It's Time! Engaging in prayer for our nation

April 23, 2017

It’s Time!

Engage in Prayer for Our Nation

 
 


2 Chronicles 7: 14

As a call to worship I’d like to read the first 3 verses of this chapter. The context is King Solomon praying after finishing the construction of the Temple – v. 1 - 3.

• The word “engage” means, “to get and keep someone’s attention and interest, to occupy, attract, or become involved in.” It can also mean to start fighting against an opponent.

• The word “disengage” refers to releasing or detaching oneself; to withdraw through complacency, to become bored and disinterested.

Now more than ever we must not be spiritual slackers! It’s time for us to awaken, to engage and to occupy!

Romans 13: 11, 12 “The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.”

 

Putting the Text in Context

We’re going to learn this truth: If we follow God’s plan, then we will receive His promises. This verse is often quoted in reference to the need for revival. Without a doubt it is the best known and most loved verse in all of Chronicles – in fact, it may be the only verse we know from this book! As we grapple with this section of God’s Word, let’s keep the context in mind so that we interpret and apply it accurately.

2nd Chronicles records the construction of the temple under the direction of King Solomon. In chapter 6, Solomon knelt, spread his hands toward heaven, and broke out into an amazing prayer of dedication. That had to be some kind of prayer! Can you imagine fire coming down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filling the temple? I love how the pastors were out of a job because God showed up in such a mighty way!

Don’t miss that in this amazing display of God’s power and glory, the people declared, “He is good; His love endures forever.” This phrase is found 5 times in 2 Chronicles. After offering a huge sacrifice, Solomon and all the people dedicated the temple to God. Everyone stood up, the priests took their positions, and the Levites gathered their instruments. After celebrating and praising God for over 2 weeks, the people went back to their homes joyful and glad in heart.

The Lord then appeared to Solomon and said, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

God’s People…

The word “If” introduces a conditional clause: If we follow God’s plan, then we will receive His promises. The next phrase identifies whom He is addressing: “my people, who are called by my name.”  This passage was addressed initially to the nation of Israel.

Contrary to how we may view ourselves, we are not God’s chosen nation. Having said that, this verse certainly has application to us - 2 Timothy 3: 16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Romans 15: 4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

The OT is given to encourage us and to give us examples (both good and bad.) In essence, this verse is calling for revival.

God knows that His people can lose their first love, that we can get soft in our spirituality and that we can disengage from what He considers most important. The psalmist earnestly requests revival: Psalm 85: 6 “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”  

Habakkuk 3: 2 “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…”

Biblical revival comes to God’s people who determine to follow God’s plan so that they can receive God’s promises. Once we are revived and awakened, the overflow will spill into the lives of others.

This verse gives us 4 conditions to follow. I’m going to state each one as a problem and couple it with a positive principle.

…Following God’s Plan…

1. The Problem of Pride – Be Dependent

The first condition is to “humble ourselves.” The root of the word humility means dirt or soil. It has the idea of “bending the knee and neck in deference to another.” James 4: 10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” I heard someone put it like this: “Humble yourself before the Lord…or He’ll do it for you.”

Remember - “He is God and we are not.” This is the right place to start because we know that God does not hear the prayers of the proud. James 4: 6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Many of us overestimate our goodness and underestimate the sin in our lives. If the truth were known, many of us think our sins don’t smell as bad as other people’s as we look down on those who sin differently than we do.

Could I invite you to close your eyes as I read Isaiah 66: 2 “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Take some time right now to confess any pride and humble yourself. See yourself as lowly and desperate and see God as majestic and mighty.

2. The Problem of Prayerlessness – Be Disciplined

After humbling ourselves, we are commanded to “pray.” This means, “to intercede” and was the most common Hebrew word used to describe the general act of prayer, often employed when someone was in distress.

Brothers and sisters, if we want revival then we must humble ourselves and pray. If we want to receive God’s promises then we need to follow God’s plan. Let’s be dependent and disciplined. That leads to the third principle…

3. The Problem of Priorities – Be Devoted

To “seek God’s face” was used to describe someone searching earnestly and with great diligence. When you seek something of value, you re-arrange your schedule and priorities until you find it. Jeremiah 29: 13 says that when we seek God with our whole heart, we will find Him. We’re called to make God our primary focus and first priority. Revival does not come to those who seek revival but to those who seek God.

Would you notice we’re not to seek God’s hand but rather His face? Too many of us want what God can give us when He wants us to seek Him for who He is.

Psalm 27: 4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”

In the Bible, this phrase is used of someone desiring an audience with a prince or with God Himself. This is how it is used in

Psalm 27: 8 “My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” The idea is that we align ourselves with His will and His ways.

Are you rearranging your priorities so that you can come into His presence? As God’s people we are to follow God’s plan as we dependently humble ourselves, as we discipline ourselves to pray, and as we devotedly seek God’s face. There’s one more condition – we’re to be different.

4. The Problem of Presumption – Be Different

We’re called to “turn from our wicked ways.” The word turn is used over 1000 times in the Bible! The order here is significant. As we humble ourselves and pray and seek God with all that we have, our hunger will be satisfied by the sight of God’s face and we will no longer want to hold on to those things that grieve God.

The idea is to change the direction in which our heart is inclined. King Josiah is a good model in 2 Kings 23: 25: “Josiah turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and might!”

Powerful verse - Psalm 66: 18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” There’s really no way to soften the command to turn from our wicked ways. God accepts only one response to sin, not rationalizing, not excusing, and not comparing ourselves to others. He demands that “we turn from our wicked ways.”

Proverbs 28: 13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find mercy.”

Have you been playing around with sin? Repent right now. Have you been withholding forgiveness from someone? Stop acting as their judge and free them from ever paying you back.

Do you have some dark secrets that you’ve been trying to hide from God and your loved ones?

Bring them into the light. Joshua 24: 14 “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped … and serve the Lord.” Admit your sin and then abandon it.

…Receive God’s Promises

When God’s people follow God’s plan they will receive God’s promises. Let’s look briefly at the promises that come after the word, “then.” If God’s people do these 4 things, then He will do these 3 things.

1. God will hear. When we pray the way God directs us to pray, He promises to hear our prayers. Isaiah 65: 24 “Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”

2. God will help. The second promise is that God will forgive our sins. To forgive means to “send away” or “to let go.” Psalm 103: 12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

3. God will heal. The last promise has to do with national blessing for the nation of Israel. When God’s people committed to God’s plan, God sent healing to their land. During the reign of King Ahab the land experienced a bad famine, and only in response to the prayers of Elijah did the rains come. The word, “heal” means “to repair, to restore, to stitch back together.”

While this particular promise is to the nation of Israel, I see an application for us today. Many of us are in need of repair and restoration. We long for healing of our emotions, our spirits and our bodies. Our country is certainly in need of healing.

Revival always starts among God’s redeemed people. It goes from the Christian to the Church to the Community to the Country and then to the Continents. Are you willing for it to start with you? If so, be dependent by being humble, be disciplined in prayer, be devoted by seeking God’s face, and be different by turning from your wicked ways.

This passage ultimately points us to Jesus Christ. Solomon was the son of David but Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David right now. Solomon slaughtered thousands of animals in sacrifice but Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. If you have not yet been saved, cry out to Him right now.

Closing Song:

Receive this benediction from Ephesians 3: 20, 21: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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