Ed: If we are honest, many Evangelicals today are feeling rather disheartened about the state of our country. What’s your take on the current spiritual state of America?
Ronnie: There’s no denying our country is in deep trouble. In fact, we are living through what may turn out to be one of the most crucial moments of our generation. How we handle our gun violence problem, the migration crisis, the unresolved racial tensions in our society, and the epidemic of sexual harassment, among the other ongoing major issues like preserving the sanctity and dignity of human life as well as the challenges to our religious liberty, will have repercussions for generations to come.
Yet I believe the greatest threat America is facing is none of the issues above. It’s disunity. There is a real and powerful spirit of division reigning in America today, and it’s tearing us from the inside.
This is especially true in the church. I’ve seen it happen over and over again throughout my life: as the church goes, so goes America.
The division we are seeing in our country is, to a certain extent, a larger symptom of Christian disunity. Christians have become known more for what they disagree on than the gospel they believe in. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Jesus to his followers, but how are we supposed to be the envoys of peace America needs if we cannot make peace between us?
A divided church cannot call a disconnected and fragmented nation to unity. Unity in America must begin in the church.
Ed: So instead of just living in fear and complaining of what is wrong today, what should Christians in America be doing?
Ronnie: As counterintuitive as it may sound, the first thing every Christian should do is rest —rest in the Lord. Resting in the Lord does not mean lying down; it means trusting in the Lord. Whatever happens in America, we need to remember that our future is not in the hands of the United States government. Our future is in the hands of our Sovereign God.
Ecclesiastes says there is a time for every activity under heaven. Right now is a time to work for peace. Christians must work toward unity in the church. We must overcome all barriers and demolish any lie that sows enmity in the Body of Christ.
We also need to stop fighting over secondary issues and doctrinal differences and unite around the core beliefs we hold as followers of Jesus: the infallible truth of Scripture, salvation in Jesus alone, and the command to take the gospel to every person in America and across the world.
Ed: Why is prayer so hard for us? Are there key scriptures we can draw from as we pray for our country?
Ronnie: One of the great misconceptions about prayer is that it’s meant to be our great, last resort. We don’t make a habit of praying in the space between the good moments in life and the bad ones. This is why, when a tragedy like a natural disaster or a mass shooting happens, unbelievers — and even some believers — conclude that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough.
Prayer should always be our first response, every day, for every moment of our lives. Earlier I referenced Ecclesiastes 3. Scripture teaches there is a time for everything in life, but you know what Scripture never sets a time for? Prayer.
“Pray without ceasing,” wrote Paul in his first letter to the early believers in Thessalonica. To the believers in Rome he said, “Be constant in prayer.” And to the church in Colossae he instructed to “continue steadfastly in prayer.” There is always a time for prayer.
This National Day of Prayer, we are praying Ephesians 4:3: “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Talking about unity is not enough. We need to pray with conviction for unity in our churches and in America. Doing so will transform our hearts, peel back the layers of the resentment we’ve harbored, and demolish the walls we’ve built in our hearts. Prayer is never inaction. It is our greatest action.
Ed: The National Day of Prayer is coming up. What’s your vision for it, and how can churches get involved?
Ronnie: Last year, an estimated two million Americans observed the National Day of Prayer in over 30,000 events across all 50 states. This year, we are expecting a great movement of God in the heart of the church in America, with millions crying to him in one voice to heal our land. It could be the start of spiritual revival in America.
Every church in America can participate in the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 3. NationalDayofPrayer.org has a digital toolbox with prayer guides, videos and a platform to create a prayer event and find one near you. These prayer observances can occur in businesses, schools, public arenas, the steps of city hall, and in churches or any place you desire.
Last, everyone can pray individually or close out their prayer observance by praying aloud together our 2018 National Prayer For America. And anyone can watch the National Day of Prayer’s events in D.C. through our Facebook page and website.