Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Lord God:

I am almighty tired of all that is tawdry and cheap about Christianity in America. I am tired of the chest thumping assumptions about God being on ‘our side’. I weary of those who equate their brand of American politics with the will of God for the world, or worse, those who think being a Christian means I should not be involved IN the great causes of the age or the major decisions made in our land. Lord help us not to mistake apathy for true spirituality, or abstinence for action.

Lord is there not a way to help American Christians understand that they are called to be global Christians, not merely American ones? Is there not a way to help us understand that the true patriots are those who will what is best for all humankind, and not just our kind? Is there not a way to make clear that when Jesus said we must ‘love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ he was not kidding? Could we not take to heart the words of your servant John Donne when he said ‘any man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind. Therefore do not think to ask for whom the bell tolls….’

Lord this is an election year, and there is much fervor and ferment. Doubtless much hangs in the balance in regard to the war in Iraq, our relationship with Pakistan, and many other large matters, and yet we seem much more concerned about our own standard of living, and whether our houses will sell or not. Could we not please get a glimpse of a larger world vision and world view that would help us see that our near total preoccupation with ourselves is a reflection of human sin, of human fallenness, of ‘the heart turned in upon itself’? Could we not realize that real family values amounts to realizing that the worldwide family of faith, the family of Christ is the primary family, not our nuclear families?

Lord I do not understand the blindness I encounter repeatedly in church after church. We rant and rave about sexual sin, and yet ignore racism, sexism, and in general the entire social gospel. Is this because we have reduced sin to the private and personal spheres in our lives? Is this because we have forgotten about the body of Christ and how there are both corporate and national as well as personal sins? Why do we strain over gnats but swallow camels when it comes to sin? Why do we repeatedly put the emphasis in the wrong place?

Lord there is much that is good and generous about the American spirit. Yet so often it is myopic, and amounts to helping ourselves, or our near kin. Lord, I would pray that more Christians in America would take on the challenge of cross cultural missions and let it expand their world view, and reshape their mentality about your human creatures. Forgive us Lord for forgetting and letting the Great Commission become the great Omission as we build bigger barns here in America to house ourselves, or for treating the great Commission as if it were only the job of missionaries.

Lord forgive us for our Biblical illiteracy, and for whittling off the hard edges of Scripture because they rub us the wrong way. Forgive us for our arrogance and ignorance which is always a lethal combination. Forgive us Lord for treating our cultural preferences as if they were Biblical absolutes, and forgive us for perverting your Gospel which is Good News for the poor into empowerment for those who long to be richer, wealthier, scratching the itch of a greedy soul. Lord forgive us our sense of entitlement and for treating you as if you were the great Santa Claus in the sky whose mission in life is to fulfill all our worldly longings and desires.

Lord you have said that not many of us should wish to be teachers of your Word, and yet you have made me one. Lord, it is a heavy responsibility, and yet your yoke is lighter than being in bondage to sin. I hear every day the words ‘to whom more is given, more is required’, and sometimes I fear the reckoning, as I fall short, and am not infrequently wrong about things.

Lord I understand that Christ is the model of true humility, and that it involves knowing both who and whose I am. I know it has nothing to do either with false humility or false pride, nor anything to do with feelings of low self worth or self-denigration. I know I am not God or even an angel, and yet Lord I know I am not nothing either. I know I am created in your image and recreated in Christ for good works.

Help me to not mistake my busy-ness for your business in all respects. Help me not mistake my convictions for your truths in all respects. Help me say more often--- ‘I do not know’. Help me to continue to learn before I teach, to love before I critically evaluate, to praise before I blame, to help before I hinder, to listen before I speak.

Lord in your Mercy, and in the name of the Blessed Trinity, hear my prayer,



Todd H said...


Debbie Kaufman said...


Pastor Greg said...

Great prayer Dr. Ben. It's right on with what we Americans should be praying.

Have a blessed 2008 as you continue to make a difference in our day.

Know that you are loved,

Falantedios said...

Thank you for this prayer, brother. May this prayer of a righteous man indeed be powerful and effective.

in HIS love,

Peter said...

Yes, kind of. So far as it goes. But more than a bit of a straw man, here. A few specific items:

As a former evangelical myself, I have been finding it critical to my own sanctification to try to extend grace to the benighted evangelicals whom God also loves.

Loving your country is a legitimate and necessary starting point. You can really only love the world if you love where you are first -- neighbors, etc. etc. The world is too big to love as a whole.

