The Vault

How to Pray 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, July 4, is Independence Day, where Americans celebrate the courage and resolve that birthed the nation. For many evangelical churches across the country, this day stands alongside other significant dates where special time and attention are given to pray for the nation, such as Memorial Day and the National Day of Prayer.65681852_857394097949967_4046377217427505152_n

On these national holidays, a Biblical passage that routinely comes up is 2 Chronicles 7:14. “[And if] my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

In 2019, we live in a present cultural moment of heightened national partisanship. Even the best-intended remarks can be misunderstood and the relationship between faith and politics is complicated, to say the least.

Being wise in the current climate may lead some to simply pray a passage of scripture and avoid commentary or personal bias. Unfortunately, the tendency toward bias can be relentless even when praying the words of Scripture. In the case of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “often, the way this verse will be preached… is as a rallying cry. In so many sermons, the ‘people’ referred to in the passage are the American people, and the ‘land’ is the American land.”[i]

It is dangerous to separate any verse of scripture from its context.[ii] This promise was made following the dedication of the newly constructed temple built by King Solomon and after offering a significant sacrifice. It began a long history between God and His people.

In his notes on this particular verse, J. Vernon McGee writes, “remember the old adage that ‘all scripture was written for us, but not all scripture was written to us.’”[iii] The promise to heal the land was not written to us in our generation, to our city, state, or nation. But it was written for us, which is better by far.

Throughout that dedication ceremony, there was a single refrain the people prayed and sang. “For the Lord is good, His faithful love endures forever.”[iv]  Forever includes today.

The principles, commitments, and promises of 2 Chronicles 7:14 sustained people prayer in every generation who were humble before God and others, depended on God alone, and trusted in His enduring faithful love no matter the circumstances or the particular land in which they live.

Praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 is still appropriate in our day. When doing so, consider how the verse describes a relationship between God and His people. Each element gives greater insight that guides our prayer.

God is gathering a people. “If my people, called by my name…” From the beginning of Scripture to the very end, we read a great story of how God loves all people and intends to dwell forever with them. He was doing this when giving this promise generations ago, and still today the whole earth waits with anticipation for all the sons and daughters of God to be revealed.[v]

Pray it will always be true that your life extends an invitation for others to know God, to break down barriers, and bless all who you encounter.

God’s people are humble. “…humble themselves…” God resists the proud but give grace to the humble[vi] and God’s people are to be humble before God and before others. The New Testament offers Jesus as the definitive example of humility, who emptied himself of all that was his by divine right, and self-sacrificially looked to the needs of others, always.[vii]

Pray God will help you to be sincerely humble, as humble as Jesus who prayed, “not my will, but yours.”[viii]

Be people of prayer. “…and pray…” God’s people never trust in their own strength and ability, in the people or powers of this world, in economics or politics. They trust in the great God of the ages[ix] and the matchless power of prayer.

Pray that the Spirit of God will continue to teach you to call God your Father, and to pray even when you don’t always know what to pray.

God’s people are repentant. “…and turn from their wicked ways…” Humility followed by prayer, then turning away from wickedness is the full picture of repentance. The Psalms of King David illustrate how difficult this really is. He prayed for God to search his heart, to keep him from his willful sin and also from his hidden faults.[x]

I confess I do not always know the wickedness in my own heart, and it is difficult to just turn away from evil. I must have a fixed point of ultimate good to turn toward.

Pray that God’s face, Word, and nature be your sole pursuit.

God hears the humble, repentant, prayers of his people. “…then I will hear from heaven…” The key to interpreting this verse is by remembering it describes the relationship between God and His people. John taught in his writing that we already have everything we are really asking of God when we remember this.[xi]

Give thanks to God because He does hear you when you pray.

God is already healing his people through forgiveness. “…forgive their sins…” John taught that God hears us when we pray and if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive.[xii] In this way, God is already pouring out his healing throughout the world. To be forgiven and to forgive is the greatest healing we could ever hope to know.

Pray that the land in which you dwell be a fellowship of forgiven and forgiving people.

