Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Worldly and Ungodly Prayers for Peace

I admit that I am frustrated.  For several weeks I have endured calls for corporate prayer for peace in the Middle East.  In searching through Scripture I can find no precedence for this behavior.  No where do I find the Apostles, the Disciples or Christ himself praying for peace between and among unbelievers.  From whence does this call originate?

Our prayers reveal what is happening in our hearts.  Those things that we desire and yet are incapable of attaining in and of ourselves, we naturally reach out to that higher power we choose to believe in and request assistance there.  We do not pray for those things we do not think about.  We do not pray for those things we care not for.  And while the call for corporate prayer more accurately reflects the heart of the leader, there is an acquiescence implied in the ability to call for the same prayer week after week without challenge.

So, I conclude that some have it heavy on their heart that people in the Middle East would stop shooting each other.  Remarkably, however, these same people have never displayed the same passion that those people living and dying in the Gaza Strip would come to receive salvation through faith in Christ.  Remarkably, a concern and heart for peace between God and the people in the Middle East is absent.  This is a worldly and ungodly prayer.

OK, so you might think me extreme?  How can praying for peace in the Middle East be worldly?  How can it be ungodly?  I’ll take both these challenges (perceived and anticipated I grant you) in turn.

First and foremost is worldliness.  Worldliness is that which the world embraces, nourishes, encourages and produces.  We are surrounded by worldly religions which produce prayers for peace.  Islam prays for peace (at least a good deal of Muslims claim to pray for peace).  Mormonism prays for peace.  Hinduism prays for peace.  Buddhism prays for peace.  Apostate churches pray for peace.  The most ungodly reprobate hedonistic Hollywood moguls and players pray for peace.  To pray for peace between men is so common as to be blasé.  I suspect that next to war and death Satan himself enjoys a good worldly call for peace.

There are those who will exclaim  “What’s wrong with peace?  Doesn't God want us to live in peace with one another?  Wasn't the advent of Christ accompanied by Angels singing from on high “Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men?”

I propose that God isn't interested in peace between men.  Not as most understand it.  God is interested in peace between Himself and those He has chosen from before time.  This was why Christ died for us.  Romans 5:1  The peace pronounced at the birth of Christ was limited to those who please God.  Luke 2:14  War is the natural consequence of sin.  Because sin is not eradicated before the second coming of Christ, there will be war.  To suggest the possibility of something else is to suggest that Christ’s second coming is unnecessary.  But what of particular peace?  Isn’t it true that God blessed Israel with times of peace?  II Chronicles 14:7  Yes, absolutely!  But the distinction is that Israel was the chosen people of God who enjoyed a specific and particular covenant with God.  They were promised peace if they followed God.  But they were promised war and pestilence and captivity if they forgot God.  Someone who would pray for Israel would rightly start out praying that Israel would remember her God and return to the Law and seek after God.  The answer to that prayer would assure peace.  However, when I listen carefully the call for repentance among Palestinians who would kill every living Israelite is nowhere heard.  When I listen carefully there is no call for repentance among Israelites either, or among Americans, or among terrorist, fascists, communists, socialist, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or Christians.  Repentance is left out of those prayers.  And so, isn't it natural that God sends wars?  No, I'm not suggesting that we as non-Israelites are under that same promise-consequence covenant.  But I am suggesting that God has repeatedly sent war on those nations and people who forgot God.  If the people repented, peace would be a natural consequent, an inevitable result.  Why don’t we pray for that first?  The answer is in part because of the second accusation – they are ungodly prayers.

Having determined that the world prays for peace because it wishes to avoid repentance which naturally brings peace, we can look at why the prayer is ungodly.  The prayer of the ungodly seeks to avoid God’s will.  It changes and alters God’s will.  God’s will determines particular war, the most horrific, the most damning, the most inhuman war to ever occur is yet in the future and is determined, set out, and ultimately determined by a conquering God who makes Islamic jihad look like child’s play.  God’s will also allows particular war.  God is sovereign and He has set about natural consequences for disobeying His will.  When nations sin, war is a consequence.  When we seek to avoid the consequence without changing what brought about the consequence, we are in fact, seeking to avoid God’s will and natural order.  The empty prayer for peace without repentance is an ungodly prayer because it worships peace above God’s will.

And so I am frustrated.  When will we as Christians stop loving the World?  We are not to love the World – that includes the world’s love affair with peace without God.  Christ in his final hours refused to pray for the people in the world who were not Christians or who weren’t going to be Christians.  He doesn’t pray for world peace.   John 17:9  When we pray for the world and peace among and between men without first praying for God’s will, for repentance, for His glory, we are not praying for His will.  We are praying an ungodly and worldly prayer.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

We are to pray for all people, for kings and for those in authority – that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.  But the focus is on how we lead our lives and it includes a call to repentance and Godliness.  The prayer isn't beyond salvage – but it will take a lot to make it meaningful.

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