If My People Will PrayJanuary 1st, 2013 • Posted in Messages/Sermons, New Year • 270 views
2013 New Year’s Day Sermon
IF MY PEOPLE WILL PRAY
“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 I will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
Happy New Year! This morning, I would like to share a brief sermon on 2 Chronicles 7:14,which is my 2013 New Year’s key verse. I chose this verse because I feel a strong urge to pray for our nation, community, church members, friends, family and myself. As a husband, a father, a disciple of Jesus, and a pastor, prayer is my first obligation as well as a privilege. I believe that many of you have the same urge to pray more than ever this year. When the nation of Israel was in a dire situation, Samuel promised the people that he would not sin against God by failing to pray for them and he would teach them what is good and right. (1 Sam. 12:23) It does not mean that prayer is only a leader’s job. God calls all of His people to pray.
In fact, the Bible is full of verses that encourage Christians to engage in prayer. While Jesus was on earth, he also said Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” He also encouraged his disciples to always pray and never give up (Lk. 18:1) In Psalm 81:10b God promises, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” James 4:2 and 3 reads, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God actually invites, urges and begs us to pray and pray and pray.
When King Solomon had just completed building his beautiful Temple and was dedicating it to God, God said to Solomon on behalf of the people of Israel, “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 I will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” Here, we see that God said the people of Israel, his chosen people that he would answer their prayer if they would humble themselves, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways. So prayer, without humbling ourselves, seeking His face and turning away from our wicked ways, would not be effective at all.
1) If my people who are called by my name…
Thank God that we became God’s children through the grace of Jesus. We are God’s beloved children, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. Do we have an ID to prove that we are God’s children? No. Most of us have a driver’s license, student ID or workplace ID. And we don’t have a UBF membership ID card yet. But our true ID card as God’s child is Jesus’ image in us. 1 Peter 2:9-10 reads, “But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people; but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” This year, we need to remind ourselves not only of who we are but also of why we are here. We are chosen to be the salt and light of the world and ambassadors of Christ (Mt. 5:13-16; 2 Cor. 5:12). If someone sees us, hearing what we say and seeing what we do, will they see God’s image or will they just shake their head? “If my people, who are called by my name…
2) If my people will humble themselves…
God called His chosen people to constant repentance, not just once. Repentance is a very good thing to do. Repentance is a lifestyle for Christians, not for unbelievers. Repentance is an essential process for transformation. So if we stop repenting, we are not living a Christian life. For example, everybody has pride and a sense of dignity. I think a sense of dignity is a very healthy part of us. Without it, we cannot build a healthy relationship with others. But pride, when not handled properly, often gets in the way of our emotional, mental and spiritual maturity. God’s people are to be people who know who they are and know how to humble themselves before God and other people.
Prayer without humbling ourselves would not be different from the prayer of the Pharisees in the Parable of the Pharisees and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:10-12. Immature people who are insecure often try to lift themselves up but then they eventually fall from their high places. That really hurts. God does not want us to lift ourselves up, saying, “I deserve better than this.” He wants us to humble ourselves. It should be God who should lift us up. James 4:10 reads, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” 1 Peter 5:6 reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” True humility is to know our limit and to learn how to depend on His mighty hand.
3) If my people will seek God’s face…
Why do we need to seek God’s face? What does it mean to seek God’s face? When we pray, we don’t just ask God to do this and that or give him a lot of information he might not know. Well, God knows everything even before we know it. From time to time, I get phone calls from my colleagues whom I haven’t talked to in years. But when I realize that they call to ask me a favor and not to sincerely talk with me, I am not 100% thrilled even though I do what they ask of me. I would be much happier if we could have genuine fellowship in Christ. When we pray to God, we are not to call on him for just business purposes. We are to seek communion with God our Father who made us in His own image, loves and cares for us dearly. It’s a genuine love relationship. God knows what we need even before we ask. We spend a lot of time, listening to music and doing what we like. But how much time and energy do we actually invest in seeking a genuine relationship with God? Do we really enjoy having fellowship with God? We seek God’s face not because we must because we want to. Deuteronomy 4:29 reads, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” We are not going to be very busy and busy minded this year. But if we are too busy to seek God’s face, we need to slow down. Otherwise, we may have to pay the serious consequences.
4) If my people will turn from their wicked ways…
I am not a farmer. But I did study agriculture in college. If a field is left uncultivated, it becomes very hard and all kinds of weeds, thorns and thistles can grow, and seed will not penetrate the ground, consequently leaving the field completely barren. Our hearts and our community are just like the field. They have to be constantly cultivated. We, as an individual and a community of believers, are to turn from our wicked ways individually and collectively. For this, we need to examine our hearts, behaviors and relationships in light of God’s truth in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.
We see our nation in moral and spiritual decline. It seems there is no limit to the obscenity shown on TV. We are a sex-saturated society because all that we see and hear is related to sex. From a young age, so many people are exposed to pornographic materials and drugs that many kids lose their purity at a young age. As a result, the personal, social and academic life of some of these young kids is greatly impaired. Sin is not just young people’s problem. It is found every age group. Galatians 5:19 reads, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hated, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.” Galatians 6:7 and 8 read, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Unless God’s people turn from their wicked ways, God would not hear their prayers.
This year, I want to learn to pray. I know some of you have been eagerly praying for your loved ones to be saved. Some of you have been praying and working very hard to raise disciples of Jesus, without any visible fruit for many years. Feel like giving up? Don’t give up. Keep praying. Galatians 5:9 reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Some of you have children who are having trouble. Don’t stop praying. Remember Monica’s prayer – the mother of Saint Augustine- and Hannah the mother of Samuel. Some of you desperately want God’s wisdom to make some important decisions. Don’t stop seeking God’s wisdom. James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Some of you worry about your finances, health, job security and marriage. Don’t stop crying out to God. God is listening. He is not ignoring your prayers. He knows what is best and helps us accordingly.
We want our New Year to be very good. We want many successes and most of all to see God’s revival personally, nationally and globally. Then it should start within us, God’s people. This morning, God is inviting us to pray. He invites us to pray because he wants to be involved in our life because each of us is truly important to him. He wants to be my God, your God, and our God. This year, let us come to God in prayer personally and collectively. Let us humble our selves, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways personally and collectively. That should be our role in this revival as we wait on Him to bring His revival to our church, our community, our country, our whole world, and us. I wish all of you a Happy New Year! Let’s read our key verse once more. “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 I will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)