God’s people know that salvation belongs to God.[xiii] “…and heal their land.” We must resist the temptation to dictate what healing should look like because salvation is God’s and God’s alone. This is probably the hardest part of praying this verse. The key to effectively praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 is remembering that it isn’t as much about God healing a land or nation, but healing and salvation for the people of all nations.[xiv]

Avoid the mistake of looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a formula. Instead, notice how all the elements of this verse cumulatively depict the attitude of the heart when trusting in the gospel of Jesus Christ: humility, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and then restoration. Through the gospel, Jesus is saving a people. There are times when that includes blessing particular nations or generations. There are times when it does not.

Pray expecting God’s healing to come and grateful for God’s promise that healing has come through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God hears us when we pray, and in hearing us, God has given us all the healing we could ever hope or need[xv], the forgiveness of sin and the faithful love of a heavenly Father that endures forever.


[i] Russell Moore, 2 Chronicles 7:14 Isn’t About American Politics

[ii] This statement can be attributed to multiple scholars. I most recently heard it spoken by Warren Wiersbe, who incidentally passed away May 2, 2019, on the National Day of Prayer.

[iii] McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983. (Vol. 2, p. 240)

[iv] 2 Chronicles 7:3,6

[v] Romans 8:15

[vi] 1 Pet 5:5-6; Prov. 3:34

[vii] Phil 2:6-10

[viii] Lk. 22:42

[ix] 1 Tim. 1:17

[x] Ps. 19:12

[xi] 1 Jn 5:15

[xii] 1 Jn 1:9

[xiii] Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9

[xiv] Matt. 28:18-20

[xv] 1 Jn 5:15

Last of Human Freedoms

Devotional Message delivered to the Oklahoma House of Representatives on February 7, 2019.

***TRANSCRIPT***

The Last of Human Freedoms
OK House Devotional Message
February 7, 2019

Good morning:

I want to first thank Speaker Charles McCall for asking me to serve as chaplain for the OK House of Representatives in the 57th Legislature. His confidence in me is most humbling – And I also thank every member of this esteemed body – for your generosity toward me since first launching a ministry in Oklahoma a number of years ago.

You should also know my mind on this appointment – This office is not mine, but the chaplaincy for this House belongs to you. It is a ministry of encouragement and prayer, regardless of person, position, party, or the policies you take up. It is a service based in the simple belief that before you are a politician or elected official, you are people on a journey of public service and leadership.

Each Thursday, the chaplain is afforded a brief time for a devotional message and my plan this session is to look at the last two chapters of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia – specifically looking at that well-known passage popularly called the Fruit of the Spirit.

Why are we looking at the Fruit of the Spirit, you might ask… Well, you are all lawmakers after all, and Paul concludes this list with the statement – “Against such things there is no law.” I promise, Mr. Speaker, that’s as close as I’ll ever get to commenting on policy… Of course, that’s not the sort of law Paul had in mind.

As a brief introduction, today, let’s consider how Paul leads into the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:1, he writes, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Three simple truths are immediately evident:

  1. People are not free.
  2. Christ sets people free.
  3. Christ sets people free, for freedom’s sake.

The cause of freedom is ensconced in our nation’s DNA – in the opening of the Declaration of Independence, that we hold these truths self-evident, all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Freedom, though a divinely endowed right, is not the inherent reality of humanity. All around the world, we find people oppressed by forces outside themselves, governments, and institutions that limit their freedom. Within our own nation’s history, freedom is a work in progress. This passage is Biblical promise that promoting freedom is a most Christ-like and godly endeavor.

But even if a person is blessed enough to live in a free society, without external constraints, they can still find themselves in captivity and lacking the very freedom they were designed to enjoy. Earlier this week, columnist, Jonathan Merritt, wrote, “Every human is both the jailer and the inmate in their own life. We are incarcerated by our bad habits, dark tendencies, and hurtful propensities.”

You may be familiar with the story of Victor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a prominent 20th Century philosopher of psychology and is best known for his contributions to what we know as existential therapy. In 1942, Frankl and his parents, wife, and brother were arrested and sent to the Thereisienstadt concentration camp; Frankl’s father died there within six months. Over the course of three years, Frankl was moved between four concentration camps, including Auschwitz where his brother died and his mother was killed. Frankl’s wife died at Bergen-Belsen. When Frankl’s camp was liberated in 1945, he learned of the death of all his immediate family members, with the exception of his sister who had emigrated to Australia. In the camps, Frankl and fellow prisoners made an effort to address the despondency they observed in other inmates.

