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Hemphill urges deeper repentance for U.S. depravity, indifference

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In a time of increasing moral depravity and indifference in the United States, Christians must heighten their praying, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill said Jan. 19.
“It breaks our hearts to see our president and our nation facing moral depravity, and no one seems to care,” Hemphill said, referring to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton currently under way in the U.S. Senate.
What seems to be worse than the trial, he added, is that people are indifferent to the events in Washington, so long as the economy remains healthy.
“God is calling our nation as never before to pray,” Hemphill said during the first chapel service of the spring semester at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
Using the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah as his text, Hemphill said confession and repentance are essential to praying effectively.
From Nehemiah 1:4-7, Hemphill noted Nehemiah’s prayer upon learning that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins: a confession that the Jews had sinned against the Lord and had been wicked.
Corporate confession is good, Hemphill said, but there is a danger in it, because “when we think ‘we,’ we think ‘the rest of them’ have sinned.”
But in Nehemiah’s prayer, the Jewish leader went from confessing the sins of the Jewish nation as a whole to the sins of his family and his own sins. “For a revival to occur,” said Hemphill, “individual repentance has to occur.”
When repenting of disobedience, Christians need to keep in mind that disobedience comes in the form of both unfulfilled requirements and hesitating before following the Lord’s commands, Hemphill said.
“Partial obedience is total disobedience. We’re carrying around sin and baggage we have not confessed,” he said. Delaying doing what the Lord has said is also tantamount to sinning. “Delayed obedience is immediate disobedience. When God calls, we obey. It’s not negotiable.”
When Nehemiah acknowledged his sins, he remembered God’s promise to forgive his sins, Hemphill added. Though Nehemiah came before God empty-handed, he always had the guarantee from God, as recorded in Scripture, that “if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.”
Hemphill also pointed out Nehemiah “sat down to pray,” that is, he stopped and listened to God.
Until that time, Hemphill said, Nehemiah, who was the cupbearer to the king of Persia, had a “pie-in-the-sky” view, but the news of Jerusalem’s distress “shattered his cocoon.”
Nehemiah became so grieved at what was happening to his people that he sat down and wept. “He got God’s perspective,” Hemphill said.
Not only did Nehemiah weep, he also prayed intensely and fasted, said Hemphill, noting that most Christians no longer pray this way.
“One of the reasons we don’t pray this way is that it’s hard work. It’s difficult spiritual work,” he said.
But fighting a spiritual battle with any chance of success requires that prayer be made earnestly and intensely, Hemphill said. He quoted the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 18, which says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Nehemiah’s prayer also focused on the nature of God. Reminding his audience that “man’s insufficiency is always met by God’s sufficiency,” Hemphill said Christians need to focus on “the great and awesome God” to whom Nehemiah directed his prayer.
In addition to focusing on God’s glory and his power, Nehemiah also remembered that God keeps his promises for those who love him and obey his commands. Hemphill reminded the students that this promise applies to them. Despite all the challenges that seminary students face, Hemphill said, “If he has called you here, he will sustain you here.”
Hemphill closed his remarks with an encouragement to students to meet with others and to form prayer groups as God leads, but “above all else, seek the face of holy God.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey