How should we approach the upcoming presidential election?

On our knees, proclaims a chorus of Christian leaders from across the theological spectrum – including two separate groups that are praying for the nation in the final 40 days leading up to Election Day.

“It is imperative that we pray faithfully for the 2012 elections,” says David Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee.

Christians praying in Charlotte, N.C., before the National Democratic Convention

“Our ‘effectual, fervent prayers,’ asking for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven, can and will do much to affect the outcome of this election,”  advises the Capitol Hill Prayer Partners, a group of volunteers that gathers regularly to pray in Washington, D.C.

The Bridge Fellowship in Kernersville, North Carolina, has launched what it calls “Lord, Give us America.” Pastor David McGee says his church is responding to ”the pressure plaguing the United States to turn away from traditional Christian values” and is inviting people around the nation to address ”the moral decline of our country” and pray for God’s guidance how “to solve America’s problems from a Biblical perspective while inspiring people to put their faith in God, not the nation or the 2012 presidential election.”

From the International Center for Spiritual Renewal and its initiative, Cry Out America, Executive Director Dr. Billy Wilson says, “We believe that our trust does not lie in the economy, not in military might and not in politics. Many Christians are lured into thinking that politics are the answer but the one and only answer is Jesus. This nation has strayed from a spirit of freedom and public trust in God. American’s greatest need continues to be their need to know Jesus Christ.”

Prayer on the steps of the Wisconsin state capitol

Echoing Wilson’s call is America's National Prayer Committee website 40 Days of Prayer.  It explains “No one ministry or person is behind this call to 40 days of prayer for our elections,” but that an invitation is being issued by leaders from more than 90 regional and national prayer ministries in the United States. “Our urgent cry is that every believer pray and rally others to pray for this election. Not prayer that seeks to promote or harm a specific candidate, but that cries out to God for His purposes for our nation, that a standard of righteousness be raised again in this land, and revival in the church.”

U.S. troops pray before going on a mission

The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant group, has also declared a “40/40 Prayer Vigil” – 40 days of prayer before the elections.

That initiative consists of 40 days of prayer as well as 40 hours of around-the-clock intercession just before the elections. Participants are asked to “Pray for 40 days, once each day between September 26 and November 4,” as well as to “Pray for 40 hours between 4 p.m. on November 2 and 8 a.m. on November 4.” The vigil’s website offers a free, downloadable prayer guide offering daily thoughts on how to pray

Teens praying at the annual Meet You At the Pole event at high schools nationwide

“The reality," says America's National Prayer Committee Chairman Butts,"is that the spiritual and moral issues facing this nation will not be resolved in the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court. What the United States desperately needs is another Great Awakening! The Church must experience a revival that awakens her to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in her midst. Such a spiritual awakening within the people of God has the power to bring about true cultural transformation in this nation.

"So why pray for the elections? There are a number of compelling

reasons: The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership. This includes those who are vying to become leaders."

Black preachers praying for Barack Obama

“Godly leaders can help slow the erosion of religious liberties in our land," notes Butts. "This can provide an increased window of opportunity for the Church to pray and evangelize.

“According to Scripture, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (Prov. 14:34). The selection of leaders who understand and lead according to God’s righteous standards can bring great blessing to a nation.

“Scripture also says in Proverbs 11:14, ‘For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure.’ The determination of who leads our nation will also determine who advises that leader and how we are guided.”

Students praying in Syracuse, New York

The website PrayerConnect also offers a downloadable prayer guide. It suggests  “Seven Ways to Pray for America.”

First, the guide recommends prayer for America’s churches: “The church is often relegated to the sidelines, considered irrelevant and out of touch. Though we sometimes deserve that critique, God has a completely different perspective on what His people are to be and how we are to function. In Ephesians 3:10, the Apostle Paul writes, ‘His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.’

Thousands praying at the Reliant arena in Houston

“Though seemingly powerless in the eyes of the world, the Church – through righteousness, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit – releases the wisdom of God into any and every culture. Pray today for the church in America, that: ‘Our eyes will be opened to see the hope to which we are called’ (Ephesians 1:18); We will experience in a fresh, new way the Presence of Christ in revival; Believers will be given the faith to believe that their votes will make a difference; and a spirit of repentance and humility will be poured out upon the people of God.”

Prayer and Bible reading at the nation’s Capitol

“This requires an educated electorate who will examine the issues and the candidates and vote in a way that is best for the nation, not just their own well-being. Much prayer is needed for this critical process. Pray today for voters in the United States, that: ‘Wisdom will be sought from God; (James 1:5); Self-interest will be laid aside for the common good; and that discernment between truth and falsehood will be clear.”

Third, the PrayerConnect guide calls for prayer for the candidates: “In the early years of our nation, it was thought to be in bad taste to even be seen wanting an office, much less actually campaigning. Oh, how things have changed! Now candidates for public office, especially at higher levels, put themselves and their families through a rigorous process that brings every aspect of their lives into public view. It has become so intense that many good individuals have chosen not to endure the sort of public scrutiny that is an integral part of the campaigning process today.

Praying inside the Connecticut state capitol

“Praying for candidates does not mean praying just for those you agree with or support. All are leaders and potential leaders in our nation – and as such, all need our prayers.

“Pray,” suggests PrayerConnect, “for candidates for office in the United States, that: They will take brave stands for righteousness, even when it may not be well received; their families will be protected from harm and unnecessary scrutiny;  they will surround themselves with godly advisors; and that they will focus on the issues we face as a nation and not on personal attacks on other candidates.”

