Church of England Diocese in Europe

Sermon in Ankara for the Zambian National Day of Prayer (18th October 2020) - The Revd Patrick Irwin

"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)

One of the marvels of the ancient world was the Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem. Its building and dedication are described in loving detail by the author of 2 Chronicles from which this reading comes. For seven days the Israelites held a great festival to celebrate the consecration of the temple. They sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. It must have been quite a barbecue! On the eighth day King Solomon held a solemn assembly and sent the people away to their homes. He went home himself to his palace and went to bed, doubtless tired but satisfied that the temple had been dedicated properly and all concerned had had a great party. That night in the solitude of the King's bedroom the Lord appeared to Solomon and spoke the words that we have heard read. God's words to Solomon were clear and powerful, and apply as much to us today as to King Solomon and the people of Israel.

The people were told by God to do four things:

1.   to humble themselves

2.   to pray

3.   to seek God's face

4.   to turn from their wicked ways.

In response God would do three things:

1.   hear from heaven

2.   forgive their sin

3.   heal their land.

This message given by God to Solomon is a message for us today. God has given us four instructions:

1. A call to humility. We need to admit our weakness and reach out for God's power.

2. A call to prayer. This is humility in action. We need to recognise our own weakness and God's power, and then come to the Lord to seek his help.

3. A call to devotion. We need to make God our priority and our greatest desire. In other words we are to have no other gods before him.

4. A call to purity. We need to repent, to examine our lives and turn away from whatever in them does not please God.

God has promised us three things in response:

1. He will hear us. God is listening out for us but we need to speak in order for him to hear.

2. He will help us. He will forgive us our sins and welcome us into close fellowship with him.

3. He will heal us. He will enable us to become healthy and cure us of the moral sickness caused by sin.

This may sound rather theoretical but it is exactly like going to the doctor. Imagine the scene!

There are four reasons to go to the doctor:

1. We need to admit that the doctor knows best. He is the expert.

2. We need to tell the doctor what is wrong with us. He will then be able to advise us.

3. We need to trust the doctor completely. He is professionally qualified to tell us what to do.

4. We need to follow the doctor's advice. Then indeed we may be cured.

In response the doctor will do three things:

1. He will hear us. He will listen to our account of what is wrong with us.

2. He will help us. He will give us medicine to cure the infection.

3. He will heal us. He will enable us to become healthy again.

Today the people of Zambia have come to visit the physician of our souls. We know that we are spiritually ill and have come in humility with our prayers to the one who really knows how to cure us. May God bless the great nation of Zambia and strengthen its leaders and people in their resolve to admit their shortcomings and seek afresh to follow in Christ's footsteps along the road to spiritual healing. It is a journey that all Christians can make with confidence together.