In times of crisis, Christians are fond of quoting II Chronicles 7:14 which reads (NIV): 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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. This is a conditional statement, otherwise known as an “if…then” statement. God is saying IF we do certain things, THEN God will act. Unfortunately, we don’t always pay attention to the entire passage. We pray and expect God to act.
We first need to see who this promise is addressed to. It is to God’s people – those who are called by His name. I readily acknowledge that God was speaking to the Israelite nation, but today, who are God’s people? Who are called by His name? I submit this applies to Christians today. Christians are God’s people, bearing the name of Christ.
What does God ask of us to do in this passage? There are four things God specifies here.
First, we are to humble ourselves. We tend not to be humble. At times, we tend to be an arrogant, proud people. Arrogant is defined as “having excessive pride in oneself, often with contempt or disrespect for others.” Most of us can be characterized as arrogant on occasion. We tend to think we are better than others. I spent most of my adult working career in higher education. You don’t have to look hard to find an arrogant professor. By virtue of their doctoral degree, many academics tend to feel and act superior to other “lesser” beings. Of course, this does not apply just to professors, any one can be arrogant or proud. We need to be more like a lady I observed yesterday. We were in a line at Starbucks and the lady in front of us did not speak English as her native language. She did not understand what the barista was telling her. This humble lady didn’t berate the other lady for her lack of understanding, but stepped up to help her complete her transaction. Later she explained to the lady that they would call her name when her beverage was ready and she needed to go up to the counter to get it. That is humility.
Second, God asks that we pray. Any prayer can be an effective prayer, but there is more here than asking God to heal our land, removing whatever judgment we feel is upon us.
Third, as a part of that prayer, we are to seek God’s face. The Amplified Bible states that we should crave, require God’s face. As human beings we look forward to spending time with our loved ones. When I see my wife, it can make my day. We should seek God’s face relentlessly – it must be something we pursue, never wanting to feel like we are away from His presence. When we live in a constant awareness of the presence of God, we will be more humble, we will seek to be a part of the solution.
Fourth, a part of this prayer should be confession of our sins, asking God’s forgiveness. Turn from our wicked ways. Before you get proud and say “I may not be perfect, but I am certainly not wicked” let’s examine that word. It derives from the old English wicca, which refers to a witch. In today’s language the word carriers a number of meanings but the one most applicable here is “evil or morally wrong.” We must resist sin in our lives.
God then tells us that if we do these things, He will hear us and will heal our land. One difference in the Israelite nation and the United States is that Israel’s God was Yahweh. When the nation strayed, God was calling them back to Him. The United States is not really a Christian nation. It was founded to give us religious freedom. Even though Christianity may be the predominant religion in the United States, we, as a nation, cannot be called God’s people. As Christians in this nation, it behooves us to act like Christians and pray for the welfare of our land. But we need to give God a reason to heal this land.