If My People: Prayer Alone Isn’t Enough!

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Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Joel, and more specifically, is found in verses eighteen through thirty-two of the second chapter. That which we read in the eighteenth verse of this chapter, and ultimately what we read in the rest of this chapter is a direct continuation and response to what is found in the seventeenth verse. If you read the seventeenth verse, you will find the prophet Joel calling for the priests, the Lord’s ministers to weep between the porch and the altar, and to do saying, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations.” In the seventeenth verse of this chapter, we find the priests, the ministers of the Lord weeping between the porch and the altar asking the Lord to spare His people, and to not make His inheritance a reproach. In the very next verse, it would appear that we receive a response to the priests who wept between the porch and the altar, and their cries of intercession before the Lord. When you come to the eighteenth verse, you find the prophet Joel declaring to the inhabitants of the land, saying, “Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied in full with them; and I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.” This is incredibly powerful, for what you read in verses eighteen through thirty-two appears to be a direct response of the Lord to the actions which are called for in the previous section of this book. If you read the first half of this chapter, you will find the prophet Joel encouraging the inhabitants of the land to return to the Lord with all their heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning, and to rend their heart and not their garments.

If the second portion of this chapter is all about the response of the Lord, then the first half of this chapter is all about the actions of the people. The inhabitants of the land were instructed and encouraged by the prophet Joel to return to the Lord with all their hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and to rend their heart and not their garments. In the eighteenth verse—six verses later—you find the Lord declaring that He would be zealous for His land, and would have pity on His people. In the nineteenth verse, you find the Lord declaring that He will answer and say to His people that He was going to send grain, new wine and oil, and they would be satisfied in full—not just satisfied, but satisfied in full. What I read in this particular chapter of the prophetic book of Joel reminds me a lot about what is recorded in the seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles. The seventh chapter of the book of Second Chronicles contains one of the most well-known, and one of the most beloved Scriptures in the entire Scripture—especially as it pertains to national revival, spiritual awakening, and corporate renewal. “Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time” (2 Chronicles 7:11-16).

What so strikes me about this passage in the book of Second Chronicles, is that we oftentimes read just the fourteenth verse, while completely ignoring the verse immediately before it, and even the verse after it. More often than not, we read the fourteenth verse of this chapter, and do so not even realizing that it is only partial and incomplete. The text and language we find in the fourteenth verse is not an isolated verse within this passage, nor is it even an isolated thought. If you read this chapter beginning with the eleventh verse, you will find that the text of the fourteenth verse is directly linked and connected to what is recorded in the preceding verse. IN the twelfth verse, we find the Lord speaking to Solomon about a time when He shut up the heavens so that there would be no rain, or commanded the locust to devour the land, or sent pestilence among His people. It is in response to what the Lord was doing in the earth, and what the Lord was doing in the midst of the land that prompts the language of the fourteenth verse. The language and words of the fourteenth verse is not and should not be read isolated, alone and separated from the rest of the chapter, and it should especially not be read separate from the thirteenth verse, for it forms the second half of a promise the Lord spoke to His people. I am convinced that as often and as frequently as we quote the fourteenth verse of this chapter, we do a great disservice by not reading it in connection and conjunction with what is recorded immediately before it. IF THE LORD SHUTS UP THE HEAVENS SO THAT THERE IS NO RAIN, IF MY PEOPLE! IF THE LORD COMMANDS THE LOCUSTS TO DEVOUR, IF MY PEOPLE. IF THE LORD SENDS PESTILENCE AMONG THE PEOPLE, IF MY PEOPLE! It’s interesting to read this passage in light of this, for it follows the patter of “When the Lord” and “If my people.”

The fourteenth verse was given as a direct response to what was stated and proclaimed in the thirteenth verse, and I fear that we fail to acknowledge what is recorded in the previous verse. I would dare say that if we quote just the fourteenth verse of this chapter, we are actually diminishing the Word of God, and perhaps even taking away from what the Lord is truly speaking. I fear that we may use the fourteenth verse of this chapter to somehow ignite a spiritual awakening or revival, and yet we don’t realize the tremendous dishonor and disservice we are committing before the Lord. Oh, it may sound good when we quote the words that are contained in this verse, yet we are giving those who hear it only part of the picture. We aren’t giving the context in which this type of prayer, this type of humility, this type of intercession is actually needed. I fear that there are numerous times when we misquote the Word of God, and actually mishandle it, thus not rightly dividing it. We dare not, cannot and should not quote just the fourteenth verse of this chapter, no more than we should quote the second half of the second chapter of the prophetic book of Joel, and not the first half. Let me ask a question—although our intentions may be good (in our own eyes), if we quote only the fourteenth verse of this chapter, while simultaneously, and perhaps even systematically omitting the thirteenth verse, do we truly believe that the Lord is going to honor us? Oh, we may quote the fourteenth verse, and with all the charisma and personality we can muster, boldly and emphatically declare “If my people,” yet if we fail to begin this dialogue without and apart from the thirteenth verse, we are misguided in our attempts and endeavors. What’s more, is that what we read in the thirteenth verse is but a snapshot—a small commentary if you will—of what Solomon prayed to the Lord at the dedication of the Temple of the Lord. If you read the fifth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles, you will read Solomon’s prayer before the Lord at the dedication of the Temple.

In Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he makes some very specific requests—requests which prompted the Lord’s response recorded in the seventh chapter. Consider the various elements of Solomon’s prayer as recorded in the fifth chapter: “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, then hear from heaven and act and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness. If your peoople Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers. WHEN HEAVEN IS SHUT UP AND THERE IS NO RAIN BECAUSE THEY HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. If there is a famine in the land, IF THERE IS PESTILENCE OR BLIGHT OR MILDEW OR LOCUST OR CATERPILLAR, if their enemies besiege them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own sorrow and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prayers toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. IF they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for my name, then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you. Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place” (2 Chronicles 5:22-40).
In Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he specifically mentions the reality of the Lord shutting up the heavens so there is no rain, as well as the Lord sending pestilence, and commanding locusts upon the land—each of which are mentioned by the Lord in His response to Solomon’s prayer. Solomon prayed unto the Lord and wanted to ensure that if the people of God prayed toward the house where the Lord placed His great name, if they humbled themselves, if they prayed, and if they repented of their sin and wicked ways, then would the Lord hear from His dwelling place and respond. OUR RESPONSE DETERMINES THE LORD’S RESPONSE. When you read the fifth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles, and when you read the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the seventh chapter, you will discover the tremendous reality that the Lord’s response was directly connected to our response before Him in prayer, in repentance, and in humility. The Lord would respond, and the Lord would act, but only in proportion and relation to their actions before Him. The Lord declared that when He shut up the heavens so that there was no rain, and when He sent pestilence among His people, and if He commanded the locust to devour, if His people who were called by His name would humble themselves. It’s interesting to read the Lord’s response to Solomon in the book of Second Chronicles—especially when you read the first chapter of the prophetic book of Joel. “What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4). Even in the twenty-fifth verse of the second chapter, the Lord speaks these words through the prophet Joel: “Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).

It is clear when reading the prophetic book of Joel that the Lord had indeed sent locusts upon the land to devour it, yet you will find the Lord declaring the He would restore the years which the locust has eaten. WHEN THE LORD COMMANDS LOCUSTS TO DEVOUR, IF MY PEOPLE! WHEN THE LORD SHUTS UP THE HEAVENS SO THERE IS NO RAIN, IF MY PEOPLE! WHEN THE LORD SENDS PESTILENCE UPON THE LAND, IF MY PEOPLE! IF MY PEOPLE! Everything hinges and hangs upon the reality of if the people of the Lord. The Lord is ready, willing and able to do His part, but the true question surrounds our willingness to rise up and do our part. Will the priests rise up and weep between the porch and the altar, crying out to the Lord to spare His people? Will the inhabitants of the land return to the Lord with all their hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning? Will the inhabitants of the land rend their heart and not their garments? The Lord is ready and willing to heal our land and forgive our sin, yet the question that must be asked is whether or not we are willing to humble ourselves, and pray, and seek the face of God, and turn from our wicked ways. Oh that we would recognize and understand that the starting point of this whole reality is humility—our willingness to humble ourselves before the Lord, for the Lord is near to the broken in heart and spirit. The Lord would be zealous for His land and would have pity on His people, but they must return to Him with all their hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning, and they must rend their heart and not their garments. The Lord was willing to send grain, new wine and oil, and would satisfy His people in full, yet they bore the responsibility of humbling themselves, praying and seeking the face of the Lord, and turning from their wicked ways. Let us recognize and understand that directly connected to our prayer and seeking the face of God is humility and the turning away from our wicked ways.
Oh, it is possible to engage in prayer and yet not humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. “HUMBLE YOURSELF IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD.” There are prayers that can be prayed without and apart from humility, and prayers that can be prayed without turning from our wicked ways. It is even possible that we engage in prayer, yet not possess any willingness to turn from our wicked ways. Tell me dear brother and sister—do you expect the Lord to hear from heaven if you are praying before Him, yet are unwilling to turn from your wicked ways? What good are prayers that are prayed from unrepentant hearts, and hearts that are unwilling to yield, bend, surrender, submit and be humble before the Lord. UNBROKEN MEN PRAYING USELESS PRAYERS BEFORE THE LORD. You will notice that it wasn’t simply about the people of the Lord praying and seeking the face of the Lord, but it was that prayer and seeking the face of the Lord accompanied by humility and repentance. Do you want to know what types of prayers attract the attention of the Lord, and bring Him near to heal our land and forgive our sins? It is prayer that is cloaked and saturated in humility and repentance, for there are far too many prayers that are prayed from unrepentant and prideful men. Oh, I would dare say that the Spirit of the Lord is grieved by prayers that are being offered from unbroken and unrepentant men and women in the house of the Lord. I would dare say that your prayers may very well be utterly and completely useless if you yourself remain unrepentant and unbroken. The Lord is attracted to brokenness, to repentance, to surrender, and to humility, and prayers that are offered before Him from that place, and it is to those who are in this place that He releases healing and forgiveness. There is no place for prayers that aren’t accompanied by humility and repentance, for such prayers may very well go unanswered, and even ignored by the Lord. The Lord is attracted to those who will weep between the porch and the altar, and those who will return to Him with all their hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning. The Lord is attracted to those who will rend their heart and not their garments. In other words, the Lord is not interested in outward and external show, but a true and genuine and authentic humility and brokenness within the heart of a man or woman.

