“If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
It is important for us to see the promise related to this powerful invitation to prayer. God promises to forgive our sin and heal our land.
There are a number of modern complications to this promise. We need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to apply it. I am going to make some suggestions for doing so. But I urge you to struggle prayerfully with this concern that God may radically impact the way we pray. Notice I did not simply say, the way you pray. There is an urgency in these days for God's people to join in prayer for our nations. And the depth of your convictions will influence the prayers of many.
Here is the first difficulty. When the Lord gave this promise, His people were the nation. His people were the Children of Israel to whom he had given that land. I remember having a friendly disagreement with my college roommate about whether this promise was for America or the Church in our day. Is God promising heal a nation like America, Myanmar Guatemala or China where most people may not be praying? At least as it applies to specific prayers, times and situations, I do not know. I don't believe we can successfully pray for the "Great Tribulation" that Jesus warned us about, not to happen. But I think we are to pray for our nations. Abraham was invited to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah. In Jeremiah 29:7 the Lord addressed the people taken into exile and captivity in Babylon. He commanded them to pray for the prosperity of that wicked city.
I believe this means we are to pray for the leaders of whatever nation we live in. That sometimes means praying for people who are enemies of God's people. And this means praying for the healing of social problems. Are you praying and working to bring people up out of poverty? Are you praying for people who are addicted to drugs? Are you praying for wounded soldiers returning from war? Are you visiting and praying for prisoners? Are you praying for health care and problems related to it?
This is moral and spiritual as well as social, political and economic. We need to pray for hearts and minds to be changed. I recently had an exchange with an apologist who was angry at someone who was having an evil influence upon young people. He took offense at my suggesting that we need to love this man and pray for him.
I need to be honest, I am tempted to be cynical about the condition of our world. I want to say, "Leave them alone until Jesus comes back. He will make a new heaven and a new earth." But that is not God's will. It is also true that I will be made new when Jesus comes. Should I give up on trying to become like Jesus because it will not fully happen until we see Him? Just as becoming more like Him now relates to being made like Jesus when He comes, so praying and working to make the world a better place now relates to His reign after He returns.