"Asking God To Forgive Our Sin And Heal Our Land"
By Lois J. Stucky
A clear-cut call was issued to Christians across America: "We are at a crossroads. America is losing its soul...Our nation is disintegrating at an alarming pace. Our future is in the balance.
"But there is hope for the believer," continued the call issued by Bill and Vonette Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., "there is hope through prayer and seeking God's face. In spite of our sin, we are confident that God wants to spare our nation, and we believe that He is going to send a great spiritual awakening to North America and the world...However, before God releases His revival power, the Holy Spirit will call millions of God's people to repent, fast and pray in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14. Believers everywhere must catch the vision. Will you answer God's call to action?"
Around 4000 Christians from across America and a few from outside the country, gathered in St. Louis, November 14,15 and 16, in response to the call. Above the door of the auditorium where the Fasting & Prayer 96 conferees met, large letters declared the purpose of the gathering: "Asking God To Forgive Our Sin And Heal Our Land."
In the first session on Thursday evening Dr. Paul Cedar urged those of us present, representing Christians of the nation, to heed God's call to humble ourselves in the Biblical way of fasting and prayer. It was a time "to cry out to God, to turn our hearts toward Him, in humble gratitude that by His mercy we have not been consumed and to humbly confess any sin." The confession needed to be personal: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me...(Psalm 139:23). The Bible assures us in 1 John 1:5 and verses following, that God has made provision for forgiveness of sin, so that we may be cleansed and be in a position to intercede effectively for our nation.
Nancy DeMoss reminded us that fasting and prayer can be an abomination to God if not accompanied by repentance. "God pleads with the Bride to repent," she said. "The Church has fornicated with the world. We have accommodated the world rather than asking the world to accommodate itself to Christ. We care more about our reputation than His...Christ is grieved at the Bride which is seduced and defiled by the world. She is in danger of chastisement, in need of repentance. We are either part of the problem or we are an intercessor."
Dr. Bill Bright reminded us that confession is agreeing with God, calling sin sin; then believing Jesus paid the price for our sin and repenting--changing our attitude and our action. "Be filled with the Spirit," he urged, "then we will have power to re-conquer what the enemy has taken from us."
On Friday, from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., there were numerous presenters, each with a specific topic for prayer. After their brief exhortation and/or explanation, we who were gathered in circles of about ten persons, united in prayer according to their suggestions. There were frequent intervals throughout the day when all united in praise and singing to the Lord.
The first topic was leaders and government, from the national to the local levels. We were urged to pray more than to criticize and to covenant to pray daily, especially for our president.
Prayer was asked for military leaders and for troops "in harm's way" as well as for the families of military men, and for revival in every branch of the military.
Our nation's educational system was a topic of prayer. Mention was made of Christian teachers bravely facing issues in public schools, school boards, all the teaching staff, parental involvement, the children and youth, Christian schools from elementary to university.
There was a time of prayer for community leaders. If any nation is to change, it must begin at the local level, not only with prayer but with involvement. We were encouraged to pray and fast on a regular basis for some particular local leader, contacting him or her if the Lord leads, to let them know we are praying.
Ann Wiens from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, shared how a plan developed in the greater Toronto area whereby pages of the phone directory became the basis of prayer by name for over two million families living there. Pastors mobilized members of their congregations to pray for their neighbors. Evangelistic outreach followed prayer.
For a time prayer was focused on the Church. David Bryant of Concerts of Prayer, spoke of "fanning the flame" that is already being kindled across our land. "Pray, prepare, minister for revival," he challenged pastors present. Dave Gibson spoke of the "lost sense of holiness" common in our day among God's people. Holiness should permeate the whole family, he urged, that together they might be "salt and light" in the community. "Purify our hearts; kindle our love" is a needed prayer.
Another speaker, Dr. Luder Whitlock, urged us to maintain doctrinal purity, making God's Word the final authority in our lives. Get sound doctrine for ourselves and then pass it on to the next generation, he said. Ron Bobo quoted John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He stated that the Church must reflect the love of Christ. Walls of partition must be broken down. Wherever racism is a problem, it needs to be put out. "The local church can change society," was the theme of a session led by Dr. John Mathison. He called to our attention that in order to change society, prayer must be the focus of what the Church does. If expectant prayer and unity of purpose are the primary focus in outreach for souls, there will be results. "They [the early Church] continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Dr. Tom Elliff urged us to weep for the churches of America, as Christ wept over Jerusalem. Too many of our churches, he said, are short on the Holy Spirit's conviction on sin, on repentance, and lordship and changed lives. There has come in a casual, careless, carnal way of doing God's work. If we Christians do not warn sinners, their blood will be on our hands!
