Apostasy Update # 27 Does Our Country Have a Prayer? | thebereancall.org

McMahon, T.A., Dave James

Tom: Welcome to Apostasy Update. I’m T. A. McMahon, and in this program, we are addressing two separate gatherings in Washington, DC. They took place last weekend of September, and their professed goal was to pray for the United States. Both were led by individuals who claim that their efforts involved praying for America, that America would repent and turn back to God, and that He would bring about revival. Franklin Graham was the main figure in one group. He’s the son of Billy Graham, and he heads up Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Leading the other program was Jonathan Cahn, best-selling author and pastor of Beth Israel Worship Center. My guest, as we discuss what took place at the Washington gatherings, is Dave James. He’s an author and Bible teacher as well as a long-time contributor to The Berean Call. 

Dave, welcome to Apostasy Update.

Dave: Thanks, Tom! It’s great to be with you as always. 

Tom: Now, Dave, before we talk about the two influential men who were leaders of the prayer events, although the only connection was that both events claimed to have the same goals. But before we get to them, I want to discuss the value of prayer on a national level. Since prayer is directed at God, are there conditions that He will either accept or reject our prayers?

Dave: Well, sure. I would say that there are conditions. Of course, we know that husbands can have their prayers hindered if they’re not in a right relationship with their wives and they’re not treating their wives correctly, but there are other things as well. You can approach God in a way that’s inappropriate—for example, you might also be trying to promote certain things that God wouldn’t honor, and of course we’re not against prayer at all in and of itself. In fact, we prayed before we even got started with our conversation today. 

Tom: Absolutely.

Dave: But of course, there are certain things that do need to be kept in mind, especially if we move it out to the national—or the regional or the national level. 

Tom: Right. Here are some other scriptures. You just quoted 1 Peter:3:7, that how we treat our spouses, that our prayers…we want to do it in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord and blesses them, for the Lord—it says, “that your prayers be not hindered.” And certainly we don’t want that to happen.

First Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” And evil doesn’t mean necessarily overt evil, it’s missing the mark. It’s doing things that are contrary to God’s Word, that He doesn’t approve of. 

First John:3:21-22: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

And there are many that we could go to as well, but let me finish with this one—1 John:5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will,” I’ll say that again, “according to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” 

And I think obviously those are foundational verses with regard to prayer. And, Dave, you know, you’ve dealt—as an apologist, you’ve dealt with the false teachings about prayer, almost commanding God to do this and to do that and so on, or asking for things that we just want for ourselves. In other words, not having a right heart in that. How would we approach—because we’re talking about now prayer at the national level, how do you see the Lord responding to that? What would be His criteria, conditions?

Dave: Let me just, before I answer that question, I just want another thought that I had—and we’re going to get into this matter of prophecy or people claiming to be prophets later—that one of the things that we do read in Deuteronomy (as well is in the last chapter of the Bible at the end of the Book of Revelation) is that we’re not to add or to take away from the Word of God. And so, from what I saw in Jonathan Cahn’s meeting, there were people who were adding to the Word of God by their prophecies. 

But going back to your specific question, at the national level, I think it presumes a number of things. First of all, America is not God’s people, even though 2 Chronicles:7:14 is frequently quoted with reference to the United States (“If my people who are called by my name” and so on). That doesn’t apply to us. There’s no other nation that can come to God as a nation who would be made up of what would be even the majority of God’s people. 

Another thing is that when you’re doing something at the national level—and we saw this, I think, in both of the prayer meetings that we’re talking about—there were people from a broad swath of various religious and theological perspectives, and so there was just a lot of confusion. And it seems to me that we have to be in agreement with one another largely, at least. We don’t necessarily cross every “t” and dot every “i” in exactly the same place. I’m sure you and I don’t [agree] exactly on every detail, but there’s broad agreement in what we understand the Word of God to say and who God is and all of those things. So there are some preconditions, I would say, for God to even be involved. And then to the idea that we could invoke the name of God in a pluralistic society to bless the entire nation, I think there are some serious questions at the very least. 

Tom: Dave, as I was watching primarily Franklin Graham, and he had many people come up to pray, the—certainly him giving the gospel was really terrific. That was good, but that some of the prayers were problematic. Without going into their names, some really had almost a hypercharismatic view, where, you know, like Gloria Copeland sending angels out to protect and do all these things, that certainly God’s not hearing those kinds of prayers. But there were some that were wonderful and really meaningful.