What I absolutely love about the words of the prophet Joel in this passage, is that before we get to the prophetic word that points to the Day of Pentecost, we first read of the Lord removing the northern army far away from the land of Israel, and driving it into a parched and desolate land. Before the Lord even makes the prophetic declaration and promise concerning sons and daughters prophesying, He first speaks of restoring and giving back the years which the gnawing locusts have eaten. I WILL BE ZEALOUS! I WILL HAVE PITY! I WILL ANSWER AND SAY! I AM GOING TO SEND GRAIN, NEW WINE AND OIL! I WILL NEVER AGAIN MAKE YOU A REPROACH! I WILL REMOVE THE NORTHERN ARMY FAR FROM YOU! I WILL DRIVE IT INTO A PARCHED AND DESOLATE LAND! I WILL MAKE UP FOR YOU THE YEARS THAT THE SWARMING LOCUST HAS EATEN! All of this is mentioned even before the Lord speaks of pouring out His Spirit on all mankind, and our sons and daughters prophesying. All of this is spoken of before the Lord declares that old men will dream dreams, and young men will see visions. But—and this is a HUGE “but”—humility, prayer, the seeking of God’s face, and repentance must precede this work. What we read in this chapter is absolutely incredible, for before the Lord would pour out His Spirit, He would drive far away the northern army, and would drive it into a parched and desolate land. In the New Testament and under the New Covenant , the enemy needed to be driven far away through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Lord would pour out His Spirit upon all mankind, but first, the works of the devil must have been destroyed through the work and power of the cross. Moreover, it may very well be that the Lord desires to pour out His Spirit upon you, and upon your flesh, and in the dry and thirsty land that is your soul, yet He must first drive out the enemy far away from you.

Oh beloved son and daughter of the Father, the Lord desires and even delights to pour out His Spirit upon you, but it may be that He needs to completely drive out, and drive far away from you the enemy which has wreaked havoc in your life for so long. Oh, what enemy needs to be driven far away from you in your life? What enemies need to be driven far away from you in your life in order for the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord to be poured out upon your flesh? There may very well be a work of restoration and giving back to you years which have been devoured by the enemy before the Spirit can be poured out upon your flesh. The Lord desires to pour out His Spirit upon you, but He must first give you back those years which the adversary and enemy has stolen and stripped from you, and He must first drive the enemy far away from you. You may be desperately crying out for the Lord to pour out His Spirit upon you, yet the Lord wants to first drive the enemy far away from you, and wants to give you back all those years which the enemy and adversary his stripped, stolen and robbed from you. What you and I must understand, is that we must come before the Lord in complete humility and repentance, and must pray and seek His face. We must return to the Lord with all our heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. We must rend our heart and not our garments. No more external shows. No more shows. No more masquerades. No more lies. No more shams. No more scandals. No more pretending. No more games. We must come completely clean and come completely honest before the Lord in this hour and in these Last Days. The Lord desires to pour out Spirit upon all flesh, and the Lord desires to heal this land and forgive our sins, but we must humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. Oh that we would hear and listen for the voice of the Spirit in this hour, and that we would surrender ourselves to Him fully and completely.

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