Why I am taking part in the National Day of Prayer

Lord, grant us your salvation

Psalm 85 is tailor-made for a national day of prayer. It is a heartfelt prayer for a nation – specifically for the nation of Israel in the aftermath of returning from Babylonian exile. Yet the psalm is general enough for the people of God to pray it in all ages and on behalf any nation. In many ways it’s a remarkable fit for Scotland today and offers us a great prayer template for 30 November, 2016.

If we model our prayers on this psalm of the Sons of Korah, they will have four features:

The first feature is recall. See verses 1-3. The Sons of Korah recall God’s deliverance of the nation in the past, and so ought we. In less than twelve months it will be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, an event which, under God, triggered the Reformation. On our Day of Prayer, let us thank God for what he has done for Scotland and Britain through the Reformers, the Covenanters, the Puritans, the evangelists Wesley and Whitefield, and many others.

The second feature is realism. While the psalmists rejoice in the great things God did in the past, they are alarmed by signs that presently the nation had exposed itself to the threat of God’s wrath and judgment because of its sin (vv 4-5). Does it concern us that Scotland, the UK and the western world at this very moment are incurring God’s anger and inviting divine judgment? Paradoxically, Muslims seem to be more aware than Christians that divine judgment is hanging over the West!

The third feature is revival (vv 6-7). The words revive, restore and (re)turn running through the psalm (vv 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8) reflect a common Hebrew verb of motion whose repetition drives home the nation’s dire need to be turned around by divine intervention. It’s a favourite verb of Jeremiah calling the nation to repent. In Jeremiah 3:22-4:2 the prophet depicts the moves in this national turning process: acknowledging God’s sovereignty (3:22); admitting false hopes (3:23); confessing sins (3:25); facing up to the shame (3:25); and adhering to a new national lifestyle (4:1-2). Such a turning from sin to God in our nation today seems remote, but it can happen! Revival is the work of God! Pray that his glory may dwell in our land (v 9)!

The final feature of Psalm 85 is reliance (vv 8-13). Reliance on the promises of God is the theme of the second half of this ancient prayer. As we pray for our nation, it’s important to listen to these promises (v 8) and to believe them ‘surely’ (v9). God’s promises are covenantal – love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace (v 10) are all covenant words. Psalm 85 pleads these covenant promises. God’s covenant with ancient Israel anticipated the new covenant that would be sealed through divine love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace being manifested in perfect harmony in the death of Christ. Pleading the covenant promises is important. It is God’s promises that makes prayer powerful!