Think about it for a moment. What does II Chronicles 7:14 say. “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” I shared with you my thoughts on humility; now let me tell you about prayer. Prayer is one of those things that we take for granted because it is as natural as breathing. That’s good, and that’s bad. It’s good because we can pray no matter what is going on in our lives. In a particularly stressful moment, have you ever said, “Oh, my God!” That is a prayer. Unfortunately, too often it is simply taking the Lord’s name in vain, but it is in reality a cry to Holy God. I pray constantly throughout the day. I don’t have to close the door or pull onto the side of the road and get on my knees. I simply talk to God about whatever is going on in my life. However, that is not the kind of praying that God is talking about in this particular verse. There are numerous (at least a dozen) words that He could have used to express the concept of prayer, but He chose to use the Hebrew word “palal.” The root meaning of the word is to intervene or interpose.
Some trace the word back to an Arabic form that means “to notch the edge of a sword” lending itself to mean “to cut or wound oneself.” That of course was the pagan practice used by false prophets who worked themselves into a frenzy during their worship services, but it gives us an interesting insight into the concept of agonizing prayer – the kind that leaves us wounded, at least in the sense of our pride.
Another closely related word means “to break or cut.” The idea here is to compare or distinguish, to pass a judgment. In a sense, prayer does this. At least it helps us to decide between what is right and wrong. A third suggestion means to fall, emphasizing prayer as a form of prostration before God. Finally, a fourth word indicates the possibility of “reassessment” which should be the outcome of this type of prayer.
So what do you get when you put all of this together? Prayer causes us to dig deeply into who we are, rooting out our sin whether it is sin of omission or commission, sin of action or attitude. We must use, if you will allow me this discretion, the Sword – the Word of God – to cut into the very quick of our being to reveal our hearts as we cast ourselves face down before a Holy God allowing Him to judge us. In doing so, we see what is right and wrong in our lives, and we allow the Holy Spirit to move us to a reassessment of who we are and what we must do. Ultimately, prayer puts us in the place of the slave coming before our Master who tells us how our lives must change so that we might be more pleasing to Him. Prayer is the realization that we cannot do anything on our own or in our power to please Him until He gives us direction and permission.
In essence, the kind of prayer that brings revival is prayer that tears us down to the very essence of our being – sinners who have violated every command of the living God; sinners who have, by the grace of God been redeemed and made clean; sinners saved from our sin who continue to fall into sin; sinners who recognize that our only hope for revival is to be made clean no matter how painful the process; sinners who are willing to pay the price through agonizing prayer that will cut us to the quick. It isn’t a pleasant experience, this thing called revival, but it has an amazing outcome that will change our lives and will change our world. Are we ready for revival?