Update, September, 2018: At this time, I am leaving the below article as it was written. However, I have had some changes in thinking since originally writing the article. In studying 2 Chronicles 7:142 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
...if My people who are called by My name will 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. , I have come to realize that the "our land" in the verse is literally the earth - the land from which the people grew crops. 2 Chronicles 7:132 Chronicles 7:13 (NKJV)
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people... says "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people..." It was from this punishment of God that God said, "If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land." This verse is often applied to our nation, spiritually, but that is not the original context of the verse. Yes, we should still pray for our nation and we should still turn from our wicked ways, but invoking this verse as if it were a promise regarding our nation coming to God if we do so is incorrect.
Additionally, my original post may call into question the sovereignty of God. I do not mean to do this - regardless of whether we work with God, He is still sovereign. His ultimate plan will be accomplished regardless of our participation. God is not held captive to our choices, thoughts, beliefs, or whatever we name and claim, though there are many who preach this to be the case.
Original Entry: The words of the title are from St. Augustine. They capture a great truth - a truth that needs revitalized in today's society. In today's world of internet and television and work and friends and family and thousands of other things, it is very easy to forget many of the facets of our true calling in Christlikeness. One of those facets is prayer. So many tend to put God in a box that says "He can do whatever He wishes, and all things work together for good in Him, so we can let Him be to do as He wants." And while it may be true that He can do whatever He wants, the fact of the matter is - He has chosen to work through and in partnership with us!
Look at Ezekiel 22:23-31 (NKJV).
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Son of man, say to her: 'You [are] a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.' The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known [the difference] between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst [are] like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered [mortar,] seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD had not spoken. The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads," says the Lord GOD.
Here, we see the story of the sins of Jerusalem. How they parallel to today's world. It is Biblically sound that sin calls out for God's judgment. But that is not where the Lord wants us to focus, for it is also Biblically sound that God desires for us, His people, to stand in the gap before Him on behalf of the world around us. While sin calls for His judgment, His desire is that we would call for His grace and mercy!
Moses stood in the gap, and it turned God's wrath. Exodus 32: 10-14
Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation." Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit [it] forever.'" So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. The choice is clearly ours.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (Amplified Bible)
If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
But in honest reflection, how often do we humble ourselves? Pray, seek, crave and require the necessity of God's face? Turn from our own wicked ways? How often do we stand in the gap on behalf of the world around us?
Instead, if we're to be honest with ourselves before God, how often do we complain about the world around us? Criticize each other? Passively ignore the disciples' calling to strive for the Kingdom? Look the other way?
1 Timothy 2: 1-4 (NKJV) reads:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
It is clear from the writings of the New Testament that the early disciples prayed "without ceasing" (See: Romans 12:12Romans 12:12 (NKJV)
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; , Ephesians 6:18Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)
praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, Colossians 4:2Colossians 4:2 (NKJV)
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; , 1 Thessalonians 5:171 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)
...pray without ceasing..., 2 Timothy 1:32 Timothy 1:3 (NKJV)
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,). And so to, should we. Prayer is powerful, and God calls us to it, at all times and in all seasons - so that His will can be done. And oh how wonderful it would be, if everywhere we turned, we would begin to call forth on His mercy, and see His will done.