Archive for February, 2011

The effective prayer of a righteous man  (or woman) can accomplish much.”
James 5:16

At this time in our country when it seems that things are getting worse and worse and we don’t know how to turn the tide, let us remember that God is still on His throne. We can pray for His forgiveness and mercy as individuals and we can encourage our friends and families to pray as a nation for God to forgive us. We have been neglectful of the poor and needy in our society. I know that I have been selfish and spent most of my time pursuing my own interests. I believe that as the church has stopped following the example of Jesus as He ministered to the needs of others, we have been guilty of bringing God’s anger on ourselves. I believe that we would not be losing our freedoms right now if we had been praying for and electing good leaders. We don’t have them because we haven’t been vigilant. We only care about who’s going to win the big game this weekend. Oppression and abuse are going on all around us and we don’t care. God is trying to wake us up with things like the visual rape machines at the airports. We must do something now. We must start by getting down on our knees and praying.

One special woman in history shows us a good example of how we ought to pray.

Many have heard the story of the miraculous conversion of St. Augustine. By all accounts he was a very hard-hearted and profligate man. Had we known him when he was a young man, we probably would have said that there was no hope of his ever turning to God. But his loving mother believed that God could save him. She never gave up during many long years, praying for his salvation with earnestness and tears.

MONICA, the mother of St. Augustine, was born in 332.  She was raised to be a pious and devout Christian. When she was old enough to marry, she was given to a man named Patritius, who was a pagan. She at once devoted herself to his conversion. She spent her life always praying for him. She was rewarded for her efforts when he became a Christian and was baptized only a year before his death.

Of course we know that Monica was also devoted to prayer for her son Augustine, who led a very irreligious life. He especially struggled with the sin of lust, preferring to have mistresses rather than get married.

Monica tried to get a learned Christian bishop to talk to her son in order to teach him the right way to live, but the bishop declined. He knew Augustine well and he didn’t think he could have any success with a man who was so headstrong.

However, on witnessing Monica’s prayers and tears, he told her to be of good courage; for it might be that God would spare the child of those tears. And so Monica devoted every day of her life to entreating God for her son.

One day, when Augustine went to Italy, he thought he was getting away from his mother’s constant well-meaning encouragements. But he could not escape from her prayers, which God heard and was ready to answer.

Monica followed him to Italy, and there Augustine was marvelously converted. Monica’s sorrow was turned into joy.

At a town called Ostia, on their homeward journey, as Augustine and his mother sat at a window talking about the Christian life, she turned to him and said, “My son, for my part I find no further pleasure in this life. What I am still to do or why I am here in the world, I do not know, for I have no more to hope for on this earth. There was one reason, and one alone, why I wished to remain a little longer in this life, and that was to see you a Christian before I died. God has granted my wish and more besides, for I now see you as his servant, spurning such happiness as the world can give. What is left for me to do in this world?”

A few days afterwards, she had an attack of fever, and died in the year 387. She was 56 years old. She had lived long enough to see the answer to her prayers for both her son and her husband.

Upon reflecting on this, we remember that It is impossible to set any bounds to what persevering prayer may do. Augustine’s soul seemed bound for hell due to his heresy and impurity, both of which were very strong because of his many years of practicing sin. These chains were broken when God graciously answered his mother’s prayers. Monica is a wonderful example to us of a devout, persevering, praying, Christian mother.

But that is just one person, you say. What about our nation? What about all of the millions of people who have strayed from obeying God?

Remember the story of Jonah and Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria. The Assyrians were hated enemies of the Israelites. They were a wicked and cruel people. Who would have ever thought that they would repent? But they did. The whole city of Nineveh repented. The king of Assyria came down from his throne, put off his royal robes, and sat in sackcloth and ashes. He ordered everyone else to do the same. That would be like our president getting down on his knees and repenting and asking our whole country to follow suit. Not possible you say? Why? This is still a Christian country. We have had National Prayer Days before. If you think we can’t now, then what is that saying about how far we have strayed from God?

We can still pray that God would cause the people in our country to turn back to Him. I believe that we need to do this. Not just to get our freedoms back. That would be nice. But God is our Creator and He deserves our worship and allegiance. No nation can go on shaking its fist in God’s face and not expect to be judged for it. We are experiencing that now. It does not have to be.

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