America’s Greatest Asset to the WorldSeptember 12, 2013
Americans see the recent Syrian conflict as another symptom to the growing trouble in the world. The use of illicit drugs and the nonmedical use of prescription medications is increasing. There’s a growing popularity of marijuana use among younger Americans. The number of cases of school violence is progressively growing. Bible-believing Christians understand that “perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). But how should Christians respond? What’s the solution to fixing the problems of the world?
Some argue that the solution is political. Russia has asked President Obama and congress to seriously pursue peace in the Syrian Conflict. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said if the US acts militarily, it can expect an equal reaction. Yet, others are saying that the solution to the world’s problems is economical. Since the economic breakdown of 2008, the world economy has struggled to recover. Thus, some say we need to fix the economy if we want to improve the overall world situation. A few say the problems of the world have a moral basis. Accordingly, the issue with Syria may be seen as a moral issue. The US has blamed President Assad's forces of killing over 1,000 people in a poison-gas attack on August 21 near Damascus. While some reports say Assad was not personally behind the attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry has described the Syrian chemical attacks a “moral obscenity.”
Moreover, throughout the Bible God says the solutions to a nation’s or world’s problems are the changed lives and prayers of God’s people. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul encourages the people to pray for their nation and their leaders.
We are to pray for international concerns (v. 1, “all men”). The phrase “all men” refers to people without distinction of race, nationality, or social position. Pope Francis has asked people to pray for Syria. He has said, “Violence and war are never the way to peace!” More than 70,000 gathered at St. Peter’s Square as the pope led a mass prayer vigil Saturday night, September 7.
There are seven nouns for prayer in the Bible, and Paul used four of them in First Timothy 2. “Supplications” are petitions offered for certain needs. “Prayers” is a general word that carries the thought of reverence in prayer. “Intercessions” refer to pleading in the interest of others. The expression “giving of thanks” points to the spirit in which the prayers are to be offered.
Christians are also exhorted to pray for national concerns (v. 2, “kings and all that are in authority”). We find the Jews praying for governmental authorities in Ezra (6:9-10; 7:27-28; 9:6-9). The purpose of such national prayer is stated to be twofold. One, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life.” The indication is that national prayer will bring about a life free from outward disturbance and inward distractions. Sadly, the lives of some Christians and others have disquieted our land and brought distress to the world. Two, Christians are to live lives of “godliness and honesty.” Christians must live a devoted life before God and a respectful life before others.
Christians must pray because of God’s concern. It is God’s desire for all to be saved. Although the Syrian gas attack is troubling, God has used the occasion to bring people to himself. Christians reaching out to Syrian refugees have found people who are hungry for the gospel. Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Thus, praying for the lost is “good and acceptable in the sight of God” (2 Tim. 2:3). Christians are to pray that during such tragic times, God will speak to people’s hearts. In Romans 3 Paul said God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles. Further, there is only one way to God. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way” (Jn. 14:6). Christ gave himself voluntarily for the salvation of all people.
America and the world has many ills. There are economic, political and moral ills. However, throughout history the greatest characteristic that has set America apart is her dependence upon God. In fact, such dependence is expressed in our motto and on our currency — “In God We Trust.” Thus, the greatest thing Americans can do for the world is to recognize our dependence on God in prayer.
- Jeffrey L. Cockrell, PhD
Instructor of Biblical Studies