And then they cut to the people that were there. I think they had as many as 50,000, and to me, those numbers…I don’t know how to respond to that, because I’ve seen 50,000 young people at The Send, which took place in Orlando, Florida, and they were clueless. They had no idea. So numbers really don’t mean anything. Besides, God looks upon the heart, so I got to see little groups of 3 or 4 people praying together, and hopefully they were praying with the right heart and the right mind for repentance. 

And that’s the other thing I want to talk about with regard to what Franklin Graham was doing. Is there a possibility for national repentance? That’s what the gathering was all about. What do you think, Dave?

Dave: Well, I guess that you’d have to define what national repentance means and what that would look like, and how would you know if there had been? First of all, as I mentioned previously, we’re in a pluralistic society, and so we have a broad swath of not just those who would be professing Christians, but those who would belong to, for example, liberal churches, and not even believe that you need to be born again by the Spirit of God as you trust in Christ for your salvation, and that He’s the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. So yeah, a majority of Americans would identify as—with Christianity at some level, but that doesn’t mean that they are born again.

Then you have a broad swath and an increasing swath, especially among younger people who are atheist or at least agnostic. You have Jewish people, you have Muslims, you have Hindus, you have those who belong to Native American religions, so again, it’s a pluralistic society. And so I’m not even sure what national repentance would look like…

Tom: So, Dave, people have come to me prior to the Washington event, okay, and they said, “Can’t we get behind this? Isn’t this a wonderful thing to get behind?” And I couldn’t give them an answer with regard to the value of this from a collective standpoint. I said, “I think repentance needs to begin with the individual.” 

You know, as the spiritual head of my family, that’s on my shoulders to encourage and bless my family with regard to how we’re going to God. 

Then I would say if you have a church group that you’re in, same thing there. And then move on to the local church and so on. 

But to think that 50,000 people are going to influence God, especially when many of the speakers don’t have the right—I can’t judge their hearts, but I can judge on the basis of their prayers that they’re not really, you know, the conditions for which God would answer prayer based on what they said. You know, as I mentioned earlier, the person who is sending God’s angels out to protect him and to protect them and so on, that’s not biblical, and, to me, it’s worse than a waste of time. It teaches the wrong thing for all the people who were watching this and responding to it.

Dave: Well, and I think that is a very important point, Tom, concerning teaching the wrong thing. My former colleague in ministry, when I was a missionary in Hungary, he had a saying that he used all the time, and that was, “What happens teaches.” 

And so everything that we’re doing, especially at that level where all eyes are upon us, or a significant number—like you said, maybe 50,000; I think Jonathan Cahn’s was quite a bit smaller than that. 

But, you know, as you were talking, another aspect of this came to my mind, and that was, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who talked about civil religion and the idea that even though the government of the United States based in the Constitution, even the First Amendment, it’s not in the business of establishing a religion? But there’s this concept of a civil religion. And, you know, what goes around comes around in the sense that the Moral Majority of the ‘80s with Jerry Falwell, and that kind of came and went, and now with The Harbinger with Jonathan Cahn, and then the rise of the religious right. And, you know, that’s kind of falling apart with what we’ve seen happen at Liberty University. And we’ve got all these things going on, and there’s—and I’ve been saying this for several years now—this merging of the “religious right” with the political right. It’s not going to end well, because you end up probably mucking up both of them, and moving…I think these—both of these prayer meetings, as well-intentioned as they may have been, I think they’re blurring some lines, and I think it is getting confusing.

Tom: Yeah, and the heart of it is what are we doing to prayer? I mean, Dave, you know The Berean Call. People say, “Well, you’re an apologetics ministry.” Yes, somewhat. First and foremost, we are a praying ministry. You know that every day, especially Thursdays—Thursday’s intercessory prayer—but we have prayer every day. And without prayer, you know, it’s falling back on our own shoulders and so on. We’re doing something—we think we’re doing something, but no. We want God to guide and direct and to enable us to accomplish the things that are according to His will, that He wants done. That doesn’t happen without prayer. So that’s a huge downside to misunderstanding prayer, to get the wrong idea, and honestly, you can be sincere about this, but you can be sincerely wrong, and God is not hearing those kinds of prayers.

Nevertheless, we encourage ourselves, we encourage everyone, to go before God, do it His way, and want what He wants, His will. It’s as simple as that.