It was said that while in the concentration camps, Victor Frankl could predict which prisoners possessed the “quality within” to survive this atrocity. He later developed a therapeutic practice based on Soren Kirkegaard’s concept of will to meaning, and he believed that people were not driven by pleasure or passion – as other psychologists and therapists of his day asserted – but the search for meaning.

Frankl observed, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I’ve studied psychology, philosophy, and theology… I’m not an expert in any of these disciplines, but I find this truth reverberates through scripture: this last of human freedoms is in fact a universal grace from God and compels me to believe that God designed people to live in freedom.

The message of Jesus, his work on the cross, and gospel proclaimed by his followers for two millennia is that the greatest experience of freedom happens within the human heart – no matter what happens around you.

We never stop pursuing freedom in other arenas of society and the world, but when Paul says, Christ set us free, he means us to know that God can release in me and in you, a deep freedom of the soul, the mind, the heart.

The Fruit of the Spirit is a discussion about what freedom looks like. So, what does a mind, or a heart that is set free look like? It looks like lovejoy… peace… patience… kindness… goodness… faithfulness… gentleness… and self-control.

What happens when freedom manifests in a person’s life in these ways? They find the deep meaning for their life – through work and vocation, public service and politics, to live each and every day in order to impact the lives of people they meet, and the power to survive even unbearable conditions.

People are meant to be free – and for freedom, Christ has set us free.

Please pray with me…

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Download a PDF of this transcript: Feb_7_The Last of Human Freedoms_Transcript

 

Invocation | First Joint Session of 57th Oklahoma Legislature

Dr. Harder delivered the invocation for the first joint session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature on January 8, 2019 in Oklahoma City.

Invocation | First Joint Session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature from Capitol Commission Oklahoma on Vimeo.

***TRANSCRIPT***

Heavenly Father,

As we pause in this moment, filled with anticipation for all that lies before us, specifically before these elected leaders and the work they will do on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, I ask that you would quiet their minds, still their hearts, and let them count the cost of what will be required of them each day over the next four and half to five months. Let them be both inspired with the convictions that led them to seek their office, but also make them aware of their own limitations and needs.

The book of Proverbs goes to great lengths to teach us that no one person has it all figured out, that all of us, even the best of us, still see only partly what is good, true, and right. That we need one another. These leaders will need each other’s perspective, knowledge and wisdom. They will need each other’s strength at times, and mostly, they will need each other’s grace.

Most of all, they will need something that no person can give them. Our nation was founded upon the belief that even in the greatest of human endeavors, humanity depends upon a sovereign and holy God, for wisdom and protection, for grace and mercy, and for justice and good government.

So it is my humble honor to invoke God’s blessing, and His presence, and His strength upon each member of the Oklahoma legislature. For their families and homes. For the work they will do together.

God, you have led me to pray from this well time before and I know you will do so again, to confess that Oklahoma’s leaders are chosen servants. Democratically chosen, but also sovereignly chosen by you. These are the individuals you have called forth to step out of their districts and into these chambers, to reason together and lead our state.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he reminds the Christians gathered there to be subject to the governing authorities over them – because they are instruments of God. The government is not the same thing as the Church, but the Bible still calls those who lead in government, servants of God. So Lord, let us be obedient to the Scripture that commands Christians, and I invite all people of prayer to join us in this spirit of intercession:

For each one – may their time in office be marked less by political wins or legislative accomplishments and marked more by an encounter with the divine God of the universe, marked by a deeper understanding of their role as a public servant with greater reverence for things that are on the Heart of God – peace, joy, patience, kindness, self-control, preferring the good of others before themselves, justice and mercy, ministry to the marginalized, visiting the widow and orphan in their affliction. With such wisdom, they will lead us well.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.

Invocation, OK House Swearing-in Ceremony (VIDEO)

Invocation | 57th OK Leg Swearing-In Ceremony from Capitol Commission Oklahoma on Vimeo.

******TRANSCRIPT******

Thank you, Mr. Speaker,

We gather together this morning, first of all with a heart of thankfulness. We are grateful for the many ways we are blessed in this nation and in our state. May we never take for granted the extraordinary privilege of freedom, our resources, our heritage and our faith, and our families. Please pray with me.

