"May God Make America a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation!"
When I asked older shepherds this question, I got different answers every time. Of course, I wholeheartedly shouted this prayer slogan every time Pastor Ron asked the congregation to do so. But in the back of my mind, there was a lingering question about what I was actually praying for.
One day, when I was a student at college, I approached a man who had set up a table and handing out tracts. When he gave me one of the tracts, it showed a very detailed graph of the “Church Age” and the “Millennium” and Israel etc. After a short conversation, I told him that my church always prays for America to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. It was almost like I had slapped him. He said, “What? That is not a good prayer! Israel is specifically called to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation, NOT America!”
In response, I quoted for him 1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Then I said, “Well, who is Peter talking about then?”
The man replied, “Sure, I’ll give it to you, Christians being the redeemed of God are indeed a chosen people, and there is a universal priesthood of the believer now. And in that way, all Christians are a ‘holy nation,’ as it were. But your prayer for America is misplaced. Don’t you know that God has always only saved a remnant? Don’t you know that narrow is the path to life and only a few find it? I think your heart is in the right place but your theology is wrong.”
I was taken aback. I had never thought of it that way before. I guess I had always assumed that every time we said that prayer, we were praying for America as a whole to be saved, or something to that effect. But is that the case? When UBFers pray this, is that what you mean? Are you asking for something that almost certainly won’t ever happen? Does this prayer mean that we want a “majority” of America to be saved or to become missionaries?
While I was talking with the man at my school, he told me that he was a Dispensationalist. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I asked a Chucago UBF leader what a Dispensationalist was, and the leader shook his head and said something like, “Oh, Shepherd David, don’t talk to those people!” Of course, this only made me want to find out more about them.
Dispensationalism is a Christian theological system which is too complicated to explain in detail here. Suffice it to say, they believe that the physical nation of Israel, the Jews, still have a very important role in God’s current and future plans, both in terms of salvation history and the end times. To the Dispensationalist, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — in other words, the people of Israel — are the ones for whom we should be praying to be a Kingdom of Priest and a Holy Nation, because that is what God says they would be for Him if they obeyed him fully and kept his covenant in Exodus 19. In fact. the whole quote from Exodus 19:5-6 says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you (Israel) will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Indeed, that is why Paul says in Romans 11:13-15: “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Paul goes on to give a most wonderful eschatological (end times) prophesy about Israel finally being saved at some point in the future, thus ultimately fulfilling God’s original intent for his chosen nation, that they would be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.
I believe the following question is an important one for UBF: What does it mean for America to be “a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation?” Are you applying the Covenant promises that God made to Israel to America, declaring America to be the new “Chosen Nation”? Is there an eschatological sense behind your application of Exodus 19:6? Is it just a slogan to encourage evangelism? Are you praying that everyone America will become Christian? If so, do you believe that it will actually happen?
If we repeat something every day, I think that it is crucial to know why. If the meaning of a prayer is not clear, then would it not be a good idea to stop repeating it until it is understood?
I do not wish to argue the merits or drawbacks of Dispensationalism. Rather, I am simply asking if you really know what you are praying. Jesus said in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” I am not accusing anyone else of doing this. Speaking for myself, I did pray, “May America be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” over and over every day without having a clear idea of what I was actually asking for.