Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Prayer for Barack Obama--originally posted by Dr. Albert Mohler

Our Father, Lord of all creation, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We pray today with a sense of special urgency and responsibility. We come before you to pray for our new President, Barack Obama, and for all those in this new administration who now assume roles of such high responsibility.

We know that you and you alone are sovereign; that you rule over all, and that you alone are able to keep and defend us. We know that our times are in your hands, and that "the king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord" [Proverbs 21:1]. Our confidence is in you and in you alone. We come before you as a people who acknowledge our constant need for your provision, wisdom, and protection.

Father, we pray today for Barack Obama as he takes office as President of the United States. We pray that you will show the glory of your name in our times and in these days, confounding the wisdom of the wise, thwarting the plans of the arrogant, and vindicating those who do justice and practice righteousness.

Father, we pray with thanksgiving for the gift of government and the grace of civic order. Thank you for giving us rulers and for knowing our need for laws and ordered life together. Thank you for this nation and the blessings we know as its citizens. Thank you for freedoms unprecedented in human history. We understand that these freedoms come with unprecedented opportunities.
Lord, we pray with thanksgiving for the joy and celebration reflected on millions of faces who never expected to look to the President of the United States and see a person who looks like themselves.
Father, thank you for preserving this nation to the moment when an African-American citizen will take the oath of office and become our President. Thank you for the hope this has given to so many, the pride emerging in hearts that had known no such hope, and the pride that comes to a people who have experienced such pain at the hands of fellow citizens, simply because of the color of their skin. Father, we rejoice in every elderly face that reflects such long-sought satisfaction and in every young face that expresses such unrestrained joy. May this become an open door for a vision of race and human dignity that reflects your glory in our differences, and not our corruption of your gift.

Father, protect this president, we pray. We pray that you will surround this president and his family, along with all our leaders, with your protection and sustenance. May he be protected from evil acts and evil intentions, and may his family be protected from all evil and harm.
We pray that the Obama family will be drawn together as they move into the White House, and that they will know great joy in their family life. We are thankful for the example Barack and Michelle Obama have set as parents. Father, protect those precious girls in every way -- including the protection of their hearts as they see their father often criticized and as he is away from them on business of state. May their years in the White House bring them all even closer together.

Father, we pray for the safety and security of this nation, even as our new president settles into his role as Commander in Chief. We know that you and you alone can be our defense. We do not place our trust in horses or chariots, and we pray that you will give this president wisdom as he fulfills this vital responsibility.

Father, grant him wisdom in every dimension of his vast responsibility. Grant him wisdom to deal with a global financial crisis and with the swirling complex of vexing problems and challenges at home and abroad. May he inspire this nation to a higher vision for our common life together, to a higher standard of justice, righteousness, unity, and the tasks of citizenship.
Father, we pray that you will change this president's heart and mind on issues of urgent concern. We are so thankful for his gifts and talents, for his intellect and power of influence.
Father, bend his heart to see the dignity and sanctity of every single human life, from the moment of conception until natural death. Father, lead him to see abortion, not as a matter of misconstrued rights, but as a murderous violation of the right to life. May he come to see every aborted life as a violation of human dignity and every abortion as an abhorrent blight upon this nation's moral witness. May he pledge himself to protect every human life at every stage of development. He has declared himself as an energetic defender of abortion rights, and we fear that his election will lead directly to the deaths of countless unborn human beings. Protect us from this unspeakable evil, we pray. Most urgently, we pray that you will bring the reign of abortion to an end, even as you are the defender of the defenseless.

Father, may this new president see that human dignity is undermined when human embryos are destroyed in the name of medical progress, and may he see marriage as an institution that is vital to the very survival of civilization. May he protect all that is right and good. Father, change his heart where it must be changed, and give him resolve where his heart is right before you.
Father, when we face hard days ahead -- when we find ourselves required by conscience to oppose this president within the bounds of our roles as citizens -- may we be granted your guidance to do so with a proper spirit, with a proper demeanor, and with persuasive arguments. May we learn anew how to confront without demonizing, and to oppose without abandoning hope.

Father, we are aware that our future is in your hands, and we are fully aware that you and you alone will judge the nations. Much responsibility is now invested in President Barack Obama, and much will be required. May we, as Christian citizens, also fulfill what you would require of us. Even as we pray for you to protect this president and change his heart, we also pray that your church will be protected and that you will conform our hearts to your perfect will.

Father, we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, the ever-reigning once and future King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He and he alone can save, and his kingdom is forever. Above all, may your great name be praised. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Righteous Problem

Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once, Suppose ten (righteous men) are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:32)

In Genesis 18, we have an amazing dialogue between Abraham and the Lord God. God decides to speak of his plan to destroy the city of Sodom due to its wickedness. And as is the case with us today, Abraham had a hard time finding justice in the wrath of God. It might have been difficult for him to believe that a Holy, loving God would do such a thing. So he bargains with God. Sound familiar? He begins by being honest before God. He says quite boldly, "Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the bargaining continues.

Abraham was wanting God to withhold his wrath if he were to find but fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom. God agreed. Abraham then asked the same for forty-five righteous people. God agreed. Then the bargaining continued. Forty? Agreed. Thirty? Agreed. Twenty? Agreed. And finally, the numbered withered down to ten. God agreed.

One very distinct question rises out of this dialogue for me. Why did God continue to entertain Abraham's questioning? Why did he endure the questioning as it withered down to one-fifth of the initial numbering? Same question. Different angle. I believe God had a purpose in doing so.

I believe the answer to that question takes us to the book of Romans. Romans 3:10 says, "As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one who understands; no one seeks for God'." God was tolerating Abraham's questioning not to validate Abraham's point. Rather, God was making a point of his own. There is no one who is righteous. Fifty...forty-five...thirty...twenty...ten. It could have evaporated all the way to zero and still Abraham would have been left searching for answers. The problem wasn't God's inability to look for the remaining righteous. The problem was that there weren't any righteous people to be found.

When we think of God's judgment, we must be careful not to fall into the same trap that had caught Abraham. We must be careful not to think of God as not being just or righteous in his judgements. If we do fall into this trap, it means that we have forgotten two very important things. First, we have forgotten the holiness of God. God is holy. And because God is holy, he must punish sin. If God were able to tolerate sin, he wouldn't be God at all. His love for us wouldn't be pure. Even more, he would be unable to save us from our sin. Second, we have forgotten the depths of our own sin. Our unworthiness. Our rebelliousness. Our inability to reconcile the problem of our own unrighteousness--for there is no one who is righteous.

This should lead us all to an absolute adoration of the gospel message. Romans 5:8 explains, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Each time a repentant sinner receives the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in faith, God does not destroy Sodom--figuratively--for we all deserve the wrath of God because there is no one righteous. But, the punishment was still given. It just didn't fall on the repentant sinner. Rather, God's wrath fell upon his son--Jesus Christ. This is what is meant by, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

God's love and holiness cannot be fully understood unless we are willing to acknowledge our own righteous problem.