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There was a time in this country when, in the midst of a national crisis, spiritual and political leaders would call upon the nation to humble ourselves before Almighty God in prayer, fasting and repentance. When the fledgling nation faced the overwhelming might of Britain, Americans realized that they could not prevail in their own power and so it was that men like Hancock, Jefferson and Washington entreated their countrymen to join them in an appeal to heaven for mercy and favor. The fact that America did prevail gives testimony to the reality that God honored their prayer and fasting.

Decades later, when the nation was facing another national crisis – a Civil War – leaders once again called for every American to humble themselves before God and to repent of our errant ways. In one such appeal, Abraham Lincoln designated April 30, 1863, as a national day of fasting and prayer saying:

“We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our own hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own….It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

Just two months later, the battle of Gettysburg – the battle that turned the tide of war – was fought and won by the Union. Though it wasn’t the end of the war it certainly was the beginning of the end. True, it would be years before the nation became “one” again but might it be that things could have turned out much differently if Americans had not humbled themselves before God? Would the Union have survived without a commitment to prayer and fasting?

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the midst of another national crisis. In fact, I would say that we are embroiled in another civil war – where brother contends against his brother in very uncivil fashion. This time the enemy is not determined by geography so much as it is philosophy, meaning your enemy might live next door – maybe within your own home. Regrettably, as this current crisis intensifies, very few are willing to publicly call upon Heaven for guidance and when they do, they are ridiculed and maligned.

Over the weekend, Glenn Beck appealed to his audience to join him in a day of fasting and prayer before the Nevada caucus. Whether one agrees with his choice for president or not, I believe it is obvious that Mr. Beck is genuinely concerned for this nation – as am I. Furthermore it is obvious that his call for prayer and fasting demonstrates his belief that this nation’s problems cannot be solved without the favor and aid of the Almighty.

It would have been expected that the progressives on the left would have risen up with indignation and sneers at Beck’s appeal but, shockingly, a great deal of the mockery and sarcasm came from those who also share a concern for the future of our republic – or so they claim. I was shocked and saddened to see that those who were the most demonstrative in their scorn for Beck were fellow conservatives.

Their vitriol speaks volumes. They are completely out of touch with the spiritual component of our national heritage and have obviously embraced a mindset not much different from their alleged political foes who, during their national convention four years ago, attempted to remove the mention of God from their party platform. Apparently, an alarming number of people on the right also believe that seeking God for guidance is bizarre and evidence of an unstable mind. The truth of the matter is this: those who would disdain a desire to seek God’s mercy for the nation have, as Lincoln put it, “vainly imagined … that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

For me, the backlash over Beck’s call for fasting and prayer is more evidence that an ancient, godless spirit is rising up and permeating our culture – the spirit of Esau. Esau, of course, was the wayward brother of Jacob who, because of the deceitfulness of his heart, pledged to kill his younger and righteous sibling. Beyond a hatred for his brother, Esau also displayed a hatred for what his fathers revered. Specifically, the Bible says that he had no regard for the birthright passed on to him from Isaac and Abraham, meaning that he had no desire for God in his life. While he longed for the blessings of the birthright, he was unwilling to embrace the spiritual responsibility that made those blessings possible. In short, he found no need for repentance.   

There is no politician, personality or political philosophy that will, in and of itself, secure the blessings of liberty and bring healing to America because our primary problem is not political in nature. Our national ills cannot be defined as being social, economic or even philosophical; our nation has an acute spiritual deficiency and that is why we are in such turmoil politically, economically and otherwise. We are in the midst of a war for America’s soul and the spirit of Esau is rising up, seeking to rid the land of God and silence the voice of those who would call upon him.

And so it is that our greatest national threat is not an external foe but the enemy within – the Esau within our borders and within each of us; the enemy that says “God has no place here.” President Lincoln said that, “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.” I pray that is not the case; I pray that destruction is not our lot but that, instead, we would return to the God of our fathers. I believe that is what Mr. Beck was attempting to provoke in all of us; he reminded us that if we are to survive our present crisis and be restored as “one nation under God,” then we must look unto the “author and finisher of our faith” in humility and with repentant hearts.

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