Re social gospel, could it be that so many of those elements of the church who have embraced it have at the same time abandoned personal morality? Who would want to embrace the vapid smugness of the religious left? Those who publicly pat themselves on the back for feeling sorry over the right things are no more pleasant than the occasional shrill voices you hear on the religious right.

But the Family Research Council and its ilk should go back to researching rather than politics. Or at least try persuading rather than declaiming.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Michael F. Bird said...

Thanks. May it be so!

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Peter:

I quite agree about the issue of personal morality being important, as well as social justice. I also agree that we learn how to love the other by beginning with the nearest ones. True enough. But if we end there, we are guilty of myopia at best and sin at worst.


Jason Garwood said...


Indeed God has blessed America...and we don't even see it.

Thanks Dr. Ben for your humility and honesty.


cpapashley said...

It is just a little sad to read this prayer and think I can only but echo it for my home of Australia.

So much of what we do and say is far away from the gracious mercy of our Lord Jesus, and his law. So much based around what we will get, or achieve or be remembered for.

Let me just add my amen from Australia, and the hope that we also will embrace this ideal within our own churches and communities.

Bless you.

Scott Furrow said...

Thanks Ben.


Journeyman said...


Falantedios said...

"Loving your country" is not a legitimate and necessary point, period.

Your country is not a person and does not need love.

Loving your fellow citizen? Much more important and foundational.

Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

Chill Pastor said...

Thank you Ben...The prayer was very humble and very challenging.

Thanks for blessing my day!


Ben Witherington said...


Here I must disagree with you. Loving one's country comes under the heading of creation care, of caring about the world God created and not just the individuals who live in it. When I speak of loving my country, or more specifically loving my homeland of North Carolina I mean more than just loving the people who live there. I mean I love its mountains and trees, its forests and rivers, its oceans and beaches, and so on. And you are wrong that it does not need love and care, and also wrong that it does not love you back. Everyday, the trees in my backyard are breathing out oxygen I need and as the psalmist says clapping their hands and praising God. We need to have a clear sense that all living things are good gifts of God, and all need love and care, and frankly in their own way, all do indeed love us back. This becomes obvious when you have animals, who are more capable of affection. But when we lose that psalmist's sense of awe, wonder, and appreciation for all of creation, and lose a recognition we are dependent on the rest of creation for life, and health, and food etc. and that all things praise God in one way or another, then we have too truncated a view of life in this land.


Ben W.

preacherman said...

Excellent prayer brother.
Amen and Amen

Jeremiah said...


It is very encouraging to read your prayer, Dr. Ben. More so encouraging to learn that there is a follower of Jesus Christ like you... in America.

Keep going!


Falantedios said...


I agree 1000% with what you are saying, I would just use different vocabulary for it. I was speaking of "country" in a political sense.

One of our first responsibilities as people dwelling in the new Adam is the responsibility assigned to the old Adam: responsible, loving, Godly stewardship of creation.

However, if I think of that in country-terms, or state-terms, I might not care what happens to the rain forests, or I might not have concern for the topsoil in Iowa, because I live in Kentucky, USA.

When I hear "country" (as opposed to countryside, for example), I think of the idea of America. A beautiful and evanescent idea, but that part of my love is due to the kingdom of God.

Is that clearer?

in HIS love,

john hoddy said...

Amen!! As always, love your blog

AverageKev said...

Another big AMEN.
I do get the sense, from my little corner of the world, that we in this country have settled for a grossly immature Christianity. We have emphasized the careless and easy use of grace instead of the careful and difficult work of discipleship. We must begin at the personal and individual level (I like GK Chesterton's quote here in response to "What is wrong with the world?" and he simply wrote in saying, "Me.") We use grace to excuse but not improve ourselves. But you are so right in that we must look beyond ourselves and that is where the social gospel certainly picks up.
Great thoughts and dialogue, keep up the good work, and many blessings to you and your readers for this new year.

Duke of Earl said...

Chesterton also wrote that the true patriot loves his country for no reason. If he loved it for a reason then he might be inclined to preserve that part.

The one who loves his country for no reason will burn it to the ground in order to build something better, higher, more ideal.

Gilbert was engaged in exaggeration to illustrate a point of course.

Chestnut Tree said...

Greetings from Hong Kong!

May I ask for your permission to translate the prayer into Chinese? Much in it I believe also speaks to the churches in my city, esp. their narcissism.

In His Peace,

Ben Witherington said...

By all means translate it

Ben W.

Andrew said...

Dr. Ben,

Blessings from Fort Lauderdale-I always enjoy your blogs, and a hearty Amen here to your prayer. Would you mind if I reposted your prayer? I would love to share this with the readers of my blog.

In Christ,