CALL TO PRAYER: For the generations ahead
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press is carrying columns during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs in petitioning the Father for spiritual awakening.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- In three short years, my wife and I have moved from no grandchildren to five grandchildren. Talk about a whirlwind of change!
The world into which these precious little ones were born is also experiencing a whirlwind of change. This year alone has witnessed a juggernaut of sweeping cultural turmoil.
The book of Judges closes with this telling observation: "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
As it was in the days of the Judges in Israel, so it is in the days of the Judges in the United States. The decision of five U.S. Supreme Court judges on June 26 was a tipping point for our nation. In overturning the law of the land, the Defense of Marriage Act, it codified the frigid moral climate of our nation. It called good evil and evil good. It opened the door for everyone to do what is right in his or her own eyes!
It will be increasingly difficult for our children and our children's children to withstand the onslaught of this cultural revolution. When I visit my grandchildren and view the pictures their parents keep in steady supply, my heart is stirred with deep emotion. How I love my grandchildren and long for them to become champions for Christ ... no matter the cost!
No matter the cost? What if the cost is their being marginalized as second-class citizens? What if the cost is restricted educational and employment opportunities because of their commitment to the full Lordship of Jesus Christ? What if the cost is even higher?
Having ministered in several Eastern European countries since the Iron Curtain came crashing down, I have seen first-hand many young adults having their options curtailed because of their faith. Many of their parents and grandparents had been imprisoned and even killed because of their refusal to compromise their Christian convictions.
Walking through the propaganda timeline in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland was a sobering experience. In the lead-up to the Holocaust, the German news media systematically and incrementally demonized the Jews until they became the pariahs of society. Over the past few decades, I have watched with increasing concern in our own country as the media have incrementally and systematically demonized evangelical Christians.
My generation of American Christians has not had to suffer for the cause of Christ to any significant degree. However, it is very likely that our children and our children's children will bear the brunt of the full wrath of a society that has forgotten God. I would much rather be the generation that suffered in order to provide for a better future for my grandchildren; but it appears that just the opposite will be the case ... unless we see a massive spiritual awakening that stirs our nation once again.
How, then, do we pray for our children and our children's children?
First and foremost, we pray for their salvation.
One of the distinctive marks of Christian faith is that each generation, each person, must make his or her own confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. There is no such thing as a default Christ-follower. The Apostle John reminded us that we are born again "not of blood [human lineage], nor of the will of the flesh [human ability], nor of the will of man [human volition], but of God" (John 1:12). We must herald forth the Gospel of Christ to our own children in order that they may respond to Jesus Christ in repentance and genuine faith. To this end we pray.
Fruit of the Spirit
Second, we pray that they -- and we -- will radiate the fruit of the Spirit.
One of the great verses from Psalms declares, "They looked to Him and were radiant; and their faces were not ashamed" (Psalm 34:5). When the Spirit of Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, He cries out from within us, "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). The government may seek to restrict our worship of Christ in the public square; but there is no law against "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). The radiant presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a surrendered believer is the most compelling visible witness for Christ the world will ever know. To this end we pray.
Whole armor of God
Third, we pray that they -- and we -- will be clothed with the whole armor of God.
The Apostle Paul gave this warning and reminder: "you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand" (Ephesians 6:13). When our mind is covered by the helmet of salvation; when our heart is protected by the breastplate of righteousness; when our waist is girded with truth; when our feet are sandaled with readiness for the Gospel of peace; when we hold the shield of faith and wield the sword of the Spirit -- only then are we prepared for the fiery darts hurled our way. To this end we pray.
Fourth, we do not quit praying for a spiritual awakening in our country and around the world.
Hopefully, we all live in the triumph of Matthew 24:14 -- "This good news of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come." Oh how we so work, long for and pray!
But we must not miss the context. Jesus gave clear warning, reminder and encouragement in the preceding paragraph (verses 9-13): "Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered."
The worldwide mandate to proclaim the Gospel is not framed as something done from beds of ease; it is framed in a path of suffering, persecution and even demonization by the world's system. Should we expect any less for ourselves than that which our Master Himself suffered?
We pray for spiritual awakening. We pray for salvation, strength and courage for ourselves and those we love. We toil on in faithfulness ... until that day! To this end we pray.
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).