The 4th of July presents Christians with one of any number of temptations. Some of us will make too much of our earthly citizenship as Americans. Others, perhaps in response to the uncareful wedding of God and country, will make too little of our earthly citizenship, or even despise it. Many of us aren’t exactly sure how to think about our earthly citizenship as it relates to our ultimate citizenship which is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
From a desire to channel patriotic energy and to stimulate a proper thankfulness to God and dependence upon him, this is the prayer we prayed on July 3 at Desert Springs Church.
There’s much to thank you for this morning. As the nation around us celebrates the birth of this nation, we are reminded to pray for this nation, both in thankfulness and in supplication.
Father, we thank you for nations.
It is good that ours is not a world of individuals but a world of neighborhoods and cities and nations. The glory of your image in human beings is seen for all of its beauty in this world’s many peoples in this world’s many places. Nations are a part of this and we thank you for them.
But not only do the world’s many nations display your beauty, they also hold back our sin. We think of how nations got their start, after the incident at Babel where we as humankind gathered into one place to build a tower into the sky to make a name for ourselves. You commanded us to fill the earth, but we wanted only to exalt ourselves. And for this reason you spread us out so that our pride might not be so powerfully and dangerously concentrated.
Nations are a good thing, and we thank you for nations.
We also thank you for our nation.
We thank you for this nation, in particular. So much is so right even in a place where so much is so wrong. We are grateful to live in a place that acknowledges in its structure that each human being’s most basic rights are not from government but from the Creator.
We are grateful, as well, for another recognition of our shared creatureliness: protections for conscience and free exercise of the things we deeply believe. We are grateful for this not just because the state should not dictate any person’s faith, or even for our freedom to worship and live before you as you require, but so that the gospel may be freely believed and, yes, even freely rejected.
Father, we pray that the flourishing these freedoms help create would not be merely enjoyed by us but would be employed in the spreading of the gospel. We pray, also, that so many sinister Satanic plots to hurt and to destroy human beings would themselves be destroyed; plots from within in through laws that approve and protect the killing of the unborn, for example, and in plots from without, military threats from abroad. We pray for our leaders, for wisdom to perceive the times righteous, and for righteousness for righteous decisions in difficult times.
We thank you for our nation.
Finally, we thank you for the only holy nation, your church.
Your church, about and to whom Peter wrote, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We aren’t singing songs today about God and country, but about Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and the church—for this is not a gathering of Americans but a gathering of men and women from every tribe and language and nation purchased for heaven and purchased for holiness.
Heaven indeed is where we belong. But while we do not ultimately belong here, we do belong here for now. So while we’re here, make us to be excellent earthly citizens, the best that our nation could know; make us indispensable to the formation of our very best laws and to the installment of our very best leaders, to the care of foster children and orphans, to a spirit of willing submission to our earthly authorities, and yes in faithful citizenship to prudent opposition to every earthly authority which grasps at authority that is not theirs, but yours alone. May our commitment to our heavenly citizenship make us better citizens for the time that we are here—because nations are nations of people, and every person is made in your image.
Your church appears weak in this age, but from the angle of eternity your church is being built even when it appears to be cut down; the gates of hell cannot stand against your church because she is yours. And for this we are the most thankful of all.
It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray these things and for the sake of his eternal kingdom,