I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people refer to a scripture in the Old Testament that leads them to believe that if we pray, our lives will change. And if we pray, America will change. All we have to do is get God to answer. Well if they, or you, are anything like I was, you might be overlooking three key ingredients in the scripture. And those missing ingredients, I believe, are exactly why so many of us are in the messes that we are in. And that is why, I believe, our nation is in the dire straits that it is in.
If we want God to hear us, to forgive us, and to heal our nation, there are FOUR key ingredients to this scripture. But most of the time, I only hear talk about ONE of those four ingredients. When you take a look at these FOUR ingredients, ask yourself just where you stand in terms of all four of them. Then ask yourself where you believe America stands. And, if you want to see a change in your life, and if you want to see change in America, then I implore you to heed the Word of the Lord.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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 KJV
1. Humble yourself.
God warns countless times in His Word against pride. I thought I was utterly immune from it. When I get honest with myself as the Holy Spirit shines His flashlight in my heart, I see it daily. And every time I see it, I have a responsibility to get rid of it. God commands us to humble ourselves. The one who needs to be exalted is God.
Because all human beings are born into sin, and because God is holy and righteous and perfect, we cannot be in fellowship with Him because He cannot look upon our sin. He sent Jesus Christ to the cross to bear the wrath for our sins so that we could repent and believe God raised Jesus from the dead so that we would be forgiven, be able to be in fellowship with God, and be promised everlasting life in heaven with God rather than eternity in hell. We need to pray in the name of Jesus Christ who stood in the gap for us on the cross so we could be redeemed and set in right standing with God. God does not want us to pray from a position of pride. He wants us to humble ourselves and to pray from a heart understanding that He is sovereign and He is to be exalted over all else.
3. Seek God’s face.
Many people I meet believe they have a strong relationship with God because they pray. But they never mention anything about listening to God. What kind of relationship do we have with other humans when one person does all the talking and the other does all the listening? Unbalanced. Unhealthy. Yucky. But having relationships with other humans is totally incomparable to the relationships we are designed to have with God in which He is Lord and Creator and Father, and we are His children intended to humble ourselves before Him. When we do all the talking to God and aren’t doing any listening, this is not about an unbalanced, unhealthy, and yucky relationship. It is about our lack of humility, love, reverence, adoration, exaltation, and reverence of who God is as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. How can we possibly show God the love and reverence and awe and respect and worship He is due when we do all the talking (praying) and refuse to listen? The number one way to hear from God is to study His Word. Any other way in which we hear from Him, whether through a pastor, through other followers of Christ, in our hearts, in a dream, etc., MUST line up with the Bible. Anything that does not line up with the Bible is not of God. If we are truly humble, and we want our prayers heard, and we intend to live the way He designed us to live, we need to be studying the Bible and seeking Him for forgiveness, for wisdom and direction, for His leadership in our lives as the one who reigns supreme.
4. Turn from your wicked ways.
While I meet people regularly who describe their relationships with God as praying and nothing more, I do meet people who pray and study the Bible. And I occasionally meet people who talk about humbling themselves. But rarely do I meet people who understand that God COMMANDS us to turn from our wicked ways. He commands us to turn away from our sins. He tells us in the Bible to purify ourselves, and to become holy just like He is. He wants us to grow up in His image. Believing in Jesus as Lord is just the beginning. There is a sanctification process which must follow in which we renew our minds with the Bible and learn to live according to His ways rather than our own as He transforms our lives.
God’s mercy and forgiveness is for those who repent. It is for those who sincerely feel remorseful over their sins against Him, who change their minds about their wrongdoing such that they acknowledge it is wrong, who seek and receive His forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for them and being raised again, and who produce “fruits” of their repentance by demonstrating with their lives that they have turned to God and are learning to live according to His ways rather than theirs.
If you want to see change in your life, and if you want to see change in America, I have a word of warning for you. Prayer is NOT enough.
“Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 NASB