If we know these verses to be true, then it's times like now when we need to put faith into practice by praying in trust, believing God will guide our country as he sees fit. But if we do, we need to be careful to pray with right motives. James warned his readers that, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (4:3). When we pray, we need to have God's glory and purposes in mind, not just our comfort. The issue is never whether God is with one human side or another, but whether we are sided with him (Joshua 5:14).

We also cannot presume that our nation's economic welfare and spiritual welfare run in the same direction. God may have reasons for letting our nation reap some of the whirlwind from its excessive debt (personal and national). But we can pray that in the midst of it he would also show mercy. We can also pray that God would spare us from the worst of what our enemies would plan against us, especially now when America seems vulnerable as we face another change in government.

This last point, about the need to seek God's mercy, cannot be overemphasized, especially when we realize that the warning of Jesus - "to him who is given much, shall much be required" - refers to those who are given both revelation and material things. In Matthew 11:20-24, Christ told some Jewish towns that it would be more bearable for Sodom than those towns on the day of judgment because they had been given so much revelation and still failed to repent.

There may be no nation in history which has been given as much exposure to the Gospel, accompanied with material blessings, as our United States. This may leave us in a far more perilous place before God than we realize. God may want to have mercy on us, for the sake of his people here and for other reasons, but we cannot presume to have it. God spared a wicked nation, Ninevah, in part because the people of that city "could not tell their right hand from their left" (Jonah 4:11). We cannot claim the same degree of ignorance. So when we pray, let's come as we are, God's people in the midst of a nation that desperately needs God's mercy.

If we believe that God can save people and even nations, and that all things are in his hands, let's pray with faith for him to intervene and work in and through our election process, then trust the outcome to him. He has never promised us a path around hardship, just that if it comes, he'll still be with us: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Steve Hall is a ruling elder at Stony Point Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Richmond, Va. He is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently practices law while studying to be licensed for preaching in his presbytery.