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Pray

Pray

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 20, number 2, January 14, 2021

. . . and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray.” -2 Chronicles 7:14

As of this writing, our nation is very clearly in the throes of an ideological civil war. Banning President Trump from Twitter, Wall Street banks threatening to blacklist pro-Trump politicians, Amazon Web Services suspending the Parler website claiming that its content lacks moderation, one hundred and fifty faculty members at Chapman University in Orange, California calling the school to fire law professor John Eastman for speaking at the White House alongside Rudy Giuliani last week, and thousands (as many as 5000) of law school alumni signing petitions to disbar Senators Cruz and Hawley because of their attempt to move the Senate to reject the Electoral College vote for Joe Biden are only some of the latest efforts to deny millions of people their First Amendment right of free speech. Even left leaning German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Twitter for banning President Trump’s account, stating that she has concerns over freedom of expression. 

In the midst of this very serious, troubling, and divisive time in our nation, what should Christians do? No doubt you realize that even believers are divided on the issues surrounding the November 3 Presidential election and what transpired on January 6 at our nation’s capitol. Regardless of where you stand on the present issues, what should every Christian agree to do?

By way of introduction of what I wish to communicate today, please consider an excerpt from last week’s message in order to give my current remarks context.

So, what are we to do? Always, we must begin with Scripture and what better place to begin than seriously to consider the promises in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Please note the structure of these marvelous promises. This is vital for our understanding if we are likewise to take full advantage of what God is saying here. Yahweh is promising three things—He would hear from heaven, He would pardon their sins, and He would heal their land (remove their affliction). Furthermore, Yahweh lends further clarification to these three promises. He makes two designations as to the recipients of His promises. He calls them “My people.” They are the covenant people of God, those whom He has chosen, the apple of His eye. And they are the ones who call upon His name for help and deliverance, “who are called by My name.”  And then He makes clear the four necessary conditions for these three promises to be fulfilled. One, if they humble themselves. Two, if they pray. Three, if they seek the face of God. And four, if they turn from their wicked ways. 

Today I want you to take a look at the first necessary ingredient for revival. It is most appropriate in light of our present distress, and that is humiliation, “. . .and My people who are called by My name humble themselves. . .” . . . There is both a passive and active dimension to humiliation. On the one hand the passive dimension is seen in the trials and hardships God brings on His people. . . On the other hand there is also an active dimension to humiliation. In the passive dimension God brings hardship upon us. In the active dimension we choose to humble ourselves. . . God has humbled us. He is about to unleash hardship on many of us. It is not an exaggeration to say that we very well may have just lost our republic, at least for the time being. . . It is time for the church, being led by our preachers, to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. What does that look like? It means that we not just see but feel deeply our sinful neglect of denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily and following Jesus.

So, if we are to see revival in our nation, then we must do four things—we must humble ourselves, we must pray, we must seek God’s face, and we must turn from our wicked ways. Briefly, I wish presently to take up the issue of prayer. After humbling ourselves we must pray. And what does this kind of prayer look like? The Syrophonecian woman of Matthew 15:21-281 is a wonderful example of what we may call “revival prayer.” There are four characteristics which revival prayer must have. The first is a deep awareness of the darkness of our world. This pagan woman was in great need. Her daughter was demon possessed and she wanted relief for her. I do not have time or space here to develop this idea as much as I would like, but understand this, the woman’s problem was not merely the difficult place in which she and her daughter found themselves. The problem was much deeper. It was demonic. This mother saw the great darkness. My friends, until we see the darkness of our day, until we understand the ideological war raging between good and evil, both vying for the soul of our nation, then we will continue to be lethargic in our pursuit of God. You must understand that there are not mere political differences between those on the right and left. There is profound darkness and evil and conservatives are not immune to the darkness. Even the thought of conservatives waging violent acts to right the wrongs in our nation are part of the darkness. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 6:12).

Secondly we must gain a profound sense of despair unless Jesus shows up by the Holy Spirit. You will note in the story that after the mother makes her appeal Jesus is silent. He says nothing. This no doubt was an uncomfortable time for her. Did Jesus not hear her? Will He not answer? Is she cut off from speaking to Him since she is a pagan? Because she understood the darkness she is also very cognizant that if Jesus does nothing, then she has no hope at all. To make matters worse the disciples implore (a very strong word) Jesus to send her away. Why? Because she is yelling at them. This is what mothers do when they believe their child is in serious danger and nothing seems to be happening to address the situation. She knows that if Jesus listens to His disciples and He sends her packing, then her daughter is lost. My friends, you must not only see the darkness but you also must be firmly convinced that if Jesus chooses, according to His own sovereign will, to do nothing, then our situation is completely and irretrievably lost. Are you desperate? Do you truly understand that our government, our educational system, our economy, our military, our political process can never effect the change necessary to turn us back to righteous living and all the good which comes from it?

Thirdly, we must surrender. Jesus finally speaks and says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman knows she is not a Jew and for many people that would have discouraged and silenced them, but not this woman. Her awareness of the darkness and subsequent despair if Jesus did not “show up” caused her to seek Jesus even more, for Matthew tells us that the woman bowed down before Jesus, a picture of profound humility and lowliness, and she kept on imploring Him saying, “Lord help me.” We must surrender, my friends, as bond servants having no rights to demand our own way before God. Surrender is like putting a clear sheet of paper on the table before you each morning and then signing your name to the bottom of the paper, saying to God, “Father, I surrender my own will, desires, plans, and inclinations to Your own will and word today. I will do today whatever You wish me to do. I trust You to fill out the details of my life for today.”2 The darkness and despair drove this woman to surrender and it was indeed a sweet surrender for God always does good for His people in due time. 

And fourthly, we must continue in unwavering faith. Finally Jesus says one last hard thing to the woman, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus is saying that Gentiles like her must wait their turn, just like a family’s pet dog waits its turn to be fed. But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” This woman had unwavering faith. Yes, she saw the darkness and despair. Yes she was driven to surrender everything to Jesus, trusting Him without reservation, accepting whatever He might do in the situation, but she never gave up. She never doubted. She trusted in Jesus’ power and goodness. And consequently Jesus healed her daughter.

This is the formula, my friends, that we must follow if we have any hope of revival and healing in our land. Our church programs, plans, and personalities will not do it. Our politicians will not do it. Only God can heal our land in revival and He will only do it if we follow His formula—humiliation, prayer, seeking His face, and turning from our sins. Will you seek Him in revival prayer? Will you find a group of people and begin praying in this fashion?
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1.  Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from the region came out and began to cry out saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
2.  This wonderful illustration of surrender is from Steve Smith’s book Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People, page 50ff. 

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