“O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish” (Psalm 83:1-3 NIV 2011).
On this National Day of Prayer, pray hard, my friends. Pray with courage and faith, but also with humility. Remember your personal sins and weaknesses. Remember the sins and weaknesses of our nation and its leaders. Pray that their moral and ethical strengths will be most evident in the days ahead. Pray about the challenges we face together as a nation – building respect for the value of life, loving one another during times of international, not just national, stress and crisis, and acting with integrity on a foundation of truth. Pray for our medical workers, our scientists, our public safety officers, our teachers, our preachers, the people in our churches, and our government leaders/civil service workers. Pray for spiritual, mental, and physical health. Pray that you may learn each day how better to love and to forgive. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
Psalm 83 is in some ways a prayer for a nation. The psalmist prays for retribution against its enemies and for protection of its national identity (verse 3). The prayer is for ancient Israel, with its origins and identity based on acts of God and relationship with God. Modern nations, including the United States of America, do not share those origins, although several of them have been influenced strongly by Jewish and Christian teaching. We should be cautious in praying for our nation as if it were identical with the people of God for that reason. However, the prophets of Israel and the apostles of the early church both proclaimed that God loved all ethnic groups and called them to follow him. Both added their voices to that of the psalmists in urging prayer for national leaders.
Psalm 83 is also a prayer that God will be glorified in a time of crisis. Not only Israel, but the name and character of God was under attack. The psalmist prays that God will overcome his enemies and affirm his control of our world:
“Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek your name. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:16-18).
Psalm 83 is a prayer that God will act. As we pray together on this National Day of Prayer, let us pray that God will act to glorify his name and that he will act to heal our nation and our world.
O God who creates and who heals, As twin pandemics race around our globe, we implore that you will act to cleanse our world of disease and fear. The disease is new and we know so little about it, except that it has killed tens of thousands. We pray that a cure may be found for it. We pray that those who mourn may be comforted. We pray that doctors and nurses who take care of the ailing may be protected from the disease. We pray that we too may overcome the fear that has rampaged alongside this virus. Fear so quickly mutates into hate, and divides people who should be working together for a common good. Conquer that fear and put to shame those who seek to promote it. We pray that those who call on your name may act as you want your people to act during this time of crisis, that we may fan into flame a spirit of loving action that will bring glory to your Name. We pray that you will help the United States of America, with its vast resources and diverse collection of talented people, to grow in unity in love for others and in translating that love into concrete action that saves lives. Guide our leaders, our doctors and researchers, our religious leaders to grow in wisdom, discernment, and boldness in doing good. May healing of mind and body cause more and more to fall on their knees and praise you in prayer and song. In Jesus’ name, Amen