2 Chronicles 7:14/ “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Responding to the mass violence sweeping across America with the intensity of a crippling winter storm, I wrote in Part 1 of this blog that we have entered a historical period when “whispering a prayer to God on behalf of the victims of domestic terrorism, mass shootings and ‘daily gun violence’ is not enough.  

Americans have tired of hearing lofty pledges of “thoughts and prayers for victims and their families” which they experience as mere “noisy gong and clanging cymbal.” I too am weary of expressions of prayer, especially from governmental leaders who blatantly stoke racial tensions, fear and hatred against others in pursuit of political ambitions, and then refuse to make and enforce policies that may stem the tide of violence.  Might the Almighty God be weary of such behavior also? 

Nevertheless, I continue to believe fervently in the power of prayer to move the heart of God.  However, the first work of prayer is to possess a heart, mind and soul that are willing to comply with what we are asking of God.  If we’re asking God to bring peace, we should be willing to become peacemakers. If we’re asking God to heal our bodies, we should be willing to practice a healthy lifestyle, and so on.  Faith without works is dead.  

I encourage you to read 2 Chronicles, chapters 6 and 7, for an example of a human leader (King Solomon), who modeled for national leaders, generations and faith communities what it means to lead a nation in sincere prayer before God.  Solomon was not a flawless moral character. Though considered the wisest person that ever lived, Solomon was imperfect, and yet he understood the power and influence of the political platform that he occupied, had a profound sense for his historical place, and understood that his public words mattered, especially when they were words of prayer presented to God.  With a global audience turned toward him and his nation, Solomon seized the occasion to prayerfully articulate to God a set of national scenarios--almost in the manner of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses which he posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, in 1517.

Solomon’s prayer work was not short and sweet, but it transpired over seven days.  In the interest of brevity, I will summarize his prayer work found in Chapter 6:

  • Recited God’s sojourn with the faithful starting with their time of captivity.

  • Acknowledged God’s prior faithfulness in fulfilling promises to the nation.

  • Knelt in the presence of the Lord before the nation, modeling bodily submission, representing the disposition of his heart.

  • Confessed the sovereignty of God above all others, including himself.

  • Prayed for justice on behalf of all those mistreated in his nation.

  • Prayed for mercy when his nation lost wars they should never have fought.

  • Prayed for rain in times of famine.

  • Asked forgiveness and healing in the face of environmental injustice and untold human suffering.

  • Prayed for foreigners who enter his nation seeking sanctuary.

  • Prayed for his nation when compelled to go to war for a just cause.

  • Prayed for his citizens when they are taken captive in foreign lands.  

Solomon’s prayer was exacting and exhausting, and I am reminded of the words of an old preacher during my childhood who said, “The prayer that goes through is the one that brings back an answer.”  In II Chronicles 7, Solomon received an answer from the Unseen God wherein the Divine Voice not only responded saying, “I have heard your prayer,” but also meticulously recounted—in a call and response fashion—the major themes that Solomon had earlier prayed about.  The Voice appeared to suggest that nothing less than a contractual agreement would be required for God to answer Solomon’s prayer.  

This is prayer work.  If we want certain things from God, then God requires certain things of us, and that is the prelude to the well-worn verse 14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The Voice made it clear that certain human actions were required to accompany the nation’s prayer work before God would intervene, which included 1/ taking a position of humility (set aside arrogance, pride and notions of empire, exceptionalism and national self-interest); 2/ prayer, (be willing as an entire nation to lay ourselves prostrate before the merciful God); 3/ seek my face (which leads to the discovery that the earth belongs to God and not us, and that God loves the entire creation equally); and 4/ turn from their wicked ways (stop the violent aggression against the weak, the corruption, the maltreatment of others, the economic exploitation and whatever wickedness remains); and THEN God will start the process of healing, forgiveness and transformation in our nation.