Fourth, advises PrayerConnect, Christians should pray for the media: “In our day of 24-hour news coverage, the media have taken on a huge role in our election process. Handling media correctly sometimes seems to take precedence in a campaign over actually dealing with issues. The media themselves often forget their role of informing and reporting and have become endorsers and supporters, even while they try to deny that role. Increased prayer for the media is an essential way for Christians to impact an election.

A prayer vigil at the Arizona state capitol

“Pray today for the media in America, that: Truth in reporting and election coverage will become a high value; media bias will disappear; Christianity will receive fair coverage in all reports; and hope will become a part of the message of the media.”

Fifth, PrayerConnect asks Christians to pray for “The Impact on the Nations.” What is that?

“In our rapidly shrinking world, what happens in one country has an effect on others. This is especially true for the United States. The individuals who hold the presidency and Senate and congressional seats will make decisions that impact the rest of the world. Whether those decisions help or harm the people of the world is largely determined by the choices that Americans make at the polls. We need to pray that our choices will serve to bless the world.

Cleveland, Ohio, kids at a See You at the Pole prayer circle

“Pray today for the election and its impact on the world, that: Voters will consider the foreign policies of candidates and how they fit with biblical principles; the activities of other nations will not have an undue influence on our elections; the result of U.S. elections will serve to spread the gospel around the globe; and the U.S. will stand firm in its commitment to Israel’s right to exist as a nation.

The sixth area in which Christians should pray, says PrayerConnect, is “Spiritual Warfare Surrounding the Elections.”

“Nothing is achieved in the Kingdom of God without warfare. That includes the election of righteous individuals to the leadership of one of the key nations on the planet. As we pray, we must expect the enemy to attack in many ways. There will be attacks on candidates and their families, on the media, the Church, and perhaps the nation itself.

Some will be clearly spiritual, while other attacks may have physical manifestations. Our call is to have great discernment as we pray and stand in the strength of Christ’s victory.

A pro-life prayer service on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court

“Pray today around the spiritual warfare issues involved in the election, such as: Great awareness and discernment for the Lord’s praying people as they pray over the election;  physical protection for all candidates and their families throughout this campaign season; a strong hedge of protection around the nation itself during this time of decision; and the unleashing of the sword of the Spirit throughout the nation, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart, according to Hebrews 4:12.”

And the final and seventh area in which Christians should pray for the election, says PrayerConnect is for “The Purposes of God.”

Youngsters praying at a Miami church

“Ultimately, whatever the area of prayer emphasis, we must always come back to the purposes of God. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). As we pray for something as important as national elections, we must lay down our own desires and take up the desires of God. What we really desire is for the Lord’s purposes to be achieved in and through our nation. All of our requests must be couched in words and thoughts that focus our hearts on the Kingdom of God.

“Pray today for the purposes of God to be accomplished in the U.S. elections: Pray that the U.S. will turn and seek first the Kingdom of God; pray that God will be honored in the midst of this election campaign; pray for opportunities for Christians to share their faith and their values in the midst of this election process; pray that the results of the 2012 elections will please the Lord and release His blessing over this nation.”

Why do so many different groups feel called to pray for America?

A youngster talks with God (Photo by Oscar Mota)

“Five years ago a network of prominent leaders from a broad coalition of ministries formed the Awakening America Alliance,” says Dr. Wilson. “With strong conviction that America was in a devastating spiritual decline, this group of men and women decided that a united, public moment of prayer for awakening was needed across our country.”

“In many ways what happened on September 11, 2001, signaled what would take place in the 21st century. We saw the collapse of things we thought were certain, of things we thought would never fall and we saw an invasion of darkness and fear in our nation that we had never experienced. Some days I wake up and ask myself ‘How in the world did America get in this shape? How did we become this dark in my generation?’ I believe that can change but it can only change if the people of God unite in prayer.”

Prayer is vital. So, is an understanding of “where candidates stand on issues of mercy and justice in our world,” says a group of 3,600 Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Mercy, which has published a downloadable, free, 16-page, non-partisan guide, U.S. Elections 2012, designed to promote prayer and public discourse about the election. Their focus is on “matters relevant to Earth, immigration, nonviolence, racism and women.”

“I am continually taken back by the great presence of the Lord that sweeps in upon us as we join our hands and hearts, cross denominational lines, and cry out to God for mercy and pardon for America,” says  spokesperson Judy Seifert, who is affiliated with the Church of God Prayer Leader’s Network and Youth For Christ. “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of calling America to prayer, at such a time as this.

“While things appear bleak for our nation, we must stop and remember the scriptures that remind us, to see the whole matter, you have to examine things from God’s point of view. When we look behind the public scenes, and look at what God’s people are doing, it’s only then, that we see the vast moving of His hand at work in our behalf. And His hand is moving mightily in opening large venues of prayer throughout our nation.

“When God’s people pray, God moves! Our sin has caused judgments to fall upon us as a nation.

But we have hope in the goodness of our Lord. For His great name’s sake, God always extends opportunity to repent and return to Him.”

“‘If’ my people who are called by my name….’ What a resounding, yet conditional message from God to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7,” says the group’s Texas state coordinator, Oni Roberts. “It reminds us, the church, to come humbly before Him, to repent and turn from apathy and compromise. Then He will hear us and heal our land.

“We, the church, have a responsibility to God, to America, to our founding fathers, and the next generation to take these words from God seriously.

“I am committed to pray according to the mandates of the Lord in 2 Chronicles believing that God will honor His Word and ignite a spiritual awakening in America.

“Will you pray?”

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