Governor Matt Bevin’s Call to Prayer

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin addressed an assembly of Louisville’s faith leaders earlier this month.  The governor encouraged the ministers to join him in praying for a solution to the serious problems facing the Commonwealth and specifically the violence in the inner city.

I was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, but I’ve read the newspaper reports and watched videos about the event.  Governor Bevin suggested an idea for Christians from all walks of life – and from every community – to form small groups that would walk neighborhoods in West Louisville twice a week, engage people in conversation, and then stop and pray for the residents in their neighborhood.

The governor stated, “There is no single solution. There is no one thing that is going to fix what ails our communities at all. What we proposed today was a single component of many things that need to be done.” He added, “I believe in the power of prayer, I’ve seen it work, and it is something positive we can do.”

It was not surprising that some in the media immediately ridiculed the idea as a shallow suggestion and a religious ploy.   The Bible reminds us that, “Scoffers will come” and make fun of anyone who believes that God can intervene in His world.  No one was mocked more than Jesus, and He encouraged us not to lose heart because of criticism. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:11)

However, it was somewhat surprising that a few local pastors sneered at the Governor’s call to prayer and suggested it reflected a lack of understanding of the real problems facing the inner city.  Even if they believed the governor could have approached it differently, shouldn’t pastors be among the first to extend grace and be “quick to listen and slow to anger”?  (James 1:19)

We have preached for years that prayer should be the first response and not the last resort.  And we’ve repeatedly emphasized the need for a spiritual revival because our problems are problems of the heart.  Now, for the first time in my memory, we have a governor imploring us to pray, yet some pastors’ first reaction was to mock the idea as lacking sensitivity?  That reaction was really disappointing to me — and quite revealing as well.

The Bible contains numerous examples of God dramatically answering the heartfelt petitions of His people.  The prophet Elijah prayed, and it did not rain for three and one-half years. King Hezekiah prayed, and the massive Assyrian army that was poised to attack Jerusalem experienced a deadly virus and the remainder fled in fear. The early church prayed, and Simon Peter was miraculously delivered from prison.  James 5:16 assures us, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Prayer has been a vital part of our nation’s history.  Many times throughout history America’s political leaders have called upon the nation to pray for God’s intervention and favor:

 In 1774, just before the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson drafted a resolution for a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.” 

In 1789 when the Constitutional Convention came to a stalemate, Benjamin Franklin called for the representatives to pray every morning before the day’s business because “God governs in the affairs of men.”  

In 1849, President Zachary Taylor called the nation to prayer over a cholera outbreak.  

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called the nation to pray for the end of the Civil War. 

On June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the allied invasion of Europe and pleaded with a national radio audience,  “And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:  Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.  Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.” 

FDR went on with a lengthy prayer for Divine Intervention at that pivotal moment in World War II.  I doubt many preachers ridiculed or politicians protested FDR’s prayer as being shallow or insensitive.

On Aug. 16, 1945, President Harry Truman declared a day of prayer and thanksgiving as World War II came to an end.

Now, the Governor of Kentucky, an unashamed, courageous Christian, has made a strong appeal for prayer.  He has humbly requested Kentucky’s pastors seek Divine guidance in finding solutions to the problems that grip our cities.  It’s a sad commentary on the secularization of our culture and the liberalization of our churches that he doesn’t immediately garner 100% support.

What disturbs me almost as much as those who mocked the Governor’s proposal is the silence of many Christian leaders in Kentucky’s 6000 churches.  If preachers preach on the power of prayer and claim their churches are houses of prayer how can they not respond enthusiastically to Matt Bevin’s appeal?

The rationale I hear from church leaders is, “We don’t want to “appear political” or, “We don’t want the community to view us as a controversial church.”  You don’t want to appear controversial?  John the Baptist was so controversial he was beheaded.  Jesus was so controversial He got crucified.  Stephen was so controversial he was stoned!  Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”  (Mark 8:38)

Kudos to the many preachers who responded favorably to Governor Bevin’s call to prayer.   May their tribe increase.  This is a time for those of us who believe in the truth of God’s Word and the Lordship of Jesus Christ to be strong and courageous.  People of God from all over our community need to disregard the scoffers and the naysayers and get behind the Governor’s idea.  Walk the block and stop and pray.   When asked what’s going on, engage others in a spiritual conversation and ask them to join you.  Ask others if you can pray for them.   What better way for you to learn about the hurts, needs, and wants of people than for you to take a moment to talk and pray with them!

Folks, we face some horrendous problems.  There are nightly shootings, drug overdoses, fatherless homes, heartbreaking poverty, terroristic violence, racial animosity, political strife and media distrust like never before.  Vance Havner, a vexatious, Baptist preacher once said, “The tragedy of the day is that the situation is desperate, and the saints are not.”

It’s past time for us to cry out to God with a sense of desperation, “Lord we need you.  We have problems we cannot solve alone.  We beg you to intervene and bring harmony to our divided country.  Heal our nation, our state, our cities, O Lord, and begin with me. ‘Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…  a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.’”  (Psalm 51:10 & 17)

The Bible promises, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and PRAY and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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