A few days ago, we hosted the Heartland Prayer Summit 2 in Ferguson, Mo. It was an amazing experience. No doubt the Lord heard men and women of God calling out in faith.
Now history records the brokenness of our culture. Ferguson is permanently scarred. However, our God remains faithful to His people. He is the hope for change and restoration. Our priority is to draw near to Him.
One of the facilitators for the prayer summit is Bill Elliff. In response to the tragedy in Ferguson, he wrote the following challenge that is worthy of repeating:
“Ferguson is a microcosmic picture of our nation and a sister city that is in need of our deliberate, intense concern and prayers. What is happening there could happen in your city or mine in a heartbeat. Ferguson is not creating something—it’s revealing something.
One of the most encouraging things to see in Ferguson is the uniting of many pastors and churches in prayer. God is moving in this city in the midst of incredible difficulty.
If we are not careful, we will misinterpret what is happening. We should be like the men of Issachar who understood the times so they might know what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Could it be that God desires to use these moments to tell us something important about our nation and our needs? Could this moment serve as God’s call to move to a new dimension of extraordinary prayer and intense repentance?
Could this be the precursor to revival?
In that light, here are five prayerful, biblical steps to take in response to what is happening.
Response #1: GRIEVE
A life has been lost in Ferguson, a family has been shattered, a police officer’s life has been forever changed, racial tension is exploding, anger is evident, businesses are being hurt, evil men are using this moment as an avenue to spread anarchy … and the list goes on. All of these things are tragic. If we are calloused, this will be passed over as background noise of normal American life.
But sensitive believers with spiritual eyes will look more closely and feel more deeply about all of this. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” was the report that came to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:3 NASB). His legs went out from under him and he “sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (v. 4). Our hearts should break for the condition of our society and the spiritual diseases it represents.
Response #2: HUMBLY LISTEN
Last night, as I listened to the report from the grand jury, the presenter continually mentioned that we must get together and talk so this never happens again. When pressed, he obviously had no answers to why this was happening or what should be done.
Believers DO have answers. But most of us do not understand the depth and pain of racism. If you are Caucasian, you should take this moment to get with some African-American believers and ask them how they are honestly feeling about this and why.
You may be shocked at their response and how differently they might be perceiving what is happening based on the level of hurt they’ve gone through in their life. And I promise you, they have gone through injustice and pain simply because of the color of their skin. Racism is still more rampant than we understand. And Jesus Christ is still the answer.
Nehemiah was willing to go to the king and offer himself as a tool to be used as God’s answer to the problem. You must be willing to do the same. It begins by humble conversations with those in your city.
If we are foolish, we will take sides. If we are biblical, we will evaluate clearly but take God’s side and intercede for all who are being affected on every side. And we will take up our battle gear against the Enemy and his agenda. Satan loves moments like this.
Response #3: REPENT
God doesn’t have optional responses. He has the right response to every issue. His call to us when sin is uncovered in our hearts, churches, and cities is to repent. We must have a godly sorrow that is so deep it leads to a turning in attitude and action.
There is plenty to repent of in Ferguson and in the city in which you live! When Nehemiah heard of the broken walls and burned gates in his city, he began to confess sin. “I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You” (vv. 6-7).
Take time today to cry out to God and confess both your sins and the sins of our land. This is a non-negotiable component for healing. And if we will repent, God will hear and forgive.
Response #4: UNITE IN EXTRAORDINARY PRAYER
The pastors in Ferguson told us last week of extraordinary moments of prayer that have occurred in their city. What if we joined them? What would happen if one million believers across our nation spent the next days in prayer and fasting on behalf of Ferguson and the needs of our nation?
What if it galvanized us to a tidal wave of prayer? What if God in His sovereignty desired to use such a moment to bring us to our knees in repentance and prayer, for the ultimate purpose of bringing the blessing of revival and awakening to this city and our nation?
And what if we did not stop praying until God came in power? Nehemiah prayed for four months “day and night” (v. 6). If we long for the miraculous intervention Nehemiah saw in his day, we must do the same.
Response #5: BELIEVE!
When Nehemiah prayed, he did not begin with the sin or the response. Look at his first words in prayer:
I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned” (Nehemiah 1:5-6).
Nehemiah’s prayers were believing prayers, based on the nature of God and the promises of God. He saw God as …
The LORD God
The God of heaven
The great and awesome God
The covenant-keeping God
The God of lovingkindness
The God who is attentive to our prayers
The God who will forgive and heal our land
Our prayers for Ferguson and our nation must not be wimpish wishes, but bold prayers to the sovereign God who can do anything. Approach His throne in prayer, like Nehemiah did. We must believe that God can turn this moment to bring healing and revival. Has He not promised it?
He has promised that if “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“Submit therefore to God…. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded…. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:7-10).
Ferguson could be the catalyst to lead to national healing … if God’s people will respond rightly!”