It's interesting and encouraging that many of our churches are waking up to the fact that even Christ followers in our ranks are still sinning big time. For years studies by Barna and others have been telling us that church people aren't at least statistically that different morally from those not in the church.
But unfortunately the truth is being realized and we're having to admit the studies were right. Christians struggle with porn, kids who sext with each other, get divorced, have affairs and cheat on their taxes just to name a few things. It's not that God isn't at work, lives aren't being changed or that there aren't some really miraculous things taking place but we're still a mess.
So naturally and thankfully many churches are being called to pray for their church, city and country, that God would do a great work and change people. The problem is that too often we are only praying for the symptoms not the real problem.
We pray that our people would quit having affairs and getting divorced. We pray that our young people would reject the habits of their friends online and not send dirty pictures to one another. We pray for people to come to our churches and lay aside their distractions. And we should want those things and more.
But if that is all we pray for we've missed the boat. We'll be like the surgeon who removed the cancerous spots on the patient's skin but didn't consider the tumor or disease elsewhere in the body. There is a deeper root.
Jeremiah 2:13 is probably familiar to most of us but it is a key passage for understanding the underlying issues. My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
We must pray people to go back to God (Jesus) for their water, for what really gives them life and meaning and purpose. We must help them see the broken cisterns in their life that culture and our selfishness have drawn us to for our worth, satisfaction and fulfillment.
We have started to worship our kids and their needs so we let them get away with too much, quit parenting and look the other way. We worship comfort and happiness so we spend much of our time earning more, getting more and storing up more, too exhausted to consider doing anything for God.
And when our spouse feels the same way we have no time for them and them for us. But someone out there will have time when we're most vulnerable and we need to dull our pain.
We must pray for Christians, starting with us, to re-visit our first love, Jesus. Ask God to help us put Him first and to lay aside our leaky buckets, to exchange again our idols for the glory and pleasure of God. We must not dress the wound of the people as though it were not serious. (Jeremiah 6:14) We must pray for people to tell it like it is and not settle for superficial change.
And if we do, then God will truly heal us, our churches, our communities and our land. Change will be real and lasting. Why would we want anything less?