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If My People

January 3, 2010 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: If My People...

Topic: Prayer Passage: 2 Chronicles 7:11–16

If My People

2 Chron. 7:11-16

We will be focusing our attention on prayer through the month of January both in the messages and in combining our care groups for corporate prayer. The reason Matt and I really felt the Lord pressing on our hearts to begin the New Year this way is because 1) honestly, we realized that we have dropped the ball when it comes to corporate prayer. We used to have a weekly prayer meeting and a monthly prayer meeting but we stopped the meetings over the summer and never picked them back up. We want to correct that.

But the other reason is 2) as a church we really do believe in the power of prayer. We know that what the church is called to do is impossible to do apart from God doing it. To see someone who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior come to a saving knowledge of the Lord takes a supernatural work of God. To see a Christian who is backslidden and whose heart is cold toward the things of God have their hard heart softened with love for the Lord takes the melting power of God. To see a believer overcome sin in their lives, to see a family healed of bitter wounds and conflict, to see a rebellious teenager surrender their life fully to the Lord, for any spiritually good and eternal fruit to happen it will not primarily be the result of good planning or flawless human execution - it will be the work of God. And God works in response to - and in proportion to - the prayers of His people.

So as we wonder what 2010 holds for us as individuals and as a church, I hope there’s a sense of anticipation and faith in your heart and this question: what is God going to do this year? What’s He going to do in our community? What’s He going to do in our church? What’s He going to do in my life? Prayer is asking God to pour down His power and glory on His people so that we are filled with Him and used by Him and we see great things such as only God can do. In 2 Chronicles God promises great things, if God’s people pray. Let’s read 2 Chron. 7:11-16.

I. The  context of 2 Chronicles

Last week we talked about God’s conditional promises. This is a conditional promise. God says If you do this, then I will do that. Now to apply this conditional promise correctly we need to be careful to put it in its proper context. In the 70’s there was a musical called “If My People” – I had the album – that if I remember correctly applied this verse to the United States in a national way. This was God speaking to Israel as a nation, it is not God speaking to America as a nation. We need to be careful we don’t think God is looking down on the Republican Party and saying, “If My people would pray”. Or that God is looking down on the blue states or the red states and saying, “If My people would only pray”.

The first and second book of Chronicles was written as a historical record of the kings of Israel, and focuses largely on the reigns of David and his son Solomon. 1 Chronicles ends with the transition of power from David to Solomon and 2 Chronicles then focuses on Solomon’s kingship and especially his God-given wisdom to build the temple. Solomon has just fulfilled the dream of his father David and has led Israel in the great task of building a temple to the Lord and in chapter six Solomon leads the people of Israel in a reverent dedication of the temple to the Lord that includes this incredible prayer where Solomon asks God over and over again, when Your people pray, when they plead, when they ask, please listen, please hear their prayers from heaven and answer those prayers. God comes to Solomon in the night as says, “I have heard your prayers, and I will hear the prayers of My people.”

It is an incredible conditional promise spoken to God’s people, the nation of Israel, and I believe it contains a timeless promise to God’s people – not represented by a nation (not America) but represented by the church. I believe that God looks down on the church - those from every tongue and tribe and nation and race – and still promises, “If My people pray, I will hear from heaven.” When the heavens are shut up and there is a spiritual drought on the land – when the spiritual landscape is barren and dry and void of life, if My people will pray I will open the heavens and pour out the rain of My Spirit and I will forgive their sins and will heal the barren landscape and there will be spiritual life and spiritual vitality and spiritual fruit.

So let’s consider the conditions that need to be met, and then consider the promise of God when those conditions are met.

Condition #1: We need to be in covenant relationship with God

If My people who are called by My name…

Israel was God’s people because God made a covenant with Abraham and his offspring. It was a covenant made with the sacrifice of animals and maintained through the OT sacrificial system. The temple that Solomon is dedicating to the Lord is a temple where sacrifices will be offered to God for forgiveness of sin.

In the New Testament (or Covenant) there is no more need for the blood of bulls and sheep to be sacrificed for sin. They were only a foreshadow that pointed to the Perfect sacrifice who would be offered once and for all for our sins: Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus, as fully God and fully man, cut covenant with God, perfectly keeping the requirements of covenant on behalf of man so that all who trust in Christ are brought into covenant relationship with God – a covenant of grace that cannot be broken. We are His people by faith in Christ.

We are called by His name. In the Bible, the name of someone represented more than what you called them – it represented the person and all they were. Called by the name of the Lord means to be called by the Person of God and all He is. We are called by the name of Jesus. In fact, the term Christian was initially a derogatory term that means “little Christ”.

In Acts 5 the apostles are beaten for their testimony of the risen Christ, and they leave the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. When a person trusts in the name of Christ we trust in the Person of Christ. We follow Him, trust in Him, belong to Him. We bear His name – we are in covenant relationship with God.

If you are not a Christian, God isn’t looking for you to clean up your act before you come to Him. That is impossible. The first prayer God needs to hear from you is a prayer asking Jesus Christ to save you from your sin. Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God – there’s no other way. If you want to be a member of God’s people, you need to begin by asking Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord and surrendering your life to Him. He died on the cross so that any who believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life – that is the covenant He made on the cross.

