believes prayer changes things
___Editor's note: This is the third in a series of reports.
___By Mark Wingfield
___GLORIETA, N.M.--Alice Patterson used to try to influence elected officials through political rallies and lobbying. Now, she's turned her energy to lobbying God on behalf of elected officials.
___The latter strategy, she now believes, is more biblical and Christ-like.
___It's also more likely to be productive, she said. "The people who pray for elected officials are very powerful."
___Patterson, a former field director for the Texas Christian Coalition, told her story during a small-group seminar at the Glorieta Prayer Conference.
___While not disparaging others who feel called to direct political action, Patterson said she now believes God has called her to a ministry of prayer for civic leaders and government officials.
___"If we're political activists, we think things will change when we get the right people elected to office," she said. "But sometimes things don't change if you get the right people elected to office."
____All who are elected to public office, regardless of ideology, face enormous pressures that constrain their ability to vote their own conscience at all times, Patterson said. "There are people who are paid big money to change these guys' minds."
___They also become players in a spiritual battle few are prepared to fight, she said.
___And that's where prayer can make a big difference, said Patterson, a member of Second Baptist Church in Odessa and director of an organization called Pray Texas.
___"The Lord didn't say, 'If you elect all Christian officials to office, I will heal your land.' He said, 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.'"
___Evangelical Christians have a bad reputation among politicians for asking for everything and giving virtually nothing, Patterson said. Yet from her new perspective, Christians have the most important thing to offer that any elected official could want--the power of prayer.
___No amount of political activity will move an elected official as much as God can move them through the power of prayer, she declared.
___She encourages Christians not only to pray for their elected officials but to let those officials know they are being prayed for.
___"It's important to let people know we're praying," she explained. "One of the most effective things you can do is send a postcard" with a simple note such as "I am praying for you."
___Christians can find plenty of things to pray about concerning elected officials, Patterson said, citing the heavy burdens these officials carry for everything from public safety to the moral direction of the country.
___However, "the most powerful prayer is the prayer God puts on your heart," she said.
___Sometimes, Christians may need to begin by asking elected officials to forgive them for not praying for them in the past, Patterson said.
___Such pleas for forgiveness have made a profound difference in several cities where religious leaders have approached civic leaders as a group to ask forgiveness, she said. She cited cases where civic leaders have responded with weeping, pouring out their burdens and concerns for their communities.
___It's also appropriate, she said, to ask, "How can we pray for you? What can we pray for that has no political agenda?"
___When Christians approach civic leaders with such an attitude, they will find open doors and open hearts, Patterson said. "What we know is people respond to grace; people respond to sincerity."
___In the process, Christians may find their own attitudes changed, she said, explaining that through prayer she became convicted that her own anger toward President Bill Clinton was a sin.
___"The Lord showed me that if he put me and Bill Clinton side by side, he wouldn't pat me on the head and commend me," she said, noting that there is "no difference between his sin and mine."
___Unrepentant anger over political battles often makes Christians present an ungodly image that damages the cause of Christ more than it helps it, Patterson said. "Make sure the face other people see is the face of God."
___For more information about Pray Texas, contact Patterson at (915) 580-4888, or send e-mail to PRAYTX@aol.com.
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