Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT)
I hear this verse often quoted by Christians at times like the Fourth of July. The assumption they make is if America will just get down on her knees and pray, God will make America "great" again. Or to be more specific, consider this possible paraphrase.
If Christian prayer would just be mandated in public schools and other public forums, and all Americans would turn from their wicked personal sexual and wild lifestyle sins, then God will forgive America and things can get back to like they were in the olden days; or back to the 50's at the very least.
Is that what this verse means? Let's see what the Bible is actually saying...
In the context of this scripture, "my people," is referring to the people of Israel. With the coming of Jesus, "my people" becomes the Church. Followers of Jesus. So, it is Christians who are called upon to humble themselves and pray; not all Americans.
Nowhere does Jesus or the early New Testament Church speak of a "Christian nation" ruled by "Christian laws." We have no basis for this. Wherever we live, we are "citizens of heaven," as well as citizens of the nation in which we happen to reside. America has never been a "Christian nation." We are a nation populated by many Christians.
"restore their land"
In the context of 2 Chronicles, "land" is the nation of Israel being ruled by King Solomon. This is an actual place during an actual time. This is not referring to America.
The "land" of followers of Jesus is wherever they are representing God as they do His Kingdom work. The Bible gives us an example of what this might look like wherever we live, even if it is a land of "wicked ways:"
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7 NIV)
We don't want to go back to the "olden days" anyway. We always want to look forward to better days. If you don't agree with this, think about it this way.
You don't hear Black Americans pray if only things could just be like they were in the "olden days." They aren't praying,
"God, may America be great like she used to be. You know like when my great-great grandmother was a white man's sex slave. Like when my father's relatives were being lynched. Make us proud of America again..."
You see, it is all a matter of perspective. It's only White Americans who would find themselves praying, "Let's get back to like it was with our Founding Fathers," and such. Every generation has it's awful "sins of choice."
What we pray for is making progress in being a blessing. Always looking forward to see what God is blessing today, and joining Him there, not looking back at some "Golden Age" that never really existed in the first place.
America continues to be a great nation precisely when she seeks the good of others and stands up for those who are oppressed and downtrodden. Great because of the tremendous opportunities available for all people and the freedoms that make it possible for her people to live free.
America has always blessed the world way more than she has cursed it. America is the greatest of nations precisely because God has worked through Christians who have sought Him, and has worked behind the scenes through those who aren't Christian, influencing their consciences which He designed. It is in this way God continues to bless the world as God blesses America.
God bless America!