Megachurch Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church in New York City is warning that a "baptism of godlessness" is tearing apart America.
With drug use, violence and hopelessness increasing in the nation as Jesus Christ is driven out of the public space, he told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Tuesday that prayer to God is the only thing that can save the nation.
Conlon, who pastors the interdenominational Times Square Church in New York, which sees over 10,000 people in attendance of over 100 different nationalities, is a best-selling author and preacher that has led hundreds of thousands to the Gospel message around the world.
His latest book, It's Time To Pray: God's Power Changes Everything, released last week, describes the many different areas that people need to pray to God for, and serves in part as an autobiography of his spiritual journey.
He told CP that the book is being released now because America has reached a dangerous level of divisiveness that only prayer can solve.
"The founding fathers of this nation believed in God. Much of the Constitution and the laws of the country were based on a Judeo-Christian worldview," he said.
He argued that while America has often faced divisive times, today "we are seeing an absolute baptism of godlessness."
"It's terrifying because it's tearing apart the very fabric of our society. Our only hope to not end up in a division that can't be healed, is a returning to and an understanding that we are, and were, a nation under God. That's our hope," he added.
He said that such a godlessness is "happening in all of our institutions, it's happening in our schools, it's happening in our government, our homes. There seems to be a concentrated effort in the last generation in particular to drive the knowledge of Christ out of the public market place, out of our grade schools, high schools, colleges, the conscience of the public."
"It's a distressing moment, because we are seeing the end result: opium addiction in our major cities, it's getting into a critical level. A break down of law and order; an incivility in our political arena; and we're seeing the country divided on racial lines, sociological viewpoints," he continued.
"It's getting to a point where it's turning violent. This is where a nation that knew God, but rejected Him, tends to always go. This is the moment we are now in, and it is a fearful moment for the nation if we don't turn back to God."
Conlon explained that he wrote It's Time To Pray because he wanted people to understand how God works.
"It starts with the early beginnings of coming to Christ when I was 24, the mistakes I made, from the vantage point of having almost nothing to offer the kingdom of God, to heading into Africa and preaching to half a million people, and seeing thousands come to Christ," he highlighted some of the key developments in his life that are described in the book.
"It has been an incredible journey, and I am hoping that as people read it, every person, no matter where they are in life, will close each chapter and think: 'God, if you can do that for that man, if you're still doing those things in our day, then I'm going to begin to pray and ask you [to come] into my life.'"
It's Time To Pray offers advice for how people can pray for some of the most important things in this world, such as for salvation.
Conlon said that he came to Christ by reading the Bible and understanding that Jesus "died in my place so that I can be forgiven."
He said that he understood other important things as well, however.
"To come to Christ means a new lifestyle, it means turning away from an old way of living, old practices which the Bible calls sin, and turning to the way of God," the author noted, adding that it also means giving God the rights to one's entire life and future.
Conlon warned that his concern is that people in America "are coming to what they think is salvation, but there's no repentance. There's no understanding that an old way of living has to be put away, there's no real yearning for the way and the will of God, there's no real understanding of taking up one's personal cross and following Christ."
He argued that too many people are only concerned about their own happiness and pursuit of joy, and are not really living for the benefit of others.
"Which is of course the essence of the Christian life, it is living for the sake of other people," he pointed out.
The Times Square Church leader positioned that in the last 30 years or so, a theological shift in American churches has focused on following the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, echoing the Declaration of Independence.
He said that while that persuit may be a good thing for a nation, the problem is when it gets mixed into the theology of a professing church, turning the concept of coming to Christ into "about my life, my liberty, and the pursuit of my happiness."
Such a focus often replaces things such as sacrifice, suffering for others, going to the missions field, and obedience to God, he warned.
"We have ended up with an extremely weak Christian testimony in a very militant nation that is moving in a direction away from God," Conlon said.
Obedience to God includes loving one's neighbor, even when people have been hurt and it is hard to do so, he pointed out. The pastor explained that Christians, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Forgiveness, need to be able to forgive.
"Jesus Himself said, 'If you think you love God but hate your brother, you are a liar. The truth is not in you.' If that doesn't shake an unforgiving person to the core, I'm not sure what would," he said.
Unforgiveness leaves many Christians in a place of torment, lacking peace, he observed.
"If we won't forgive, what kind of ambassador are we?" he asked.
As It's Time To Pray declares, prayer can also achieve impossible dreams and feats.
For Conlon, that impossible dream when he was a young man at 24 with no public speaking ability and no ministry training, was to lead thousands into following Christ.
He remembers praying, "God, I want to win over 100,000 people before I die," and not just people who raise their hands for a question, but those who genuinely want to serve God in their lives.
"It seemed an impossible prayer, yet I felt God whispering it to my heart, and I agreed with Him, and I asked Him to do for me what I could never do for myself."
That prayer was to be fulfilled in Africa, when Conlon was speaking to a crowd of half a million people caught up in civil war.
The pastor remembers telling those present at the massive service:
"If you have no intention of forgiving your brother, if you have no intention of stopping the killing, if you have no intention of living a virtuous Christian life, and turning from what is wrong — don't deceive yourself, don't disgrace the name of God by raising your hand."
He continued back then: "But if you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, if you want your sins forgiven, know that you have eternal life in Heaven when you die, and live the life that God has for you while you're here on Earth — I'm asking you to raise your hand to receive Christ as your savior."
Conlon said that while it was difficult to get a precise number, organizers at the event counted at least 100,000 hands that went up, asking to receive Christ in their lives, and asking for peace.
Speaking of It's Time To Pray, Conlon insisted that the project "is not just a book" to him.
"It is deeper than that, I wouldn't bother with just writing a book — I am 65, and I don't need this anymore. I don't even take royalties from it. Everything that comes in from the book goes into a missions fund. This is about people praying again," he said.
"I believe we are living in the last days. There is a promise in Scripture about an end times harvest. For that to happen, God's people are going to need to pray again. This is the cry of my heart, this is what I am standing for and believing in now."
Going back to the main problems facing the country, he said that society has become "bankrupt."
"We are seeing a confusion in children, a deep anger, which is why we have such problems with violence in our schools now," he said, in reference to the many school shootings and other large-scale shootings that have plagued the country.
Conlon said that Americans remain "bitterly divided."
"We are in trouble socially, politically, spiritually, economically. There is almost no more trouble that you can bring into the nation. Our homes are being fractured, our children are being captivated," he warned, admitting that things could still get worse.
"I think God would hope, as I do, that we will have the sense to pray. If we don't, He will allow into this country what needs to happen, so that we will pray for a higher good, and that people will turn back to Him again."