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For the past several weeks I’ve been discussing the concept of a New Great Awakening and asking whether we are due for a spiritual revival in the United States.

Of course, any true Christian revival will be built upon a foundation of prayer. The Third Great Awakening began with a businessman in Manhattan who started noontime prayer meetings that eventually swelled to 10,000 people in New York City and then spread across the country. In the New Testament, James says that “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

But does God promise to heal America if we pray?

“…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” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Every self-respecting, patriotic Christian can recite the verse from memory and many claim it as a direct promise of God to the United States in the year 2013 without really giving much thought to the context of the promise or to whom it was given.

In 2 Chronicles 7, we find the Israelites, led by King Solomon, dedicating the temple they just built. Solomon asks God to fulfill his promise that a descendant of David would always sit on the throne of Israel. God responds by warning Israel of the consequences of disobedience—telling them what the results will be when they turn from him (‘when’ … not ‘if’). Read it in context:

“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.”

This was a specific promise given to King Solomon and the physical nation of Israel.