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A leader's call to prayer

| by Bob Russell

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin addressed an assembly of Louisville’s faith leaders last month. He encouraged ministers to join him in praying for a solution to the serious problems facing the Commonwealth and specifically the violence in the inner city.

Though unable to attend the meeting, I read newspaper reports and watched videos about the event. Gov. Bevin suggested Christians from all walks of life form small groups to walk neighborhoods in West Louisville twice a week, engage people in conversation, and pray for residents.

“There is no single solution,” Bevin said. “There is no one thing that is going to fix what ails our communities at all. What we proposed today was a single component of many things that need to be done. . . . I believe in the power of prayer, I’ve seen it work, and it is something positive we can do.”

Sneering reaction

It was not surprising that some in the media ridiculed the idea as shallow and a religious ploy. However, it was surprising that a few pastors sneered at the call and suggested it reflected a lack of understanding of the problems facing the inner city.  

Even if they believed the governor could have approached it differently, shouldn’t pastors be among the first to extend grace and be “quick to listen and slow to anger”? (James 1:19).

Pastors have preached for years that prayer should be the first response, not the last resort. We’ve repeatedly emphasized the need for revival because our problems are problems of the heart. But when we have a governor imploring us to pray, some pastors’ reaction was to mock the idea as lacking sensitivity. That reaction was disappointing—and quite revealing.

Heartfelt petitions

The Bible contains numerous examples of God answering His people’s heartfelt petitions. Elijah prayed, and it did not rain for three and one-half years. King Hezekiah prayed, and the massive Assyrian army poised to attack Jerusalem experienced a deadly virus; the remainder fled in fear. The early church prayed, and Peter was miraculously delivered from prison.  

Prayer has been a vital part of our nation’s history.  Many times throughout history, America’s political leaders have called on the nation to pray:

  • In 1774, just before the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson drafted a resolution for a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.”
  • In 1789 when the Constitutional Convention came to a stalemate, Benjamin Franklin called for the representatives to pray every morning before the day’s business because “God governs in the affairs of men.” 
  • In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called the nation to pray for the end of the Civil War.
  • On June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the Allied invasion of Europe and pleaded with a national radio audience, “And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.”

Avoiding controversy

Now, the governor of Kentucky has made a strong appeal for prayer, humbling requesting pastors seek divine guidance in finding solutions to the problems that grip our cities.

What disturbs me almost as much as those who mocked Gov. Bevin’s idea is the silence of many leaders in Kentucky’s 6,000 churches. If preachers preach on the power of prayer and claim their churches are houses of prayer, how can they not respond enthusiastically to his appeal?

The rationale I often hear: “We don’t want to ‘appear political’” or, “We don’t want the community to view us as a controversial church.”

Yet, John the Baptist was so controversial he was beheaded. Jesus was so controversial He got crucified. Stephen was so controversial he was stoned!

Kudos to the many preachers who responded favorably; may their tribe increase. This is a time for those of us who believe in the truth of God’s Word and the lordship of Jesus to be strong and courageous. People of God from all over our community need to disregard the scoffers and back such ideas.

Widespread problems

Social ills aren’t restricted to Kentucky’s largest city. All over our nation, we face horrendous problems. There are nightly shootings, drug overdoses, fatherless homes, heartbreaking poverty, terroristic violence, racial animosity, political strife and media distrust.

It’s time for all pastors and church leaders to cry out to God with a sense of desperation: “Lord, we need You. We have problems we cannot solve alone. We beg You to intervene and bring harmony to our divided country. Heal our nation, our state, and our cities, oh Lord, and begin with me.”


Bob Russell

At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
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