“So, when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you. Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15).
Harsh words from God, don’t you think? And given to His covenant people, no less. These were the “people of promise,” the very people called by God’s name. So, what in the world was going on?
Space obviously does not permit me to give a full answer to that question. I must simply direct and urge you to read the Book of Isaiah. There you will discover for yourself what was going on. In a nutshell, the people had abandoned true worship of the One True God. They had taken it upon themselves to define worship, to set their own parameters for how they would approach the Holy Lord of Hosts. They had replaced God with gods of their own making. They had neglected to continually acknowledge their absolute dependance upon God to change their hearts and enliven them to humbly obey His commands. They had dared to come to God presenting their own righteousness; rather than crawling to Him begging for mercy because of their rampant unrighteousness. They tried to reach God on their own terms.
The result? God turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to them. But all was not lost. A Suffering Servant was promised, One who would make atonement for the sins of His people. A child was promised, who would be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; and His kingdom would never end.
That Child-Redeemer-King has come. His name is Jesus.
Today, all across America, people gather to pray. It is the National Day of Prayer. I applaud the effort and do not doubt many who pray today do so with hearts truly burdened to see God deliver our nation from itself, its own evil and filth and self-love and idol worship. Many Christians will cry out to God for mercy. Many will plead with God, “in wrath, remember mercy.” So, I am in no way against the National Day of Prayer.
My heart, however, is made sad by how many thousands will not pray at all today. God is meaningless to them, unless their health fails or a trial comes. I am sad for the thousands who will pray to false gods today. Idols cannot hear, or see, or act. Prayers to dumb, deaf, dead gods are, well, dumb and dead (Ps 115).
But saddest of all to me are the myraid people who call themselves Christians, claim to be the church, who will today and in the days ahead try to approach God in prayer, or in worship apart from the bloody cross of Christ. Saddest to me are the tons of people claiming to be believers who have replaced the Cross-Centered gospel with mandates to transform the culture via activism. Saddest to me are so-called Christians who spend countless hours stumping for candidates who want to reduce our carbon foot print, while almost never speaking to anyone about the atoning, bloody footprints of Jesus. Activism and stewardship of the planet are good in their rightful places, but they are surely not even close to the greatest good.
Jesus, absorbing the wrath of God against our sins on the cross, so that by God’s grace, through faith in Him, we might receive what we most need from God – mercy! That’s the gospel. America will never be made better apart from the Cross of Christ. May God forgive those who call themselves His followers, yet are embarrassed by the cross. To the sinfully depraved world, the message of the cross has always been viewed as foolish, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
This is my prayer on this National Day of Prayer:
Oh God, fill Your people with a consuming passion for the Cross of Jesus Christ. Help us return to the priority of the cross. Give us grace, like Paul, to “preach Christ crucified.” Help us tell sinners far and wide “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Forgive us for thinking we can preach more effectively than Jesus did. Give us the fortitude to cry out to America: “The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). For the sake of Jesus, have mercy on us. Give grace to Your people, to “humble themselves, pray, seek Your face, and turn from their wicked ways.” Oh Lord hear my prayer, not because of anything I have ever done, for my righteousness is as filthy rags; hear me only in Jesus’ Name. Amen.