Heavenly Father:

We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as well as those who stand beside us. We give thanks for the people in each of our lives whom we love, who sacrifice much, and those who love us. God, we are thankful for the individuals who stand in this chamber, poised to begin their task as legislators, as members of this – the people’s House of Representatives – God I give you thanks. May we who live under their leadership and authority pray for them and encourage them with a heart of thanksgiving and intercession as the Bible commends.

Your Scripture teaches us that these leaders standing before us today are, in fact, chosen servants. Democratically chosen by the people of Oklahoma, but also of Your sovereign Will. Each one comes to their office and to this legislative body from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences, and varying perspectives. They possess a diversity of skills and knowledge. And you have been at work in each of their lives leading to this moment. They are the individuals, the men and the women, called out of their communities and districts from across Oklahoma, representing diverse communities with different challenges and needs, but also with different talents and resources to share. These are the women and men who step into this chamber and reason together, with conviction and compassion, to lead our state forward.

As they take the oath of office, for each one I pray:

Give them your spirit: of truth and not of fear, but of power, love, and sound judgment: The ability to respond in love, when the circumstances are driving them toward bitterness. The ability to do what is hard and what is right, when the temptation is to do what is easy or may seem popular.

Give them strength and endurance: When the days grow long and they discover the limits of their own strength, remind them of the Apostle Paul who writes, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And as Isaiah writes, “if you are their God, then you will be with them and will help them, God will uphold them with his righteous right hand.”

Give them humility and grace: May they do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility look to the interest of others first, and then themselves. Call to their mind the simple yet profound power at work in this world, to “humble yourselves before the LORD, and He will lift you up.”

Give them protection for their families: You love their families better than they can, so may they rest in your loving-kindness and protection, especially when their duties take them away from their homes.

Give them wisdom and discernment: Wisdom that is first of all pure, then peace-loving, gentle, easily entreated, full of mercy and good fruits…”

Bless the work of this House and this legislature in the years before them, so that all of Oklahoma may thrive, and every community across our state may flourish.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.

Election Day | Three Ways to Pray

The midterm election is almost upon us. For many in the political arena working feverishly in the final hours, November 6 couldn’t come soon enough. Much is yet known about how things will go on November 6, but one thing is certain, November 7 is just one day later. On November 7, we will know who the people of Oklahoma elected to send to Washington and to 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City to serve as their representatives to lead our state and nation.

God calls Christians to engage in the political process of our state and nation at various levels. Some are working on campaigns, others are running for office, and Christians should, of course, vote. But of all the ways God calls His people to participate in the political process, none of them come before the biblical command and call to pray for our leaders. I had the great opportunity to participate on the So We Speak podcast, talking with Cole Feix about the ministry of Capitol Commission Oklahoma and specifically how Christians can be praying in these final days before the election, and in months that follow.

Three Ways to Pray

  1. Pray for Yourself – Pray for God to help you adopt a genuine heart of thanksgiving and intercession for elected leaders, as 1 Timothy 2:1-4 directs us to. Recognize that there are attitudes in our own heart, often influenced by a myriad of messages in the culture, that actively attempt to prevent us from praying with thanksgiving and intercession. So, ask God to help you identify those things in your own heart and lay them down so you can pray as God teaches us to pray for leaders in scripture.
  2. Pray for All of the Candidates – Pray for every candidate on the ballot. Some of their names you know, others you might not. But all of them need strength and endurance to finish this race. Campaigns can be ugly affairs, so pray for their families and ask God to protect them from the toxicity that can often infiltrate campaign rhetoric. Ask God to make His presence especially evident to them. If they are a Believer, pray for God to encourage and strengthen them. If they are not a Believer, ask God to use the process of a political campaign to create a new awareness and sensitivity to the truth of the Gospel and God’s love for them.
  3. Pray for Those Elected – On November 7, begin praying faithfully for those who are elected, whether you voted for them or not. They are the individuals, in God’s providence, chosen to serve. Pray for them to be influenced by heavenly wisdom, such as that described in James 3.

When you have time, click here to check out our conversation at the So We Speak Podcast!