A Post-Election Prayer

By faith, we have gone behind the curtain.
We have made our voices heard, according to the temperature of our hearts —
Some with a raised fist;
Some with a wavering hope.

We have sifted the relative merits of deeply flawed and difficult candidates.
We have heard the word “Never” said about winners and losers, and
we have learned that only You are equipped to say that word with absolute certainty.
Thank you that the eye of the storm has passed, and we can now begin to put feet to those whispered prayers:  “Thy will be done.”

In the aftermath of a political hurricane, we ask for grace:
To be charitable;
To pray for the winner;
To honor the brother or sister who voted differently;
To advance into the culture — knowing full well that politics is all “downstream”;
To trade litmus tests for conversations with real people;
To renounce our deep desire to say, “I told you so”;
To live in such a way that strong families, strong churches, strong communities, and strong faith will become our First Thing, giving us courage to stand for righteousness.

May our desire to be folded into the number of those nations who are called “blessed” impact the way we practice Mere Christianity, knowing that those who fear You, who hope in Your mercy, and who wait for You are those who will rejoice.

Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.”   (Psalm 33:22)

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This prayer was inspired by the stimulating and insightful conversation between World Magazine’s Warren Cole Smith and Rusty Reno, editor of First Things Magazine in the November 4, 2016 edition of the Listening In podcast.

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Just One Thing: Politics

“The moment one life impinges on another, politics begin.”

Well said, Eugene Peterson (as usual), and certainly Nehemiah learned this lesson repeatedly in his quest to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.  There is no avoiding politics because there is no avoiding power and its use and misuse.  In Nehemiah’s time, the minor officials of the lands surrounding Jerusalem had pulled their strings and ground their axes and the result was a smoking pile of rubble and the loss of all the progress the Israelites had made since King Cyrus had given permission for the first wave of rebuilding to begin.

Sometimes, however, political shenanigans work to positive ends.  Unbeknownst to Nehemiah, letters had been flying back and forth between tattle-tale governors and King Artaxerxes.  When someone finally asked the Israelites on whose authority they were rebuilding their city, their reply was clear and bold:  “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.  We disobeyed Him and were punished with the destruction of our city.  King Cyrus has given us permission to return and rebuild.  Go and search the records, and see for yourself!”

Thus began a scrambling in the royal archives for a certain piece of paper, which, in the providence of God had been preserved.  Not only had Cyrus granted permission for the city of Jerusalem to be reconstituted, but had also set forth the punishment for those who resisted or interfered:  they were to be impaled on a beam from their own house.  Ouch.

Meanwhile, Nehemiah was preparing for his role in God’s redemptive plan by praying for four months, blissfully unaware of the political machinations that were paving the way for a successful meeting with King Artaxerxes, the misguided monarch who had initially issued the stop-work edict.  Thus, the exchange between cup-bearer and king show the pre-work of prayer and politics, working hand-in-hand to bring about the design of God.

In this season of Advent, we celebrate the outcome of Nehemiah’s efforts:  the birth of a Savior, the “Ultimate Nehemiah” who will, one day, preside over the New Jerusalem for all eternity.  The fact that He was raised within an intact Israelite culture is, in part, because of politics. (Without walls, the people would have been absorbed into surrounding cultures.)  The fact that His message was able to travel quickly and safely over Roman roads in a time of relative peace is also, in part, political.

Kathy Keller has summed up this partnership of politics and grace in a single statement:

“God’s people do not need to be powerful culturally or in power politically to be obedient to Him and accomplish His purposes in the world.  All we need to do to join the great sweep of redemptive history is to be faithful to the One who has called us by His own name.”

Amen and Merry Christmas.

(For further study, read Ezra 4:8-21 and 6:2-12 . . . or  join us at Spruce Head Community Church for my Sunday School class on the book of Nehemiah!)