A friend and I recently had a spirited discussion about international politics. Although we share similar ideals about peace and justice, our outlooks could hardly be more different. She is engaged, passionate, and righteously frustrated. She still hopes that governments will make good decisions that will improve the world situation. She quotes Edmund Burke who famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I, on the other hand, sadly confess to being cynical, pessimistic, and resigned. As hard as I try, I see little hope that politics will ever do much to advance the Kingdom of God. I am fond of C.S. Lewis who less famously said, “I can hardly regret having escaped the appalling waste of time and spirit which would have been involved in reading the war news or taking more than an artificial and formal part in conversations about the war. … To strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of the mind.”
After more discussion, my friend and I concluded a far better approach than either of these is prayer. We agreed that political “solutions” are temporary at best. Only Jesus can bring about the lasting peace and justice our world so desperately needs. And He accomplishes this through His church, through His people. That’s why asking God for revival seems like far more strategic than praying certain politicians and policies in and praying other politicians and policies out.
In the meantime, no matter how grim things seem to get, my friend and I reminded each other that God’s hands have never been tied. There is no government so bad that God cannot advance His kingdom in it, through it, or in spite of it.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, hit on these ideas during a talk he gave in Colorado Springs this past weekend. He offered Daniel as an example of someone who lived for God in a consummately pagan culture. He pointed out that Daniel didn’t have a victim mentality. He didn’t rail against the government. He didn’t act like a victim, and he didn’t give in to fear. Instead, he did what Jeremiah the prophet had urged the exiles to do. He sought the peace and prosperity of the city to which God had carried him into exile. He prayed to the LORD for it knowing that if Babylon prospered, he too would prosper (Jeremiah 29:7-8). He maintained personal purity and integrity while treating his leaders with respect and offering godly advice and humble service to them when the opportunities arose.
Kinnaman urged his audience to “cultivate a biblical hope and don’t give in to fear.” We don’t need to panic. We don’t need to throw up our hands in despair, either. If God can work in Babylon, then He can work just about anywhere. There is hope. We are not helpless. Just as Daniel’s prayers accomplished great things in Babylon, our prayers also can accomplish much in our time and culture.
These are very good reminders for me on this eve of the National Day of Prayer (USA). Will you be praying for the peace and prosperity of your city and nation tomorrow? I will. I hope you will, too!