God and America
How to Pray for America
2 Chronicles 7:14
Happy Independence Day! July 4th is celebrated as the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the second Continental Congress. It is the day we officially declared ourselves to be a sovereign, independent nation, no longer a part of the British Empire. As you know, there was great sacrifices made to declare our freedom.
Now, 242 years later we celebrate our independence and our amazing heritage of courageous men and women who had the vision of a free nation. At the same time, we see how our country is going right now and we ask, “What went wrong?” Proverbs 14:34 tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” In two centuries and especially this last century, many sins have become accepted and considered not just normal, but in many cases, it is legalized. In fact, many Christians believe that America will face God’s judgment if it continues down this path. But what can we do? This seems so much bigger than you and me.
Last week we looked at Daniel’s lengthy prayer of confession found in Daniel 9. Daniel prayed for his nation while they were in captivity to Babylon under God’s judgement. We said that we need to pattern our prayer for our people after Daniel’s prayer for his people. We said that our prayers need to be founded in Scripture, entered into with humble acknowledgment of God, be filled with determined confession, and plead for God’s forgiveness. I hope that each of you have prayed this last week for our people in this nation and even using Daniel’s prayer as a pattern. I hope that your prayer was not for your sake, or for the sake of your children and grandchildren, but for God’s sake.
I feel so strongly about praying for America, that I would like to look at an often-cited verse from the Old Testament concerning prayers for a nation, 2 Chronicles 7:14. Unfortunately, it is cited so quickly and easily, we pay little attention to what it is really saying. You know the verse I am talking about, right?
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.
Can I ask you something? Is it just my lack of faith, or have you read this verse and said to yourself, that will never happen in America? Our nation will never turn from its wicked ways. How is this even possible and how are we to pray effectively for America? Let’s look more closely at this verse.
Let’s set the context of this verse. If you remember, King David wanted to build the Temple for God in Jerusalem. God told David that Solomon, David’s son, would be the one who He would allow to build the Temple. In the first few chapters of 2 Chronicles, Solomon built a magnificent Temple for God. When the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple, we are told that the glory of God filled the Temple (5:14).
In chapter 6 of 2 Chronicles, Solomon blesses the people of Israel and he blesses God. Then Solomon leads the people in a prayer of dedication. This was not so much a prayer of dedication about the building structure, but a prayer of dedication of the people to God. Solomon kneels down and spreads out his hands toward heaven in front of all the people (6:13) and prays for this nation of people and for God’s forgiveness when they sin. When Solomon concluded his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and sacrifices. God’s glory filled the Temple. A great number of animals were sacrificed, and they had a feast for seven days. Thus, Solomon finished all that he planned to do concerning the Temple.
The Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and told Solomon that his prayer was heard, and that God will reside in the Temple and it will be considered a place of sacrifice (7:12). The reason God told Solomon this was so that they would know that when they sin there will be judgment, but God will give them the opportunity to repent and turn back to God and that He will forgive if they do.
13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 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.
This is huge! A promise of restoration. Restoration based upon repentance. Many of our nation’s presidents have sworn on a Bible open to this very passage at their swearing in ceremony during their inaugurations. Makes you wonder if it meant much to them or if it just sounded good to them. Let’s briefly look at verse 14. First notice the participants of this prayer of restoration.
Participants of Prayer – God’s People
The Lord said to Solomon that “if my people who are called by my name.” This promise of restoration falls fully upon the shoulders of those who God has called. Of course, this is directly addressed to the nation of Israel. But keep in mind that people who are genuine believers in Jesus Christ are also God’s chosen people. 1 Peter 2:9 says that New testament believers “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” So, indirectly this promise of restoration is a promise that I believe we can claim. We are told this in the New Testament also. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I believe this indicates that part of the problem of our nation’s decline is God’s people. It is the result of believers living in sin as though there is nothing wrong with it. Part of it is not living for the Lord and living more like the world. As we talked about last week, we see a nation of Christians who are compromising what they believe and have a form of godliness but no spiritual power. We are a nation of people who have left their first love, a love for God.
Believers are not only a part of the problem, but they are the primary means for a solution to the problem. “If” is a conditional statement. God says “if my people.” That means there has to be a choice made on our part to seek restoration in our nation. This is not a matter of the wicked of our world turning in repentance. This is a call to God’s people. We are the key to seeing change take place in America. “If my people who are called by my name.” We must step up to the plate and seek repentance. What does that look like?