Dave: And I think another part of this, and I hope that our, those who are viewing this, or who may be listening to this at some point, I hope they don’t get the wrong impression that we are being unnecessarily—let’s put it this way: being unnecessarily critical. We’re trying to evaluate and we’re trying to bring some clarity to some of these things that I think people are getting a little bit confused on. And I’ve said this because I’m also involved with apologetics: Sincerity is not a test of truth. 

So an important component to this that we haven’t even touched on yet is the role of the Holy Spirit, because even the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in ways that we can’t even put into words. And you have to ask the question, when there’s this mixture of truth and error, as you mentioned, some of the prayers with Franklin Graham’s group, some of them were very good, and I would say over on Jonathan Cahn’s side, some of the things that were said were really very good. But it was mixed with such a dramatic—it was such a dramatic mixture of truth and error, sometimes almost a polar extremes, opposite extremes, that you have to wonder what is the role of the Holy Spirit in this in guiding that group into the truth that they needed—that we need to be centered around as we come together, as we seek unity? We don’t just seek unity at all cost, we seek unity around the Word of God and the Person of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are standing for the sake of truth, not just standing for the sake of standing even for well-intentioned political causes.

Tom: Right. Well, that’s what we’ve been seeing. It’s almost like we have a theology of conservatism, not that I’m against being conservative—I think I really am—but nevertheless, it’s not my religion, and we’ve seen almost “the end justifies the means.” Now we’re going to accomplish whatever it might be through this device or that device. 

Men can take the Word of God, the truth of God’s Word, and if they’re not discerning, and I’m talking about being a Berean—check things out, folks. Those who are, I’m sure, viewing this, many of you have followed The Berean Call for a long time, and that’s our heart: search the Scriptures to see if these things are so, to see if these things are actually pleasing to God. Is this the way God would have us go about these things? Dave doesn’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the answers, but we need to be not just knowledgeable of what the Word of God says, but be sensitive to the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit to—you know, sometimes we get a check in our hearts and minds, and say, “Wait a minute, there’s something wrong about this.” Then we go to the Scriptures, you know, on our knees. We go to the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

Let me give you an example: who would argue against the Prayer Breakfast? I think I mentioned that earlier. Well, come on! We’ve got, you know, the legis-…congressmen, president, maybe, whoever is involved, and so on. But there came a point in which whoever was in charge of the Prayer Breakfast, they said, “Well, we don’t want to use the name of Jesus, because that might offend some of the people that were there.” What? And honestly, Dave, that’s what took place! They eliminated using the name of Jesus. They just went with “God,” okay? Now, certainly we pray to—Jesus is God! But why not use His name? Because, again, whether we call it theological correct…you know, correctness, or whatever you want to call it, it’s contrary to the Word of God. And something starts like that, as it says in Hebrews, “Take heed lest ye drift away.” There’s the drifting away from something that started out with a reasonable idea, but once you don’t keep…let me say that another way: But if you don’t keep in mind what the Scriptures say, again, you’re going to be counterproductive. You’re going to be missing the mark, as the Scriptures say. 

Dave: And I would say that this was something focusing on the Lord Jesus, even the name of Jesus, I think it was Peter in Acts who said, “There’s no other name under heaven given among men by which you must be saved.” It’s that name. Jesus is the Word, He is the living Word. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” 

So we have to be focusing on Him, and if we take the focus off of Him to any degree for the sake of unity, to whatever degree that might be, then we are opening ourselves up to, one: we’re pulling ourselves, I would say, out from under the potential of even being blessed by God if we are consciously reducing any emphasis to any degree on His Son at all. 

And this is a troubling thing that I certainly saw…and I’ve seen this, and I know we’ll get to Jonathan Cahn in a little bit. But there tends to be an avoidance—he will, as a Jewish, ethnically Jewish person, he will say Yeshua, but that is not the name that we use in English. So there’s this sort of playing around with this that just bothers me at a certain level. 

Tom: Well, rightly so. Some would say, “Oh, well, what’s the difference?” You know, folks, we’re not trying to split hairs here or, you know, pick on this or pick on that. Coming back to what this program has been about is we have—we had a national prayer event based on two parties (that is, the Jonathan Cahn group as opposed to the Franklin Graham group). And what we’re asking is, “Is this the way—is this of value?” 

