrophes struck ancient Israel, or when their enemies invaded, it caused the Israelites to repent. Among the people of that time, not just the Israelites, the common understanding was that bad things happening meant God (or a god) was not pleased, and that to regain His favor, they had to change their ways. In our day, with humanism and intellectualism having made such inroads, people are more likely to attribute weather or geologic catastrophes to scientific explanations.
The people of ancient Israel had a biblical framework ingrained in them. They understood that there was a direct correlation between being obedient to God and being blessed, while disobedience brought a curse. The Scriptures laid this out for them quite clearly. In our secular society, a biblical framework has not been a part of many, many people’s background for several decades.
Between the prevailing intellectual, scientific mindset and the lack of scriptural understanding, I doubt if most people in our nation, outside of devout Christians, would connect hurricanes, earthquakes, economic collapse, terrorists, or even an out-and-out enemy invasion with a need to repent and turn to God. Hence, catastrophic events are not likely to bring them to a desire to repent and embrace the Lord.
Another problem with the “pray for judgment” reasoning is that the people encouraging it are trying to apply Old Testament principles, based upon the Law, not recognizing that God’s methods of interacting with mankind have shifted since Jesus died, rose, and sent the Holy Spirit to be actively at work in the earth.
Let’s be clear that God’s nature never changes. But His methods do. He has always been completely just, but He has also always been merciful, bearing long with the wicked and holding back judgment to give people time to repent. He says in James 2:13 that “mercy rejoices against judgment” and in 2 Peter 3:9 that He is “long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
In the Psalms and other Old Testament books, the writers sometimes prayed what are called “prayers of imprecation” — prayers which curse or call down judgment on others. However, when Jesus came, He began to shift people’s thinking to align with a new and better covenant. When James and John wished to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which had slighted Jesus, He rebuked them, saying, “You do not realize what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:51-56).
Old Testament believers depended on the rigid code of the Law to guide them. The Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out upon the general population. They heard God speak to them through the Scriptures and through the prophets, but most were not able to hear Him speak clearly into their own hearts. But when Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be at work among men. In John 16:8, Jesus said of the Spirit, “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.” We can now depend on the Holy Spirit not only to guide believers, but also to be poured out wholesale, according to Joel’s prophecy of the end times: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28).
Rather than praying for judgment to fall, I believe we should diligently intercede for the Holy Spirit to be shed abroad across our land. We can pray for Him to prick consciences, soften hearts, remove deception from people’s thinking, and bring awakening to them. All of these changes can only come about by people embracing Jesus — but they can only receive Him as the Holy Spirit enables them to do so. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to come down in a fresh Pentecost upon America.
Do I think that some of the bad things already happening are due to rejection of the Lord? Yes. When a nation turns from honoring God, His protection and blessings begin to be pulled back. Do I think greater judgment will come? Yes, the Scriptures assure us that in the last days it will inevitably happen. But our position should not be to pray in that judgment before its time, but to pray in a huge harvest of souls before that final day.
Next time, I will share with you a dream I had, which gives me a great deal of hope for America’s future.