Old Life's 40-Day Prayer Vigil

I read over at the Co-Allies site how the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention are partnering to encourage Christians to pray for 40 days leading up to the U.S. presidential election this coming Fall (September 26th to November 4th). For some reason the link at TGC is dead even though the 40/40 Prayer Vigil link is not. Here is the rationale behind this initiative:

Dear Friend in Christ, we are delighted that you will join us in prayer for spiritual revival and national renewal. Our nation is in need of both. Jesus declared that His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We must become engaged in this battle for our nation’s soul. However, until as Christians we experience revival in our own lives, it will be extremely difficult to restore our nation’s moral foundations.

The battle for our nation’s soul is not just about voting booths. This is first and foremost a spiritual contest. A spiritual battle is being waged
across our nation, and it must be met first of all with spiritual weapons. God’s people must pray for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit on them,
the churches, and the nation. Then, when God has responded with His outpouring, His people will be empowered and motivated to do the hard work of restoring our nation’s moral foundation.

This Prayer Guide will help you join with thousands of other fellow believers to bring these great needs before God. The Guide provides a page for each
day and hour of the 40/40 Prayer Vigil. Each page has everything you need to invest in a time of personal spiritual reflection and petition for yourself, the church, and the nation. Please keep in mind though, that the Guide is just that — a guide. It is designed to give you a starting place for your time of prayer. Here are some suggestions for making your prayer vigil a powerful, personal spiritual time.

I was glad to see that the guide includes more than simply praying for the next president of the United States of America. It does mention that prayers are needed for communities, families, and churches.

But I am still perturbed at the way that evangelicals focus on presidential politics — letting the national election cycle of the one officer voted into office by the general populace set the agenda for American society. The key to turning things around in the U.S. has little to do with the next president or the bloated federal bureaus he or she (apologies to the Baylys) oversees. It even has less to do with ideas (or W-W) and the consequences they have.

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the family in the United States is not doing to well. Marriage rates are down, divorces are up, and there is this pesky little matter of homosexual marriage. Not to be missed is the way that parents are apparently dropping the ball in child rearing. Has anyone heard of bullying? And has anyone considered that the best way to stop bullying is for parents to lay down a little discipline in the home? Meanwhile, state and city governments continue to dump boatloads of money on urban school districts (and their various meal plans) without ever seeming to consider that student learning begins at home. And if the homes of urban youth are not in good shape, how exactly are a couple of square meals and a No-Child-Left-Behind formula going to fix the marriages necessary for children not to flourish but simply get by?

For that reason, Old Life is proposing a forty-day vigil for families. It begins today and goes to June 1, the forty days before the month most associated with marriage. And the first petition for April 23 is to pray that evangelicals and Southern Baptists will wake up about what’s really important in American society. It’s the family, less than intelligent one!

20 thoughts on “Old Life's 40-Day Prayer Vigil

  1. I’m trying to think of a good name for your new organization that pays more attention to families. Zoom in on the Family? Scrutinize the Family? Magnify the Importance of the Family? Look Really Hard at the Family? Uncross Your Eyes When Looking at the Family?

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  2. It seems to me DGH, that everyday citizens of this republic take the presidential elections too serious. This is because, unlike the classical liberal philosophy undergirding our system, modern Americans see the government as the creator of society, good and bad – rather than the modest understanding of what government was seen to be and what for by the enlightment thinkers and subsequently are Founders ideas about civil polity. In this, conservatives – Christian and non-Christian – tend to see government as the fixer of social life even though there own philosophy would warn against this type of thinking historically. A classical liberal would see government useful only when confining itself to the enumerated powers of the Constitution (protecting individual from government) and the punishment of evil doers. Further, the vision of the founders and the documents they wrote would infer government in its totality to be seen as preserving civil order and inalienable rights -NOT the progenrator or creator of a particular cultural idea or norm. That’s my view anyways. But nice post!

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  3. “Focus on the Family” does have a nice ring to it. Maybe Dr. Hart should join up with them?

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  4. David: It seems to me DGH, that everyday citizens of this republic take the presidential elections too serious. This is because, unlike the classical liberal philosophy undergirding our system, modern Americans see the government as the creator of society, good and bad – rather than the modest understanding of what government was seen to be and what for by the enlightment thinkers and subsequently are Founders ideas about civil polity. In this, conservatives – Christian and non-Christian – tend to see government as the fixer of social life even though there own philosophy would warn against this type of thinking historically. A classical liberal would see government useful only when confining itself to the enumerated powers of the Constitution (protecting individual from government) and the punishment of evil doers.

