“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The National Day of Prayer has come and gone with hardly any acknowledgment in the mainstream media. That should come as no surprise since recent statistics indicate that our nation’s residents continue to drift away from anything that has to do with either religion or patriotism.
“God and Country” used to be a vital part of our national mantra. Of late, however, that phrase is perceived by the “woke” segment of our populations as some sort of dangerous threat to society. Any hint that God, if He even exists, has anything to do with the “privileges” enjoyed by those who live here is too often rejected as nonsense. The new narrative regarding our national prosperity is sophomorically based on imperial greed and class dominance.
While our country is not above criticism for serious breaches in her promises to provide “liberty and justice for all,” I would challenge anyone to name a nation that provides more opportunities to enjoy personal freedom and prosperity than our own. The flood of immigrants that is constantly flowing into our country illustrates that reality.
Another reality is that the Founding Fathers of our nation, as imperfect as they might have been, did in fact intend to create a government which acknowledges that the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible is sovereign and that our laws should be rooted in scriptural principles.
That is not to assert that we are a “Christian” nation. Rather, I would say that up to the present we have generally been a God-fearing nation. What happens in the future depends largely on whether we embrace our faith or reject it.
2 Chronicles 7:14 presents the essence of God’s covenant with His people, those who believe in Him and trust Him. So, what exactly is a covenant, anyway?
Basically, a covenant is an agreement that is similar to a contract, but one that carries spiritual significance. God’s “covenant” defines a relationship of love and loyalty between the Lord and His chosen people. This passage of scripture presents the conditions God offers to Israel after Solomon completed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Throughout salvation history there regularly reappears a basic pattern of human behavior. We quickly forget God’s instructions and warnings. Then, we “backslide” into our own self-serving ways. The resulting wickedness brings divine judgment and consequential punishment. Pain and suffering eventually brings us to our knees before God’s throne where we beg for mercy. Fortunately for us, God is patient (for now).
However, the Bible is frighteningly clear about a coming final judgment. 2 Peter 3:9-10 plainly puts it, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
The good news in this passage is that the Lord actually wants us all to come to repentance. Without getting into a complicated theological discussion about the sovereignty of God’s will, we should find an abundance of hope in that God cares about us.
So, what does God want us to do? 2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us some specific instructions which are relevant to each of us, as well as to us collectively as a nation.
Firstly, the Lord requires us to humble ourselves. It has been said by many philosophers and theologians that humility is the mother of all virtues. It has to do with emptying oneself of all pride and arrogance in order to receive value and significance from the Lord, Himself. That requires an absolute trust in His love for us.
The wisdom of fools would have us exalt ourselves above all else, embracing who we perceive ourselves to be with some sort of contrived pride about it.
Jesus Christ demonstrated ultimate humility by joining the muddle of humanity, knowing all the while that He was the Son of God. Yet, He humbled Himself so that He could suffer and die a most painful and humiliating death so that we might be saved from our sins by His atoning blood.
Christians are admonished to have the same attitude that was in Christ. (Philippians 2:5ff) That attitude puts us in a place where we can hear God with an open and hungry heart.
The next requirement is to pray. We don’t really know how to pray without the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our natural tendency is to ask for stuff that we think we need, rather than for the things God wants us to have. Too often, our prayers seem to be more about getting God to adjust His agenda to suit us than about us finding His will in our lives and for the power to actualize it.
In our prayers we should be seeking God’s face. The meaning of that in the Old Testament text suggests that we should turn our attention away from ourselves and focus it upon Him and His desire for us and our future. That requires a lot more self-denial than most of us can muster.
It is little wonder that there is so much conflict and turmoil among those who claim to be people of faith. Prayer has the power to change our hearts and bring us together to change our national destiny. The Apostle Paul instructs us to pray continually for good reason. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
The natural result of our humble prayer is repentance. Repentance is often misunderstood as merely feeling sorry for doing wrong. While godly sorrow can lead us to repentance, that is not the main point. Turning away from our wicked ways requires a whole lot of intention and constant discipline.
The prodigal son came to himself in the wallow of his self-serving life and the result was that he decided in total humility to return to his home and be reconciled to his father. The consequence of his resolve was restoration of everything he had lost (Luke 15:11-32).
That is the true essence of repentance. Turning away from our sins and toward our glorious eternal heritage is our ultimate life’s journey.
Try as we may, we cannot rewrite our national history. It is what it is. The good, bad, and ugly of the past stand as reminders that our nation, like ourselves, is not perfect. Yet, there is much good that remains, and to be improved upon, if we will together humbly seek God’s face in prayer and repent from whatever wickedness that remains among us. We have no other hope if we are to escape the awful consequences of God’s judgment for our continued rebellion.
God promises us that He will then heed our prayers, forgive us, and heal our land. The fruit of that covenant promise is reconciliation and a restoration of the righteous relationship we were destined to enjoy with the Lord and with each other. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD (Psalm 33:12).
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]