What America Needs Now
In this follow-up piece to my essay, What the World Needs Now, I want to speak to the challenges facing the United States of America and the role of the prayers of the church in meeting these challenges. Avoiding partisan politics, I want to promote the agenda of the Kingdom of God. I consider the Sermon on the Mount to be the constitution of the Kingdom of God. In this amazing address, Jesus outlined in detail the rights and privileges, the duties and responsibilities, as well as the morality and the promise of His Kingdom. He also told us to pray that His Kingdom would come, and His will would be done, here on earth—in America—as it is in heaven.
Too Far Down the Mountain
On that day, on that mountain, proximity to Jesus determined how well the listener could hear this sermon. From distance of more than 2000 years, it seems we have even greater difficulty hear what Jesus said that day. Have we wandered too far down the mountain? It is as if modern winds have stolen the sound of His voice from us. Perhaps we have been distracted by the crowds around us for somehow, while His words remain clearly set forth in our Bibles, we don’t seem to hear Him anymore. Modern leadership methods often bear little resemblance to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. Make no mistake, His message from that mountaintop has always been counterintuitive—it has always flown in the face of human nature. We do not, by nature, turn the other cheek or love and pray for our enemies and so on, point by point. Jesus challenges us to a supernatural way of life. What would be the point of such a challenge? He was unfolding something new: a New Covenant with all of mankind as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant with Israel. Because Jesus was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” citizens of His Kingdom would have the power of the Holy Spirit in them. This “Helper,” would enable normal people to live super-normal lives—the very lives outlined in the Sermon on the Mount.
Return to the Summit
In these last days, the world needs a praying church filled with people living these supernatural lives:
- peacemakers, healers, truth-tellers, other-cheek-turners, givers-not-lenders, lovers-of-their-enemies, second-milers,
- people whose lives are built on the Solid Rock and who are well-acquainted with the Secret Place of prayer, people whose houses are impervious to the raging storms everyone must endure.
- America needs people with an individual flame in their hearts that lights the path before them, a flame set on a lampstand for all to see.
- When these people assemble to worship, they shine like a city on a hill pushing back the darkness and those who trade in it.
The deep gloom foreseen by Isaiah does indeed “cover the people” as Satan’s kingdom of iniquity rolls on. The only threat against it is the church at prayer and the People of God walking through this darkness illumined by the face of Jesus. We must not waste our words debating political strategies. Our hope goes deeper than our representative democracy; it rests on Jesus Himself. Let us turn conversations from the momentary highlights served up by the media to the eternal truth of God’s Word, from the latest who-did-what-to-whom, to the words and deeds of Jesus. He spoke to every issue we face today. The Gospel is relevant to the challenges of this hour.
- Who else will be the witnesses to His words except those who know Him and seek to follow Him? Is there a source of help of healing of hope other than Jesus?
- His promises stand through all possible storms. His Spirit empowers His followers with strength equal to any emergencies, crises, or pandemics.
Jesus never paces the balconies of heaven, looking down to earth wondering what to do next. The experts change their stories from week to week but the words of Jesus are fixed and sure, and the Holy Spirit shows us how to apply His truth to the needs of the day. We must return to the summit of Christ’s teaching. We who know the truth are responsible to live it out. We have been given “much” so from us “much is required.”
How do we ascend the Hill of the Lord again? The ancient answer from the Psalms rings true today:
Psalm 24:3-6 KJV
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Jesus stands on the summit of God’s grace. He is still speaking. We must ascend this hill forsaking the distractions of a media-infested world so that we can hear Him again. There is a holy place where we can stand in peace and faith, in confidence in a God who knows what we should do. What climbing equipment does this daring ascent require?
We must be an innocent people. We cannot renounce works of darkness if we are engaged in them. Paul presents the countermeasure for evil—good! We are not powerless in the face of evil; we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be good people doing good things. We must have confidence in this! I have lived long enough to see the long-term effect of God’s People living good lives.
- Sinners get saved.
- Sick people get well.
- Lost people get found.
- Chains of addiction are broken.
- People who see themselves as worthless discover the plan of God for their lives.
We cannot overcome evil by the force of sanguine ingenuity or superior technology or even our sparkling personalities. How can we overcome evil? In the words of George Bailey in Frank Capra’s seminal film, It’s a Wonderful Life, we overcome evil with “just a little bit of human kindness.” A helping hand extended to a soul in peril is not easily forgotten when the next crisis arises. Paul said it even better.
Romans 12:21 KJV
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
If iniquity is found in us, this powerful weapon for good is dismantled and powerless. We must have clean hands if we are to scale this mountain again.
If anything shines forth in the Sermon on the Mount, it is the condition of the heart. Jesus makes it clear that all terrible deeds of violence and abuse begin as lust and hate in the heart. Integrity of heart will empower us or the lack of it will betray us when comes the trial. Those who sexually abuse or murder someone are often surprised by their own foul deeds. They never thought themselves capable of such crimes even as they entertained lust and hate in their hearts. Purity of the heart is a work of the Cross of Christ applied to the heart of a believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other clinic for the healing of this kind of heart trouble. If we are to counter the wickedness of the world around us, the world within us must be pure.
The Psalmist speaks of vanity. Today we call it pride, meaning self-centeredness. This is the plague of mankind. In small settings like the family, pride divides siblings from each other and parents from their children. In business, self-promotion destroys a company dependent upon teamwork. In politics pride is called fascism and is the thief of liberty. If we are to be the healers in this hurting world, we must be humble before God and man. We must not forget that God resists the proud while giving grace to the humble. The difference between God’s resistance and His assistance is huge and defines the failure or the success of our lives. When the Cross expels the noise of pride from our ears and we can hear Jesus again, we have gained the summit.
The greatest loss of modern and post-modern culture is the loss of truth. When the lie that there is no absolute truth became the only truth recognized as an absolute, all ancient sources of wisdom were thrown on the ash heap. The result is a civilization resting uneasy on shifting sands. The storms will take it down and even before the final storm, it will collapse of its own weight. It takes courage to stand for truth. The one who does will pay a price.
- Lesser minds will consider him dull.
- Nefarious people will accuse him of hidden sins.
- Power structures and the people who run them will seek to crush him.
- Manipulators will seek to eliminate him when they find they cannot control him.
However, when one has met the One who is called the Way, the Truth, and the Life, one must live by and tell the truth to all who will listen.
People of the Mountain
With clean hands, pure hearts, deep humility and a passion for truth, we can regain the summit. We can hear the words of Jesus clearly and live by them. We can become the people who can do something about this chaos. Let the politicians rant. Let the scientists research. Let the leaders lead as best they can. But let us pray,
- pray every day, pray in faith, pray in detail.
- We must pray for the Light, pray against the darkness.
- Let the church pray for the Refiner’s Fire, for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and for signs and wonders to follow us as we walk in the Light as He is in the Light.
- We must pray that we can all clearly hear the words of Jesus on the Mountain.
As People of the Mountain, we can overcome evil with good.
There is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that I find inclusive and effective as a conclusion to a time of prayer.
From the Book of Common Prayer
Show us Your mercy, O Lord; and grant us Your salvation.
Clothe Your ministers with righteousness; let Your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world; for only in You can we live in
safety. Lord, keep this nation under Your care; and guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let Your way be known upon earth; Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten; nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God; and sustain us by Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
What America needs now is a holy Church at prayer.
For a more in depth look at the power of the prayers of the church from the Bible see What the World Needs Now
© 2020 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved