"Many a man proclaims his loyalty but who can find a trustworthy man?" - Proverbs 20:6
Recently at "The Response" in Houston, Texas, Tony Evans delivered a powerful six minute message that crystalized the role of pastors and the churches they lead during these tumultuous times. He gestured towards the playing field of Reliant Stadium. He reminded the thousands of people in attendance for the day of prayer and fasting that the arena in which they stood would soon host two opposing teams. These two teams would line up against one another in a quest for dominance on the field of competition. They would be joined by another team, the team of the officials. This third team would carry a rule book provided by the commissioner of the league. The officials could only maintain their integrity by maintaining their objectivity. They were accountable to the commissioner of the league for applying the rules of the game in equal measure to the two opposing teams. If they sided with one team or the other, they would lose their voice as a team of officials. If they did not remain impartial, they would have to answer to the commissioner, and face the consequences for their lack of integrity.
The message was not lost on those who heard what the preacher said that day. The conflicts that are raging in our nation and around the world today will never be settled by pastors and their people siding with one warring faction or the other. The Church, the team of officials, must maintain the prophetic voice of their Commissioner and adhere to The Rule Book.
Pastors should never exchange the prophet's mantle, the shepherd's staff, or the two-edged sword for pom poms. When a pastor or his people take on the role of a cheerleader for a popular person or a particular political party, they violate the covenant of their office, and the mandate of their mission. The influence of the pastor's office does not come from associating with powerful people who are in authority. The power comes from a pastor being a person under Authority.
Jesus extended His highest praise for a Roman Centurion who came to Him requesting healing for his sick servant. Jesus offered to go to the man's home and honor his request. The Centurion said that he was not worthy to have His Presence in his home, nor was it necessary for Jesus to make the trip. He knew instinctively that Jesus needed only to say the word and His will would be done. He was familiar with the chain of command. He gave orders every day, and men carried them out based upon the authority of his Emperor in Rome. He saw in Jesus the same principle of power at work. By submitting Himself to the Authority of God, Jesus tapped into the power of God to transform people into the children of God. Scripture records the Centurion's insightful words, "For I too am a man under authority." - Matthew 8:9
The role of prayer in spiritual awakening is all about keeping the people of God under the Authority of God. Whenever pastors lead their people to believe in other politicians and processes more than they believe in God and the power of prayer, they have forfeited their place in the chain of command. God's word is clear. The rule book states,
"First of all then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that they may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity...Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension."- I Timothy 2:1-8C
Democratic elections have not always been held, and Christians have not always been able to select their own political leaders. They have been commanded to pray for them anyway. Paul told Timothy that God intended for His Church to be known as a source of prayer for and not criticism of "all who are in authority." Christians have not always played for the right team. They have sided with one party or the other and tried to muscle their way onto the stage of history by throwing their weight to one side and then the other. The Church must never forget that their voice comes from God, and His Rule Book is The Authority. His word must be applied equally to those who need God's direction, protection and correction. To do anything less is a gross misuse of power, and tempts God to pull His pastors and His people out of the game and replace them with those who serve under His Authority.
Pastors who take their opinions very seriously, but refuse to make prayer a priority need to remember the principle, "What a leader does in moderation, the people will do in excess." A prayerless pastor leads to an opinionated people and a powerless church. It is hard to believe, but people can convince themselves that it is possible to fix their problems without ever fixing their eyes on Jesus. Too often, the people in the pew model what they have seen from the pastors in the pulpit.
Jesus set the bar for anyone facing a crisis and in need of finding the power of God in the middle of it. He went to the Garden to pray on the night before He was crucified. His final words point us to the place that prayer is meant to bring us all...to the end of ourselves and to the beginning of God. The words of Jesus are the GPS for arriving at our correct destination in prayer, "...yet not as I will, but as You will." - Matthew 26:29
The role of prayer in spiritual awakening: It is a wake-up call to the condition of our own hearts. Pride leads to prayerlessness. Prayerlessness leads to carelessness. Carelessness leads to rebelliousness. Whenever anyone or anything becomes more important to us than being under The Authority of God we are in need of a heart transplant and a course correction. Prayer softens the hardness of our heart and replaces it with a willingness to yield to the touch of His Spirit on those areas of our life that have drifted out from under The Authority of His Word and the intimacy of His Presence. Prayer restores a fellowship with Jesus and allows His pastors and His people to hear His voice guiding them back to the place where they left their First Love.
Pray for those who are in authority. They need it and you need the practice. Don't substitute a love for your party, your political celebrity or your country for a love for God's Son. America has no reason to exist without being "One nation under God." We get the kind of nation and the kind of leaders we pray for. Finding yourself in need of a First Love Awakening?...TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
(copyright Gary Miller)