Condition #2: This kind of powerful prayer needs to flow from the community of believers

If My people…God isn’t talking to them as individuals, He’s talking to them as a community. Individual prayer is essential and powerful. James reminds us that the fervent prayers of a righteous man can do some heavy lifting – but this promise is for prayer coming from the community of believers.

This morning 17 adults and 11 children joined the church as members. Real people with real lives, real children with eternal souls, being joined together with us so that God can make an eternal difference in our lives through each other. Who knows how we might make a difference in someone else’s life – an eternal difference? Right now there are devoted teachers teaching our children about God and God’s word and the gospel. Who can tell where those seeds will go? We get to do life together and it is amazing the impact over the long haul that that has on us – often in ways we won’t really comprehend till down the road.

Spiritual life and revival flow from healthy relationships – and healthy relationships flow from spiritual life. I think one of the reasons for the grace and blessing we have experienced is that there is a sense of unity and care for one another. If you are visiting us, I trust you realize we are not the perfect church – but this is a church full of loving, sincere Christians who really do love Jesus and want to glorify Him with their lives.

But I don’t want our eyes to haze over with this kind of idealistic concept of community. It sounds good and desirable and it is – it’s fantastic! It’s also a lot of stuff that isn’t so fantastic if you know what I mean. There are misunderstandings, offenses, lack of love, selfishness. People get overlooked. Some might feel uncared for at times.

ILL: I remember visiting a home church when I was a single young man. I was going through a really rough time and I was hurting. After the study they gathered everyone and began to give prophetic words of encouragement to one another. I so desperately wanted – felt I needed – a word of encouragement from God – just to let me know He hadn’t forgotten me. It seemed like everyone who had a sniffle or headache got a prophetic word but no one had one for me – whose heart was really hurting. I felt alienated and hurt. Thankfully I was able to talk through it with the pastor later who shared with me – next time, please ask. Let us know you’re hurting.

But I fully realize that there might be someone here in that place. Feel like others get more care than you do, more encouragement than you do – and it hurts. We want to grow as a church in the coming year in loving on one another, and we realize that there is room to grow. But please ask if that’s you. But all that is a part of imperfect people living in imperfect community but with a perfect God. God uses the bumps and bangs and offenses and misunderstandings and sin to help us to grow. We don’t need a perfect environment to grow – we need Christ and each other.

Spiritual renewal and revival needs to be built in an atmosphere of healthy and loving relationships. Not perfect relationships – but healthy – where we are growing in love and understanding and compassion and care. And in that place of unity our prayers take on new power. The early church’s spiritual power, brought by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, was also marked by spiritual unity and community.

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer…When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 1:14, 2:1

And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

Again, we have room to grow but I thank God for our unity – there are many churches that are plagued with division and factions and gossip and power struggles and because of that unless there is deep repentance the heavens will seem to be shut up to them. Any true spiritual outpouring of God must include a greater sense of love and community among God’s people!

Condition # 3:  the church needs to pray!

God is calling His people to pray and promising great things if they do! Let’s be honest, prayer is a struggle for a lot of us. I know people who are real prayer warriors – they’re like, all I want to be doing is praying! Hours of prayer. That ain’t me. I have this struggle – I love prayer once I’m in it, but man there’s a struggle getting into it.

ILL: Historically the prayer meeting of most churches is the least attended meeting on the calendar. I was told recently of a church of about 900 that generally had less than a dozen people – actually I think the number was closer to a half dozen – in their prayer meeting. It’s a good church – a lot of good spiritual life going on by God’s grace – but you can’t help but wonder, how much more would God be doing if they caught a vision for prayer?

And that is true for us. The goal of this month isn’t to make you feel guilty enough to come out to pray. Nor is it to get fired up about prayer for one month and then forget about it. May this be a church that is built on and powered by prayer.

If the church prays, God does glorious things that bring glory to His name. If the church doesn’t pray, it is still the church, but it becomes weak and powerless and dull of spirit and it’s testimony becomes more what man can do than what God can do. The great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon said this about prayer:

The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meeting. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a slothfulness in prayer. ~CH Spurgeon

God promises to answer when we do. Solomon asks over and over again, please hear us Lord when we pray. When we sin – and we will sin – hear us when we pray and forgive us. When the enemy is wiping the floor with us – ever feel like that? Ever feel like the spiritual battle isn’t going all that well? Solomon says, when that happens, and your people pray – fight for us!

When the heavens are shut up – no rain, no answer from God, things are drying up and dying on the vine – when we pray, hear from heaven and open the windows of heaven and heal the land.

When a person is struggling with their sadness and anguish in a personal trial, when they stretch their hands toward you in faith – hear from heaven.

God’s answer to all this is all the encouragement we need to stir us to pray:

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. 2 Chron. 7:14

Pray. Are there struggles in your own life you can’t seem to overcome? Pray. Is there someone you are desperate to see come to salvation (and there should be)? Pray. Are there areas of the church that you recognize need to grow? Pray. Pray for the church. Pray for Matt and I. Pray for each other.

Let’s come out Friday night and pray. Believing that God will answer us as we do.

More in If My People...

January 31, 2010

If My People Pray I Will Hear From Heaven

January 24, 2010

If My People Turn Away from Their Wicked Ways

January 17, 2010

If My People…Seek My Face