“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” Chronicles 7:14
This one verse from 2 Chronicles is so packed with application for our lives (It almost comes as a surprise to remember it is from the Old Testament – not all the Old Testament is lists of names and laws!) In the Casting crowns song ‘What if his people prayed’ it is used to encourage people to pray, and while that is one of the aspects of this verse, as I looked at it, there is actually so much more to it than it simply being about the need to pray – this verse makes it clear that prayer on its own is not enough.
I’m going to start at the end of this verse, which is a message from God to His people, where God makes a promise “I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” I think it is clear that our land needs healing – there is rising teen suicides, more and more people are going out every weekend getting drunk and sleeping around, many people have huge levels of debt, there is all sorts of political corruption around the world, Islamic extremists are preaching their messages of hate unopposed while great restrictions are placed on the Church’s freedom to speak out. Our land needs healed! God has promised to heal it – when He says “I will” you can be sure that He will – but it is a conditional promise, It is not freestanding – it is dependant on us doing our part.
The promise will be fulfilled when “[His] people who are called by [His] name will humble themselves and pray and seek [His] face and their wicked ways.”
All who are Christians have been chosen by God to be his people (re Ephesians 1:5), therefore if we want God to heal our land it is up to us to fulfil the four requests God makes in the first half of the verse – to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek God’s face and to turn from our wicked ways.
“…humble themselves” When we come before God, we need to come with the right attitude. We are not worthy. We can not come before Him because of our own righteousness, but because of Jesus’ blood, shed on our behalf. ‘We are who we are by the grace of God’ (re 1 Corinthians 15:10). It is not about what we have done, but what God has done through us. On our own, we can do little, but with God “all things are possible” (Philippians 4:13). We need to strip away all pride, all thoughts of self-righteousness, all our desires to get glory for ourselves, and come humbly before God. We need to acknowledge that whatever we achieve it is because He has enabled and empowered us. In our relationship with God (and with others) the focus should be on Him, not us. Jesus says if you want to be the greatest you should become the least. He had every right to think of himself as worthy, but he still got down and washed his disciples’ feet.
Joab gives us another example of humility. In 2 Samuel 12:26-31 he led the Israelite army against the city of Rabbah, and achieved a great victory. Yet just before the end of the battle he called King David, and let him come and get the glory for winning. He was prepared to do the hard work and risk his life and then let someone else take the glory. That’s the kind of humility we need!
“and pray” – this part should be pretty straightforward. If we want our land to be healed, we need to spend time praying that is will happen. John Wesley once said that ‘God will do nothing but in answer to prayer’. Without getting drawn into a theological debate about that, we should strive to keep that in mind while we pray. For our land to be healed it will require God’s people getting on their knees in intercessory prayer. Does it concern you that many of the people around you will be spending eternity in Hell? If it does, that should compel you to pray for change, for eyes to open to Christ. And if it doesn’t, you need to pray that God would give you a passion for the lost. Prayer has great power – let’s utilize it on behalf of our land!
“and seek my face” . The healing of our land will be an advancing of the Kingdom of God. We as believers have been called to advance the kingdom, yet we cannot advance it without knowing God, and having a passion to want to advance his kingdom. As we grow in our relationship with God we will have a better knowledge of who He is, and should have a greater passion that others would see Him for who He is – the creator and sustainer of all things, our strong tower, and the only hope for salvation. And we will only grow in our relationship with God by spending time seeking his face – in prayer, in Bible study, in devotion, in praise. Psalm 24 describes the generation who seek God’s face:
“He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.” (NIV)
Are we ready to be that generation? Can we honestly say our hands are clean and our hearts are pure? Because to be the generation that fully seeks God’s face that’s what we need to do!
“And turn from their wicked ways” – it is not enough to repent of our sin – we need to flee from it! We will never be totally free from sin here on earth, but we cannot use that as an excuse to slip up. We should always be striving to be more like Christ, who was perfect in every way. He died to make us a new creation – there is no place for the old sinful life in our new life as followers of Him. This means casting aside everything that holds us back, whatever that might be for you. The race of life will be tough enough without making it harder by trying to bring extra baggage with us.
We need to nail all sin to the cross, and leave it there (“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galatians 5:24)
We cannot use the same mouth to praise God and then belittle His creation! We can’t have devotional time and then go off to watch all sorts of inappropriate nonsense on TV. It is hypocrisy, and Jesus wasn’t too fond of hypocrites…. Leave the passions of your sinful nature on the cross. The only thing you can gain from sin is regret.
When the Body of Christ gets those four things right, we will see great breakthroughs. We will see great transformation. God has promised it. Are we willing to be the generation that humbles themselves, prays without ceasing, seeks God’s face like never before and totally turns from its wicked ways?