God makes a promise about prayer in 2 Chronicles:
. . . and (if) my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I myself will hear from the heavens, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (7:14)
The Lord is speaking to King Solomon. At the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem Solomon prayed publicly and asked God to always answer the prayers offered at the temple.
Thirteen years later God is finally answering Solomon’s request. That’s a long delay but hearing from God is worth the wait!
To understand God’s answer to Solomon we must move back one verse. God tells Solomon, “When I stop the rain or send locusts to devour the land or if I send a pestilence, and my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray” etc.
God’s promise is about those times when he uses natural disasters to soften hard hearts and bend stiff necks. Extreme weather is now blamed on man-made global warming (or “climate change”). Nevertheless, God is still the master of nature and the Bible clearly says that he sometimes employs nature to get our attention (see Exodus 9).
Of course, every bad storm is not a judgment from God. Jesus used a storm on the Sea of Galilee to demonstrate his divine authority by commanding the wind and the waves to stop. He made no mention of any national sin.
The point is this: When God’s people disobey him and deserve his judgment, God offers a pathway to return to his favor.
First, God’s people must humble themselves. Genuine humility starts with attitude and stirs action. The Israelites often humbled themselves by fasting. Skipping meals was a way to demonstrate that they were contrite.
Next, God’s people must pray. When combined, prayer and fasting are powerful. By fasting and praying God’s people demonstrate their desire to connect with God.
In addition, God’s people must seek his face, that is, his personal presence. Seeking requires time and effort. When God’s people gather for combined prayer and fasting the purpose is to experience God’s powerful, personal presence.
Finally, God’s people must turn from their evil ways. No amount of fasting, praying and seeking will solve the problem if God’s people defiantly persist in disobeying his commands.
To simply turn from evil ways without turning to God would also be short of the goal. The objective is always to enjoy God and his favor.
God promises to hear from heaven despite the chasm between him and his people. God will then forgive their sin and heal their land, both spiritual and physical restoration. He is Lord of the visible and the invisible, of individuals and of nations.
As followers of Jesus we are God’s people now and we share in this wonderful promise about prayer. So let’s humbly seek the Lord in prayer, turning from sin to him. God will hear and restore.
May God always hear from heaven and visit us with his healing presence,