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If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, 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 Chronicles 7:14

“I feel so helpless!  What can I do?”   Have you ever thought of or said these words as you look at what is happening in our country?  I have! Our nation is in trouble.   Many are fearful for what the coming days and weeks will bring, and what will be the future for our children and grandchildren.

But at such moments the Spirit of God reminds me: “fear does not come from God; rather God has given us a spirit of power and of love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Instead of wanting me to be afraid, God’s Spirit draws me to today’s scripture about God’s people humbling themselves and seeking Him.  

I acknowledge that this often quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise God made specifically to His people Israel.   God had called Israel to be His covenant partner, in special relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   Yet, our nation’s founders intended this country to be a new Israel, an Israel in the New World.  History shows that they endeavored to establish the nation after the pattern of ancient Israel, as they prayerfully dedicated the country to God and to His service in the world.  They aspired to build an ever more perfect union, a shining city on a hill.

It came naturally for the founders to provide for the first public education in America so that their children could read the Bible.  They established Ivy League colleges so that their young men might be trained to preach the Gospel to settlers and Native Americans.   They dared to act on the principle they learned from Proverbs:  “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

So, at this perilous time that I don’t know what to do, I am going to be praying 2 Chronicles 7:14.  I realize that it isn’t enough to sing “God Bless America!”  We have to humbly confess our sin and pray for God’s mercy!

As I pray 2 Chronicles 7:14, I am inspired by earlier Americans who have done this and known God’s mercy and blessing.    I think of John Hancock and the Massachusetts Provincial Council who, five days before the Battle of Lexington and the “shot heard round the world”, called people to pray with these words: “In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments…the 11th of May next be set apart as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer…to confess the sins…to implore the Forgiveness of all our Transgression.”

I also think of George Washington who, after the horrendous winter at Valley Forge, gave these orders to his troops:  “The Honorable Congress having thought proper to recommend to the United States of America to set apart Wednesday the 22nd, to be observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer…that no work shall be done thereon.”

Then, there is the memorable letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, explaining the Continental Congress’ decision calling the states to a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.  Adams wrote: “We have appointed a Continental fast. Millions will be upon their knees at once before their great Creator, imploring His forgiveness and blessing.

But today, as we see our nation so torn and divided, I am especially drawn to Lincoln’s call to prayer in the midst of the American Civil War.  On March 30, 1863, President Lincoln issued a declaration that included the following:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God…It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…I do, by this, my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”

This is the time, not just to pray for our nation, but to confess our sins and cry out to God for His mercy.   Lincoln was right!   “We have forgotten God…It behooves us to humble ourselves before Him.”

A fellow traveler, 

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