I received a call to prayer recently that began with this quotation: “The condition of society is the report card of the church.”
It’s a stirring statement, and certainly it’s good when we pray. The first few verses of I Timothy 2 call us to pray for all, including those who are in authority, so we can live godly and peaceable lives.
But I’ve really been taking it seriously that we may be doing our arithmetic wrong when we put some of these statements together. We add this scripture to that and come to a conclusion, but does it look like the life of Jesus as recorded in the four gospels or like the life of the early church recorded in Acts?
I have heard many people say the church gets the government it deserves. Did John the baptist? Did Jesus? Did James, Peter, and Paul?
Jesus taught us how to pray. Many of us have learned to use the Lord’s prayer as an outline. But I wonder sometimes if we simply hang the agenda of our chosen political party on Jesus’ outline and end up with a prayer that He wasn’t trying to teach us to pray.
Jesus wasn’t in a political party, and He didn’t allow Himself to be captivated by the issues that captured the imaginations of the people of His day. That’s where He lived; but where do we live?
I’m not sure the church deserves the Democrats or the Republicans, though I’m mean enough to suspect they deserve each other while I’m also charitable enough to believe there are a few very Spirit-led people in both parties. I know; you’re thinking, “How could anyone Spirit-led be a _________?” And the answer is that God is sure to have placed His people in both parties to be a voice and a witness for Him, even if they find themselves outvoted again and again. Joseph was drafted into Pharaoh’s party; Daniel served in Nebuchadnezzar’s. These were godly men in ungodly empires.
But I wonder what new things God might speak to people in either party. Does He have any new ideas? Does He have any wisdom about how to govern a diverse population in the information age? I’m sure He does. Whenever I pray for our government, I pray for God to infiltrate both parties so our voters will be able to choose between two godly candidates in every election.
Beyond that, prayer really does change things. I may not be convinced that society is a report card for the church, but I am convinced that God answers prayer. Jesus said so again and again; He told us to ask, and then to expect to receive.
Years ago I heard a story of a godly man who was dying of cancer. Jesus walked into his bedroom late one night and talked to him for several minutes. The preacher who told the story was able to quote only one thing Jesus told the man: “It wasn’t My will for Cuba to become Communist, but My people allowed it.” Then the preacher added this remark: “I think the vision of Jesus may have been genuine; the dying man was instantly healed of his cancer.”
If I take issue with the statement that society is the church’s report card, it’s only because the statement seems to engender condemnation. The blood of Jesus cries out for our cleansing and forgiveness; we can’t allow condemnation to drive us. But let’s heed the call to prayer; it came from the mouth of Jesus Himself.
One believer — man, woman, or child — who takes the word of God to heart and prays as Jesus has commanded can bring transformation to a city, a region, or even a nation. Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.