“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
But should this verse be applied to America? As a theological technicality, the easy answer is, “No, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not a prayer formula for America, for the simple reason that America is not God’s people.” Not all readers will perfectly agree with the analysis that follows—but be patient. You will agree with the conclusion!
Yet the more relevant question is this: Can the passage’s principle of repentance and humility be applied to Christians in America? Real Christians, of course, have a right to call themselves “God’s people.”1
On the other hand, it should be observed that the immediate context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 indicates that the phrase “My people, who are called by My name” refers to the nation of Israel that had just consecrated Solomon’s Temple for the worship of the Lord.2
Could an attempt to apply this verse to Christians living in America be out of context? If so, not to worry!
Scripture contains an example of a Gentile nation, Assyria’s Nineveh, that feared God, repented of national wickedness, and collectively humbled itself as a nation before God. The people pled for His mercy and forbearance!3 That wicked nation more than 2,500 years ago became repentant at an almost unbelievable scale in response to the doomsday preaching of the reluctant prophet Jonah.
The example of Nineveh’s national repentance illustrates a Gentile society that asked for and obtained God’s mercy at a time when they almost experienced destruction. In fact, if Jonah would have had his way the Ninevites would have been destroyed in heavenly fire just like Sodom and Gomorrah!4
Obviously, Nineveh’s revival was unprecedented—and there likely hasn’t been anything like it since.5
We can rely on the national repentance of Nineveh as a general principle that God will do likewise toward a Gentile society undergoes similar humility and begs His mercy. This is based upon a promise delivered by the prophet Jeremiah, who served God years after the Ninevite revival.
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.6
What a comforting promise!
Amazingly, the passive form of the Hebrew verb nâḥam, which is translated as “repented” in Jonah 3:107 is elsewhere translated as “comforted” in Genesis 24:67 and 37:35. So the main idea is that God is “comforted” (or “relieved”) when we genuinely repent of our sins and plead for His mercy, because He grants mercy on the basis of Christ’s atonement.
Accordingly, when God is about to judge sinful behavior—whether it be personal or corporate, self-judgment of that sin invites God’s mercy and forbearance.8
Amazing! God’s inclination to punish sin is affected by (relieved by) our repentant humility. Our plea for mercy actually relieves God!
But there’s more good news if we are serious about praying for America!
Thankfully, we have a divine Editor who theologically corrects our sincere prayers for God’s grace. That divine Editor is none other than God the Holy Spirit, who dwells within every Christian.9
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.10
So, we should pray without ceasing for God’s mercy at the personal level, and also for whatever group we belong to—including our nation!11
Let God the Holy Spirit adjust the theology of your prayer “on the way up.” But there is no prayer to edit unless a prayer is given!
So, please pray for America—and trust the Holy Spirit to edit your prayers “on the way up.”
1. Acts 15:14. 2.
2 Chronicles 7:12-16.
3. Jonah 3:1-10.
4. Jonah 4:1-3, 4:9.
5. Matthew 12:41.
6. Jeremiah 17:7-8.
7. See also Joel 2:13 and Jeremiah 26:3.
8. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 and 1 John 1:9 with Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Joel 2:12-14a.
9. Romans 8:9.
10. Romans 8:26-27.
11. 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 1:9; Acts 12:5; 2 Timothy 1:3.
*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.