Civilizations and the Kingdom – A Call for Prayer

OurLadyofDCThis reprint (with changes) seems fitting for America’s Independence Day celebrations this weekend.

I give thanks to God that priests are forbidden (by canon law) to hold political office – not that I would ever be elected – but that I would never want to stand in the place where my Christian faith was so torn – between what I might think good for the state and what would seem obedient to God. Anyone who sits in such a position needs prayer – whether they are Christian or not.

Someone recently shared an article with me in which the author was commenting on a growing sense of connection between the powers that be in Russia and the historical legacy of Byzantium. These are simply natural thoughts for an Orthodox Christian – particularly one living in an historically Orthodox nation. But they are filled with contradictions and dangerous delusions.

Equally delusional is our own American mythology, with its Puritan heritage and its confusion of America with the Promised Land (or something like that). We dare not think ourselves less tempted by religious fantasy.

There have been moments of clarity in Orthodox civilizations that properly inspire and call to the imagination. There have been terrible times of betrayal and persecution which can also create a sense of isolation and unique privilege before God.

But in the end – whether in Russia, America, or anywhere else on earth, the call is the same: to know, love and live in communion with God. This is not a political destiny but the destiny of the human race. It is only made more complicated by utopian dreams or visions of empire. The repentance of nations, a theme that runs through some of the essays of Solzhenitsyn, is a very rare thing indeed. I do not know if I have ever witnessed such a thing. I know that a nation will not live in repentance unless I live in repentance.

And I return to a thought that I’ve mentioned before – the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The prayers of the righteous somehow hold everything before God and play a vital role in their existence. In seasons that draw our attention to life within a political entity, it seems to me, my thought should be less about whose nation is greatest or what political system is the best on earth – but whether I will pray – and pray in such a manner that my feeble words will have contributed to the continued existence and even well-being of our world. The world needs God as I need God. Who will pray for the world? Who will pray for me?

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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13 responses to “Civilizations and the Kingdom – A Call for Prayer”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Photo: Our Lady of D.C. An icon from St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral (OCA) in Washington, DC.

  2. handmaidleah Avatar

    Thank you Father Stephen, I recently l read about this priest in Finland (well after all this is probably not the strangest thing the Orthodox in Finland have done!)
    I am always in need of the reminder to pray and repent – two things that are the greatest of struggles for me – Happy & blessed Fourth!

  3. robert Avatar

    May God preserve his Church from the idolatry that is most visible on this holiday. And may he preserve each of us from the sin of setting ourselves apart from our neighbors by judgment of that idolatry and the temptation to not pray for the city of our exile.

  4. wezlo Avatar

    Father Stephen – thank you for these words, they are so very needed…

  5. Anam Cara Avatar
    Anam Cara

    We have the same icon at Protection of the Holy Mother of God in Falls Church, VA just outside DC.

  6. mike Avatar

    ….its soo very disturbing to see us ” Proud Americans” succumb to this hypnotic spirit …i feel we have been and continue to be manipulated into sheepish allegiance by subtle and clever subconscious suggestion…its interesting to recognize some of the phrases and slogans used to instill submission…what is especially sinister is the psychological technique of linking God with Country…”for God and Country”…”This is God”s Country” ..”God Bless America”….”America..Love It or Leave It”…”One Nation Under Godl”..just to name a few….we who see through the smoke screen of blind patriotism also see the cloaked suggestion :God=Country=Patriotism=unquestioning loyalty………. God forgive us for slandering the ones tried to tell us………………

  7. Dean Arnold Avatar
    Dean Arnold

    Ain’t it an odd scenario, all this praying by us and others to make the world go round?

    Odd to me, of course, because I know so little. You may have already done a blog on it, or you can direct me somewhere, but I would like to read some more commentary on the big picture of intercession. Why has God set it up this way? What is it about intercession that he finds so important, cool, vital, etc.? I so easily forget that Christ himself is constantly interceding even as we speak.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have written on it, but I’ll need to dig to find which article. The key, I think, is the matter of the importance of communion “koinonia.” Communion is, properly, the right way to think about salvation (it is restoring communion with God – His life becomes our life – or our life now has a participation in His life). Intercession is an entering into communion with God on behalf of another so that our love, concern, etc., for the other is united through our love with the love of God (Who of course already loves them). But this is the “unity in the bond of peace.” Our life is properly lived in communion – it is this kind of life for which we were created. Intercession is not message service (if you will) but a mode of existence.

    Some thoughts.

  9. nomad Avatar

    ….”I so easily forget that Christ himself is constantly interceding even as we speak”……..I have never stopped and given this any serious thought or ponderance …..and Im questioning Why I have’nt..

  10. fatherstephen Avatar

    Just a suggestion…

    We don’t think about it because it has been theologically minimized in most Christian accounts of God. Rather than understanding the importance of koinonia, it’s as if theology created a “Newtonian” version of the spiritual universe. It would have its accurate points but fail to properly describe reality. Many theologians have treated prayer as something apart from serious theological concerns such as major doctrines, etc. But since prayer is properly something we should do “without ceasing” it is obviously of deepest importance. The ascetical theology of the Orthodox faith (which is not really separable from the rest of Orthodox theology) speaks in a very integrated manner in which prayer would be as theologically significant as, say, the doctrine of salvation, and for the same reasons.

    The failure of most theological “systems” to give an account of prayer (intercessory or otherwise) should be an indication of their bankruptcy.

  11. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless! Would it be accurate to say that the highest form of prayer, prayer of the heart, IS Communion, and all forms of Christian prayer are (at least potentially) steps toward or stages of Communion with God?

  12. fatherstephen Avatar

    Yes, I think so.

  13. jmgregory Avatar

    I was reminded of this Wednesday night when someone at our (Protestant) church requested that we sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”. I simply didn’t sing along, but I might have done better to walk out of the auditorium. The third verse was particularly disgusting, in that it conflates (American political) freedom and the very praise of God:

    “Let music swell the breeze,
    and ring from all the trees
    sweet freedom’s song;
    let mortal tongues awake;
    let all that breathe partake;
    let rocks their silence break,
    the sound prolong.”

    Thank you for addressing our idolatry, Father Stephen, and for pointing us to its remedy. Lord, have mercy on us!

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