I offer this midweek devotion largely because I’ve needed it myself. I’ve needed to process something deep within my own heart. Maybe unknowingly, you’ve needed to do the same. For context, please read the whole of 2 Chronicles 7. With that context in mind, we’ll dive more deeply into verses 12-16.
Wednesday, August 12th
Larger Portion of Scripture - 2 Chronicles 7
Focused Passage for Reflection - 2 Chronicles 7:12-16
Reflecting on the Text:
I’ve been haunted by a question this week. It began on Sunday evening when the Christ Church Vision Review Team gathered to continue our work. This team reconvenes each year to review our Vision Plan and to consider where we are as a church relative to our Vision. We began the work by reviewing last year's review. Last year we asked the question, “Are we living in and growing in humble reliance upon prayer?” That’s where it began.
Before COVID, we might have answered the question differently. We had instituted a monthly prayer gathering. Our elders were praying before worship. Our worship team was praying before worship. Our shepherding team was gathering for prayer after worship. In all of these gatherings, we were trying to acknowledge our need for prayer by facilitating times of prayer. But then Sunday evening we asked what had happened to those prayer times. During our COVID induced exile from “normal worship”, much of those regular Sunday prayer times had ceased. The surface-level answer as to why this had happened was easy. COVID had changed everything. But then we asked ourselves about the issue behind the issue, and that is where something deeper was revealed.
When we gathered back for worship, we found ourselves trying to simplify. We were in a new place, with a new time schedule, and new guidelines about gathering. So to simplify, we cut out anything that was deemed “not crucial.” As I said those words, my heart sank. I feel the same in writing them now.
No one made a conscious decision that prayer gatherings were not crucial. But subconsciously, that is precisely what we said. Why? That is the question that has haunted me this week. Maybe it is a question the Lord addresses for us in 2 Chronicles 7.
In this chapter, the Israelites were celebrating the newly constructed temple. Solomon had offered a beautiful prayer before the Lord. He sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. It was all a sign of humble gratitude in the presence of God’s glory made manifest (see vv. 1-3). And then the Lord spoke to Solomon in the night.
The Lord told Solomon how the people should respond when He brings punishment through drought and pestilence. (Notice, the Lord brings these things.) The response is found in v. 14: “…if my people who are called by my name 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.”
Let us not miss how beautifully this passage speaks to the glory, goodness, and steadfast love of the Lord. It also speaks to His sovereign governing of all creation. How appropriate then that we would humble ourselves before Him and pray. But do we? Might this call to humility be the answer to the question behind the question about prayer?
Recently, I’ve had several reminders of my own pride. They’ve been subtle, almost hidden from my view. But the Lord has graciously revealed them to remind me how quickly I can turn away from a moment by moment dependence upon Him. He has graciously revealed these snapshots to me in order to draw me back in, that I might humble myself, pray, seek His face, and turn from my prideful ways. I believe the question which has haunted me this week has been one more example of this revealing.
How about you? Does prayer drop out when you are in the mode to simplify? When you cut out all the non-essentials, which pile prayer wind up in? It’s hard to answer the question because when we are conscious, we will pray. But what about those times when we are less conscious of the Sunday School answer? And why is that?
Could it be that we all need a more clear picture of the glory of God? Could it be that we need a more clear picture of our own sin and finitude? Could it be that we need a fresh and gracious reminder to humble ourselves before the Lord?
With very rare (if any) exception, we can all answer yes to these questions. And when we do, we find beautiful comfort in the Lord’s promise found in v. 15: “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.”
From Zechariah, we’ve been reminded that the Temple finds its fulfillment in the person of Jesus and in His body, the church. When God speaks of hearing prayers offered in the Temple, we understand that through Jesus, He hears the prayers offered by the body of Christ…the Church. With this reminder, and with this promise, let us live in and grow in humble reliance upon prayer.
Questions for personal reflection:
As you reflect on your life, is prayer crucial to your day to day existence?
Why, or why not?
What might it look like for you to humble yourself, to pray, to seek the Lord’s face, and turn to Him?