    RS: Some of us see that the office of President has way too much power in our day. The President is the one who has a huge hand in appointing judges across our land, and even to the Supreme Court. Presidents are able to have a huge hand in what is passed into law. Presidents have a large part in what goes on with our national debt. As the economy suffers, which the policies of the sitting President do influence, giving to churches decreases. When the economy suffers, giving to missions and seminaries goes down. When the economy suffers, less books are bought and those non-profit agencies suffer. While it may be true that the classic liberal had one idea of government, the ones in power today have a much different idea. Perhaps too much importance is assigned to it by some, but we shouldn’t just smugly blow this off either (not saying that David did this).

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  5. Presidential politics is entertainment; we are a gluttonous, bloated, entertainment-saturated society. The church is worldly, and so it molds its culture-forming piety to the entertainment cycles of our culture. Not a big surprise. DGH’s post is accurate so far as a description of the symptoms of cultural failure (family is far greater a driver of the culture of 2020 than presidential politics).

    But I score it a rare misfire for DGH, in that the core problem here is theological, not the target of the prayer vigil (I grant him his bloggy sarcasm). Commenters are correct is that if Evangelicals and SBC focus on the family instead of presidential politics, all we’ll get is Focus on the Family (which has been a major player in recent presidential politics).

    The church doesn’t need greater focus on the family, it needs to focus on itself with greater and more profound catechesis, liturgy, family worship, etc. Culture may be transformed by such faithfulness.

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  6. Also, sadly, it is true that in our political system the president (and his influence of the courts) has an outsized significance.

    So far as we pray for our civil magistrates, it is wise to pray that voters would select a president who will select a court that may do a bit here and there to restrain our government on its slide into tyranny.

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  7. Todd, not a soul but a cornerstone–the family. But ironic how the family values crowd isn’t as interested in the the one institution that makes human beings as it is in the halls that merely govern them.

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  8. I don’t know, Brian, if the family really is the cornerstone of society (not the church) then wouldn’t it follow that culture would be more affected by healthy families than obedient churches, even spiritually disobedient families?

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  9. Every time an election season is upon us, it seems that evangelical Christians begin their alarmist hyper-ventilating about how important this election is (often we hear “This is the most important election in the history of our country!!!”). Many Christians seem to think that the sky will fall if Obama gets re-elected, leading to shrill and panicked pronouncements of doom and gloom if we don’t “get out the vote.” As Dr. Hart is urging in this post, we need to re-focus on the things that matter most. Sure, politics has its place, and Christians should seek to be good citizens. These things are significant. But they are not of ultimate significance. The things of eternity are — the very things that the church is concerned with. Imagine if Christians in our country were as deeply concerned with things such as sound doctrine, confessional fidelity, pure worship, proper church order, catechesis and the reformation of the church and the family in America as they are with who is going to be our next President.

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  10. Brian, I’m with Zrim on this one. Theology may fix my neighbor’s family but as Charles Murray’s new book indicates, the family is doing pretty well among people whose theology is not so great. When it comes to culture, I don’t think theology has as much to do with it as you do. (Have you gone over to the neo-Calvinist side? Written too much for Christian Renewal?)

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  11. I didn’t mean to imply anything by my stupid joke about Focus. I haven’t had the opportunity to read your book, but I know where you stand.

    Brian, once we attend to the means of grace in our churches, we ought to be spurred on to good works (transform culture, not so much), and I think that’s what this post is about. Should our good works be primarily directed toward influencing an imperial ruler thousands of miles away, or would it be more effective to strengthen the families in the communities we actually live in and have some sort of real influence over. Families are God-ordained secular institutions just like the state, and they have a more profound influence on society than the state in many ways.

    I think part of the reason we focus on the president and national politics is that it’s easier to demonize the bad guys far away than to think about real solutions to the problems in our communities.

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  12. Michael Horton–“Why does every famous pastor in America today have to write a book about his marriage and family”?, “Muscular Christianity”, in Modern Reformation 21:3, May-June 2012, p 47

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  13. Perhaps these good people are calling for prayer for those in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, because I Timothy 2 says to pray for those in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

    Just sayin’

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  14. Dr. Hart,

    Make sure you check out our table of contents on our Prayer Guide at http://www.4040prayer.com. You can see all the things we are focusing our prayers on. We are trying to be a blessing to churches and individual Christians even as the US enters the election seasons. We’ve done this particular event 2 other times. First, in 2008 for the presidential election, and then second in 2010 for the mid-term elections, and again this year. Also, we are happy for churches to adapt the Guide for their particular us, we only want to be a help to encourage people to pray during these important seasons of our nation.

    SDG,
    Noah
    on behalf of the 40/40 Prayer Vigil

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