Today’s headlines are driving me frequently to deeper and more desperate prayer. Many of us probably whisper something like “God help them” when we see a tragedy reported on the news. But I’m not primarily referring to headlines about a natural disaster, or a rare, heinous crime by an isolated, evil person. The headlines driving me to deeper prayer are those that reveal a declining morality in our culture that seems more and more widely accepted.
My main dose of these daily headlines usually comes in the early morning while I’m exercising in front of the TV. As I flip from one news channel to another, I more and more regularly see behaviors and lifestyles and decisions that would have been considered shameful or scandalous a generation ago. Now they are reported as progressive, or even normal. And the proud spokespeople for many of these decadent trends are interviewed by often adoring news anchors, as if they were the civil rights voices of today.
I often find myself asking “Help them, help us, help me.”
Unrestricted freedom of individual choice, preference, and expression seem to have become idols in American culture today. Just this past week, a story and its follow up interview so shocked and deflated me that I moaned out loud, “Oh God, help them!”
“Help them to see the deception they have bought into, and the damage they are doing, and the long-term consequences of the sinful lifestyle they are advocating, both to themselves and to others. Convict them of sin, God, and show them the same mercy and grace that you show me when you convict me of my sin.”
But as the disturbing interview went on, I also found my prayer deepening. “Yes, God, help them, but also help us! Your gospel had no voice in that headline, and your church had no spokesperson in that panel discussion. Interviewer and interviewee alike just presented that issue totally void of biblical perspective or truth. God, don’t let that happen! Don’t let millions of viewers gradually learn to accept that position as true and normative. Give your truth a voice through your people!”
The story passed, and I don’t know what was on the screen next, because my prayer was driven even deeper. “Yes God, help them, and help us. But oh God, help me too! My voice is so silent. My life is so impotent. My efforts to carry the truth of your word and the power of your gospel are so weak. I’m going to go to the office in a few minutes to answer some e-mails, sit in some meetings, and move some projects along. But what will I have personally done to make any difference in the cultural decline I have just witnessed?”
My feeling of powerlessness was frustrating. And that frustration made me angry. I found myself wanting to pray for God’s righteous judgment to simply fall upon these people, and upon our land if necessary, and make it all right again.
But I’ve learned to be careful, even fearful, about calling for God’s judgment. I am too often deserving of it myself. And when I was most deserving of it, when I was still a sinner by lifestyle and choice, when I was just as far from God as the frustrating people in the headlines, that’s when God in Christ reached out to me in mercy, and with conviction and grace and forgiveness. And he still does that today.
So I am meeting the morning headlines these days with these three prayers: God, help them. Help us. Help me. I invite you to join me in these prayers.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.