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 (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This verse has been frequently quoted recently in church services, interdenominational prayer meetings, and all kinds of programs on television and radio. The general message of such campaigns has been a call to pray to God so that he would heal and restore the social, political, and economic situation in our country. But what if that is a misinterpretation and misuse of the passage? As with every passage of Scripture it is important to have an accurate understanding of what it says and means in its own context before trying to apply the passage to our own lives.
The Context of the Passage
The backdrop of this verse is a historic event in the history of the nation of Israel: the completion and dedication of the temple. In 2 Chronicles 7 Solomon leads the nation in worshiping, praying, and consecrating themselves to God at the opening of their new place of worship. The Lord answers and accepts the temple and sacrifices given, and assures Solomon and Israel that He is a faithful covenant-keeping God. But He also gives them a stern warning: if His people do not honor God and do His will, God’s judgment will be upon them. The verse before shows us this because it describes the punishment God intends to bring upon Israel if they depart from His covenant. But he does not leave them only with the threat of punishment. He also holds out the promise of restoration if they will acknowledge their error and return to the covenant. It is in this context that the words in our verse are said.
The verse then begins with “if” so what follows is a list of conditions to be met before Israel can claim the promise. The wonderful promises of forgiveness and healing of the land are dependent on the fulfillment of the four conditions that are also clearly spelled out in the verse. What are the conditions?
A Call to God’s Children
This condition is marked by the phrases, “my people” and “called by my name.” This is a specific address to God’s children, and more specifically it was addressed to the nation of Israel. Since this verse was a promise to a specific nation, we must limit the promise to them only. However, we can seek to draw from the promise principles about the character of God and his expectations for his people. God is reminding his children that His arms are always open, but He will not receive them if they come to him in a proud state. Furthermore, concerning the prayers of those who are not born again, the Word of God says, “But to the wicked God says: What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips” (Psalm 50:16). And elsewhere, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). So, this call is a family matter. God is addressing His children. This is the right place to start; only those who have submitted to God are His children.
“Humble themselves.” Humility is a disposition that acknowledges the Godhood of God. This is the heart that acknowledges that God’s throne is the ultimate throne in heaven and on earth. A proud heart thinks and says what Pharaoh said to Moses, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2). But a humble person is one who believes in his heart that without God he can do absolutely nothing! Therefore, in this verse, God was calling his people to come to a place where they realized that God is God!
Relentless Dependence upon God in Prayer
“Pray and seek my face.” Prayer is communion with God. In prayer, we talk to God as friend to friend or as a child to his father. To seek his face is to say that God is better than life. It is to desire him above anything or anyone and acknowledge that He is Father, provider, sustainer, and we are His children. This is vastly different from many prayers that want the gift more than the Giver. Would you be content if God himself were the answer to your prayer? All other blessings, both temporal and eternal, spring from this relationship. Do you desire God?
The next important but often neglected condition is, “turn from their wicked ways.” In essence, this is repentance and it has to do with forsaking sinful, wicked, evil ways that rob God of his glory. In repentance they were to turn from their wicked ways and turn to God. Repentance always involves a change of direction. A repentant heart is marked by a new Godward direction. When we claim that we have repented, the challenge is to produce fruit in keeping with our repentance. And we know that left to ourselves, we cannot turn from our wicked ways unless the Lord works in us and unless we are brought to a point where we acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy.
Now we come back to the promise, remembering that strictly speaking it is only for Israel as a nation. Observe that it is only when they fulfilled the conditions that the blessings, they so desired would follow. If they strayed, they would be judged, but if they would then humble themselves, pray and seek him, and turn from their wicked ways, then (1) God would hear (2) God would forgive, and (3) God would heal his people’s land. Yes, even their land could be healed on account of His children. The principle that we can draw from this is that the children of God can be a blessing to the world. As they humble themselves before God and obey and submit to him, they become salt and light to the world. They act as a preserving agent, but also serve as a reason for some of the temporal blessings that the world enjoys. However, reducing these promises to mean if we pray, then the kwacha will be transformed and gain against the dollar, or that load shedding will cease, is to miss the whole point altogether. This passage and many others reveal to us that God is concerned with people obeying His word and doing His will so that He may receive the glory, just as Solomon and Israel worshiped Him aright and brought glory to his name. Oh, that we too may turn to God in humble, prayerful submission, seek His will, repent of our sins, and follow His Word! May our cry today be: “Teach us Lord full obedience, holy reverence, true humility. Test our thoughts and our attitudes, in the radiance of your purity. Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see your majestic love and authority… Speak, O lord till your church is built and the earth is filled with your glory.” 
 Words taken from the song “Speak O Lord,” by Keith and Kristen Getty.