"I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made -- for all those in authority..."
-- I Timothy 2:1-2
For as long as I can remember, the B-I-B-L-E with its inexhaustible supply of stories and inspiration has been "the book for me." Thanks to godly parents, my love of the Scriptures had an early start, and thanks to an adult epiphany, much of the Bible became just as literally a book about me.
Thus, in times of need, I might become part of the hungry crowd when Jesus fed more than 5,000 people (Matthew 14:15-21), believing that if Jesus could multiply a small child's lunch to feed so many people, then he could stretch my income to meet expenses, too. Another time, as I barely avoided a nasty fall, the old memory verse, "Unto him who is able to keep you from falling" (Jude 24), became equally as real.
Thus, prior to the recent presidential election, when nearly everyone I knew was praying for a godly leader, I again looked to the Bible for an illustration of both the need and assurance that God would give us just such a man. Yet when I found the story, I was timid about sharing my thoughts with anyone else. Now that I believe the story was, indeed, a precursor of what happened on Nov. 2, my formerly cowardly self is a little braver about making that connection public.
We learn this story in Genesis 18-19, not long after Abraham and his nephew Lot have moved to the land of Canaan which, in due time, God has promised to give to Abraham's "seed." But soon the herds and households of the two men grew too large to dwell together. So Abraham, the more mature, offered Lot his choice of the land he wanted for his own. Lot, the selfish one, chose the more fertile plain near the established cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Uncle Abraham settled on the higher ground that remained.
Abraham noticed there weren't many altars to God where Lot lived, but he didn't realize the extent of the sin practiced there until God told him he had no choice but to destroy the cities. Otherwise, he said, the whole earth would become as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah. But Abraham, who loved his nephew, began bargaining with God to save the lives of the young man and his family.
"Lord," he began, "if there are 50 righteous people there, will you destroy the cities?"
"No," the Lord said, "If there are 50 righteous people there, I will spare the cities for their sakes."
The bargaining continued, with Abraham decreasing the number -- 45, 40, 30, etc. -- all the way down to 10, and God continuing his promise to spare the cities if even 10 righteous people lived there.
But there were not 10; not even all Lot's family was righteous in God's eyes. In the end, after Lot, his wife and two daughters had time to escape, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
I didn't choose this story because of the nature of the sin God saw in the two cities, but because of Abraham's plea-bargain with the Lord. As the election approached, I imagined myself standing on a hillside overlooking the United States in a similar valley below.
"Lord," I prayed, "if 51 percent of the people in my country follow your principles the best they can, and if that many people are praying for a godly man to serve as their president, will you answer their prayers? Will you forgive us for allowing immorality and materialism to infect our land, and draw our hearts toward you again?
Some may laugh, wonder who elected me judge of the country, and remind me that none of the candidates was perfect, but I'm overwhelmed. At last count, slightly more than 51 percent of those who voted Nov. 2 chose the man they thought more nearly fit the description of a righteous man. At least 50,000 members of the Presidential Prayer Team joined in a virtual prayer meeting on Nov. 1 to "pray the vote," and similar scenes occurred in churches and organizations across the country. Even the news media -- some with mounting alarm -- are crediting the "evangelical" or "moral values" vote for re-electing President Bush.
If my little analogy is anywhere near correct, we praying voters have an awesome responsibility ahead of us. The praying must not stop, the turning from our unwholesome ways must increase, and responsible support for good government must continue across the country from local municipalities to the marble halls of Washington, D.C.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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