Disposition of Prayer – Humility
If God’s people “humble themselves.” Let’s face it, this is more difficult than we can imagine. We are a proud creature. Whether we really are or not, most of us think of ourselves as good people. If you were here last week, you may remember that this was a huge part of Daniel’s prayer, humble acknowledgement. It is an inward realization of who we are before a holy God. James 4:6 tells us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
We need to take a look at our hearts and understand who we are in relation to our holy God. There is not a person here who deserves to be saved. It is only by God’s grace, mercy, and love that any of us can understand and by faith receive the Gospel message. There is not a person here who is any better than the worst sinner on earth. Our sin does not smell any better to God than anyone else’s sin. Every single one of us are sinners bound for eternity in Hell were it not for the profound grace of God toward us. Like the Apostle Paul said, we have nothing to boast in except the saving power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
When we come before God in prayer for our country, we need to come in humble acknowledgement that we do not deserve any blessings from Him. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves.” Next, notice our attitude.
Attitude of Prayer – Seeking God
We are to come “And pray and seek my face,” God told Solomon. Prayer should be done with the attitude of seeking God. We do not come to God because we have some sort of command over Him. We do not come to God to give Him advice. We do not come to God demanding certain treatment. We come to God in prayer petitioning His careful concerns in the matter of this nation.
We are seeking God because God is far from us. As a nation, we are far from Him and there needs to be some seeking done. Christians today, do not spend much time seeking God in His Word. They do not spend much time in meditation and prayer allowing God to speak to them. The attitude of the one praying for revival in our nation is a person who is genuinely seeking God’s face. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face.” Understanding and knowing what God desires of us. All of this results in action. What action?
Action of Prayer – Repentance
Repentance simply means a change of direction. It is the acknowledgement of what we are doing wrong and choosing to do what is right. God told Solomon, “and turn from their wicked ways.” This is the true test of biblical repentance. Often, we are sorry that we are caught in sin or we are sorry that we have to pay the consequences of sin, but biblical repentance is turning away and striving to never do it again.
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 it! This begins with you and me. Then we begin to influence our nation and its laws to turn from endorsing sin. But it begins with you and me on our knees in repentance.
Many times I read articles written by unbelievers about the hypocrisy of Christians. We say we believe the Bible, but never read it. We say we believe the Bible then say millions of years must fit into Genesis 1 somewhere. We say be believe the Bible but live in sexual relationships outside of marriage. Unbelievers recognize that many Christians are two faced when it comes to what we say we believe. We need to turn from our wicked ways as the people of God.
Participants of Prayer – God’s People
Disposition of Prayer – Humility
Attitude of Prayer – Seeking God
Action of Prayer – Repentance
Result of Prayer – God Hears and Forgives
“Then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” God says He will hear us, He will forgive us, and He will heal our nation. A prayer of restoration that begins with His people seeking Him in humble repentance resulting in God’s acting on our behalf.
I know this particular promise is to the nation of Israel, but I see an application for us today. Many Christians today live pretty nonchalantly toward sin in their lives. The world around us sees a people of faith that really doesn’t believe what they say they believe. We long for a nation that allows us freedom and upholds godly morality. Yet at the same time we are in need of repentance and restoration ourselves. We long for a healing of our nation and yet have no desire to change anything about our lives. How can we expect God to hear and forgive when we choose to live in sin?
We often plead to God that He will bring revival to our nation. But what is our role in God sending revival to our nation? As God’s people, we must come humbly seeking God and pray for our nation. That doesn’t mean we spend all our time complaining about how bad things are, because honestly, Christians are the problem. The government system has its flaws and its problems, but every revival that has ever taken place has begun with believers getting right with God and letting Him set a fire in their hearts. I can guarantee that God will act in your life if you come seeking Him and are repentant over sin.
Can I ask you this morning, are you willing to do what it takes to see revival take place in your heart? Then in your church? Then in your community? Eventually, to our nation? It has to start with you and me.
In our study of Revelation, one of the seven churches that are addressed in chapters 2 and 3 is the church of Ephesus. God commends them on standing strong against false teachings and enduring to be true to Him. But then listen to what God says after that commendation.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
God goes on to tell them that they need to repent of the things that have caused them to lose their love for Christ. We don’t know exactly what things God is pointing out, but they did. Just like right now, God may be pointing out things in your life that have caused you to lose the love you once had for Jesus. Can you remember a time when you were closer to God, more passionate about Him and telling others about Him? Has your love for the Lord diminished to a church ritual? Are you tired of it? How do we pray for our nation? It begins with a prayer of confession and repentance.
When I think about the individuals who signed the declaration of independence 242 years ago, I’m impressed with their courage. They had come to the point of declaring they were tired of the ways things were and wanted them to be different. They signed it knowing full well the penalty would be death if they were captured.
This morning as we prepare for communion, I would like to have several individuals pray. Pray for revival in our hearts and our nation. Pray that as we come to the communion time, that we will cry out to God that we are tired of living without a passion for him. Tired of living in a state of godliness with no power. Tired of not finding joy in life. Will you give your heart and life to Him in repentance?
When we take the elements of the communion table that represent what Jesus has done to save us from our sin, we should be brought humbly to recognize sin we are holding on to in our lives. May we be willing to repent of that sin and seek a restoration of the love for Jesus we once had. Is that your prayer today?