When it was time to pray for our families, Dennis Rainey stated that the battle for the soul of a nation is fought in its families. The Church will not rise above its families, he said, nor will the culture rise above its families. While an individual Christian cannot change the culture by himself, he can ask God to change him. The "moral meltdown of America" is in great part due to the failure of the family so what can a Christian do to strengthen the family?
Rainey listed prayer points to help the family. Sins hidden between husband and wife need to be confessed, forgiven, forsaken (Jer. 7:9-10). Christians should fulfill their vows by staying married and caring faithfully. Christians should have compassion and courage to fight for marriages and oppose divorce. Husbands should pray daily with their wives. There should be raised up an army of Christians who can serve as marriage and family mentors. Christian families should have God's favor for raising children and give their children a heart for the Great Commission.
Randy Phillips spoke about the husband's need to lead the family spiritually and to examine his goals and be sure that they do not hinder higher goals that have eternal values. Men should not sacrifice the love of wife and family for goals of business or ministry. Vonette Bright spoke on the role of women in the family. She reminded us that God's Word is the textbook of how to regulate the family. Women determine the moral standard of a nation, she said. In the last 40 years, some women have sought to "run things" instead of accepting their responsibility as help meets, she pointed out. They must willingly help husbands to be achievers, to affirm, submit, support, accept and excel as helpers
Dr. Jerry Kirk spoke about sexual purity. Our nation is in danger of becoming an obscene nation, he said. We are losing the war and need to take back the land. Change begins in the heart, he continued. We Christians need to let God search our hearts and reveal anything sinful or weakening. We must commit to purity. Impurity in the father hinders him from being a covering for the family. Pray for purity in the family, the Church, the nation, he requested.
Pastor Phillip Nelson spoke on forgiveness and reconciliation. The secret of prevailing prayer is that estranged relationships be healed, he said. An attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation must begin in the home. Then the homes can become centers of outreach affecting the community, the nation, the world. "The family is universal" Nelson said. In every nation there are families.
Saturday morning sessions presented and prayed for "specialty groups in society." These included education, mass media, medical, business and athletics.
Dr. Michael Little acknowledged that worldly media has
shamefully glorified sin, and has assisted in the moral erosion of our nation.
It has caused a loss of godly regard for human life. Moral taboos have been
lost. Christians need to be provoked to action about this, he emphasized. First
of all, pray! Pray there will be the fear and respect of God in the media. Pray
that media men and women will be saved. Pray for a spiritual awakening in the
music world that will radically alter worldly music produced. Pray that
Christians will use the media to create redemptive purposes.
Bill McCartney spoke about attaining true success in the career world. He urged prayer for balance in the career between God and work; for integrity and not compromising values on the job, holding dear what Christ holds dear; and for men and women of color to be given their rightful place. Concerning the sports world, Dal Shealy urged us to pray that Christian management and athletes will lift up Christ and that there will be freedom to witness and to continue to hold chapels and Bible studies for athletes. Pray that admired athletes who have become Christians will be able to convey to avid fans that "the only real game is the game of life," and we can win through Christ.
Dr. Dennis Kinlaw urged prayer for the youth, pointing out that many revivals of the past have come through young people. "God forgive us," he said to the adult generation present, "for imparting our (selfish) value system to young people rather than Christ's values of laying down our life for the world." He encouraged us to choose a Christian institution and faithfully pray for revival on that campus.
As the conference drew to a close, several others spoke and guided the groups in prayer for personal spiritual growth. In conclusion, Dr. Bill Bright reminded us of Jehoshaphat who faced enemy forces which were much superior to Israel's, but as they relied on God, fasted and prayed, He gave the victory. So we must not become pessimistic about discouraging things we see about us, but pray and believe God.
Bright encouraged us to make a list of people of prominence in the community and nation and to pray for them, that their lives will be transformed. Do not look at them as enemies, but as "potential brothers and sisters in Christ." Many have not been lovingly and effectively approached by a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led person. Indwelt by the Spirit of God, Christians must go, claiming the resources of God to tear down the forces of evil and to tell the Gospel boldly.
Readers friends, please do not lay this report aside before noting prayer points to enhance your prayer and fasting times. Become a more active member of the army of intercessors for our nation and the world! We encourage you to turn now to page 10 for a brief report from the conference on the topic of The Great Commission.