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America Needs to PrayAmerica Needs to Pray
by W. Scott Sager

    I am a proud American and a die-hard Texan. I voted for George W. Bush, and I support the president. I also am a Christian, a minister and a member of the presidential prayer team. But today, I am frustrated, maybe even discouraged.

    One of the very few positives we took as a country from 9/11 was our renewed commitment to seek God in prayer. Mosques, synagogues and churches were filled with parishioners as heartfelt prayers were offered.

    At the center of this turning to God was our president. The service at the National Cathedral and his message to the country still stand as the high point of his administration. On that day of worship, our country was much closer to what our Founders had envisioned than it had been in years.

    Our public servants all asked to be remembered in prayer. They were seeking God’s guidance and had a heartfelt appreciation for the prayers being offered on their behalf. Our nation was seeking the providential guidance of God and the wisdom to follow his path.

    That was nothing radically new for America. Our leaders often have sought guidance from the Lord. George Washington’s prayer, written for the troops to recite at Valley Forge, petitioned God to “look down from heaven in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prostrates myself before Thee.” And it is claimed that Abraham Lincoln even said, “Pray not that God is on our side but that we are on the side of God.”

    Yet something changed during the heat of this past summer in our nation’s capital. Some people attribute the change to partisan maneuvering by both political parties. Others simply explain that the gloves finally came off and that tensions brewing below the surface came boiling to the top. Still others attribute the sudden change to the political spinning that precedes elections. No longer was the Beltway concerned with running the government; everyone was concerned about keeping or gaining a small majority.

    Yet the biggest change has been the Beltway’s attitude toward prayer. Politicians on both sides of the aisle aren’t asking for our prayers as often as they once did.

    The president, who once regularly asked for prayers for guidance and direction, seems to have run out ahead of his faithful prayer supporters in his plans for war with Iraq.

    Prayers for guidance have been dislodged by other urgent pursuits.

    This is no time to be striking out on our own without first calling the country to pray for guidance. The stakes are too high, the outcome is too unsure, and the political fallout is far too messy to go ahead without first seeking God’s guidance.

    Thousands of soldiers’ lives and families hang in the balance and hundreds of thousands of civilians for several nations will be caught in the crossfire. Billions of dollars will be spent and untold man-hours will be devoted to executing a war plan that hasn’t been prayed through by prayerful Americans.

    Isn’t it possible that God could open up a better way for us?

    I will be saddened when the nation is called to pray for American success in a war for which we never sought God’s guidance and protection before entering. We all will pray earnestly for God’s blessing upon America’s troops. But deep inside I still will be wondering what might have been different if the nation’s prayerful Jews, Muslims, and Christians had spent even a week in focused prayer.

    Before America hits Iraq, we ought to hit our knees. Before we engage in a military struggle, we ought to engage in a spiritual one. Before we follow through with our plans, we ought to ask that God lead us to his. The real mettle of a country comes in doing the hard work of praying it through.

      © Copyright 2002, W. Scott Sager, the senior minister of the Preston Road Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas.

      Title: "America Needs to Pray"
      Author: W. Scott Sager
      Publication Date: October 23, 2002

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