Written by David Lenehan
IF. It’s a very small word. When I took a computer science course in college, I wrote a lot of ‘ifs’ while attempting to learn the Pascal programming language. Typically, a programmer would write, “if this happens…Then this should happen.” That format would be written over and over, covering dozens of pages of dot matrix-printed paper. That if/then combination only worked for me part of the time. From that experience, it was clear that being a computer programmer was not in my future.
When it comes to our lives, the word “if” is often followed by a statement of regret. “If I had only listened to…If I had known then what I know now…If I had been kinder, more loving, more caring…” From God’s perspective, that small word has often been followed in Scripture by a command or a promise. When God spoke to king Solomon after he had finished building the temple and his palace, He had some compelling words for the king and the nation of Israel.
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” (2 Chron. 7:12-14, ESV).
God called Israel to pray, to seek Him diligently and to turn from their wicked ways. He followed up that command with a promise, “then I will forgive and heal.” You may remember back in high school that the fourth Wednesday of September each year is See You at the Pole (SYATP). This is a nationwide movement birthed in the 1980’s where students in middle and high schools gather around their school flagpoles to pray. It’s not meant to be a protest or to take a stand. Instead, the time is set aside for students and staff to lift up their school, its students and teachers in prayer before Almighty God. I’ve had the privilege many times as a youth leader to pray with students, to interview them about their experience at SYATP and hear what they pray God would do in their school. It was always powerful and so encouraging.
This year’s SYATP theme is the simple word, “IF,” and is based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. It’s a call to prayer not only for students, but really for all of us. It’s a call to our nation. Just imagine what would happen if…if more and more of us committed to praying for our schools, our communities, and our nation. What if we took more time to purposefully seek out others to show them the love of Jesus in practical ways? What if we turned from our sin and back toward God?
Would you join me in answering God’s call to follow up the “IF” with action, with prayer?
If you interact with a high school or middle school student or teacher today who is a follower of Jesus, ask them about SYATP at their school. I think you’ll hear some amazing stories about God moving in young people’s lives.