One of the things that I can think of is at least that, well, maybe it got the attention of people. Yes, we should be praying. That alone may have some value, okay? But then how do we go about it? That’s where I mentioned before we start at the individual level, and then we move out from there, because, as you said, Dave, to ask for revival, to ask for national repentance, to pray to that end based on our country, it’s wishful thinking. Why would I say that? Because as many who are promoting and pushing for revival in this country, I can’t find it in the Scriptures. I can find pockets of revival. I can find groups that have—that God has gotten their attention, and so on. But in terms of America, it’s not there. 

Dave, has anybody ever asked you, “Where do you find America in prophecy?”

Dave: Yes, of course, and some people do think that they find the United States there. I personally don’t. I personally, my…just kind of a little bit of a rabbit trail, but not much, I think the United States is going to collapse as a world power as the result of the Rapture. We have a disproportionately high number of believers, born-again believers, than the general population is compared to virtually any other country in the world, and that would also be true in government, military, and business. So I don’t think we’re there. 

And actually, I was going to touch on this earlier, as I was thinking about some of the things that you were saying, is there seems to be an overall disregard for where history is going. We don’t see, in Scripture, we don’t see an end times revival. But I would say that, as I listen to a lot of these people, you get the sense that they believe that an end times revival is in the cards. 

And beyond that, when you get into the hypercharismatic groups, they are trying to establish the Kingdom here and now, and there’s a theology that’s driving this that says that there’s going to be a worldwide revival, not just a national revival, and that’s going to set the stage for the return of Jesus Christ. 

And so there’s a whole lot of theology (I would say bad theology) at least undergirding some of the things that are being done, some of the things that are being said, and perhaps the average biblical person is not picking up on it just because they’re not immersed in this stuff all the time like we are. 

Tom: Well, and that brings up a point: my simple question to something like that is show me the verses! Give me chapter and verse of what you’re talking about. You know, the theological term for what you’ve described is Kingdom Dominionism. That’s why revival is being pushed so heavily among the hypercharismatics. 

I mean, I’ve talked about this in many of my—well, the last conference, not this year but the year before, I dealt with this whole idea that Christians are saying we’re going to take over the world, we’re going to rule and reign, and Christ cannot return until we turn this world into a paradise. Undergirding that is their belief in revival. Without revival, they can’t take over. I mean, it’s really simple, but deadly wrong. It’s—you’re going to end up, anybody who buys into that, we know there’s going to be a religion and a kingdom of the Antichrist, and many are unwittingly buying into this revival idea. 

Again, folks, there’s going to be revivals, but they’re going to be pockets of revivals for groups that turn to Christ, that come to Christ. But in terms of national or worldwide, again, give me chapter and verse. It’s just not there.

So, Dave, we’ve got about two minutes left in this. We’re not going to be able to get to talk about Jonathan Cahn, which is important, because of all the people that talked to me about this coming up, they asked me, “Well, aren’t you going to get behind this? Aren’t you—don’t you think this is really important?” 

Well, Dave, you know our relationship (non-relationship) with Jonathan Cahn, how I asked you to write a book, which we published at The Berean Call related to his book. And so I think that’s important, because coming back to the issue that we’re addressing here, you’ve got Franklin Graham—not that he’s perfect, okay, but he does have a ministry, whether it be Samaritan’s Purse or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association—and then Jonathan Cahn and his view and his perspective. I think we need to address that, because if either of these gentlemen are false teachers, false prophets, or are leading, you know, the body of Christ who they claim to be addressing, okay—if they’re going, leading them astray, God’s not going to hear this prayer or this event.

Now, again, there may be individuals who have a right heart and a right mind in it, but in terms of a national event that’s going to influence the church, it’s not going to have the Holy Spirit behind it, I’m convinced of that. 

So that’s what we want to do, the Lord willing, in our next session, Dave, if you want to do this, okay? 

Dave: Right, sure! Absolutely! And, you know, as we—just a quick preview, The Harbinger and Jonathan Cahn, he was the most interviewed man in America in 2012, and it was the number one Christian book of that year, and so the influence is profound.

Tom: Yeah, and you also need to talk about his new book. Somebody that I knew that watched most of the Jonathan Cahn thing said that much of it was a promotion of his book, so that’s not a good thing. But we’ll talk about that, the Lord willing, in our next session.

Dave: Okay, great!

Tom: Thanks, Dave.