It’s difficult to imagine how Hezekiah, King of Judah, must have felt during the events of Isaiah 36-37. Nearly twenty years earlier, Assyria had attacked Judah’s northern neighbor, Israel, and scattered the Jews who lived there. Now, Assyria had completed its attack on the other fortified cities in Judah and was preparing to lay siege to Jerusalem. I imagine that King Hezekiah would be scrambling to meet with advisors and strategists and military personnel. But instead, even as he faced taunts and ridicule from the enemy army’s Field Commander, Hezekiah chose prayer.
Hezekiah prayed immediately. In Isaiah 37:14, Hezekiah’s first response was to pray. Prayer wasn’t an afterthought or something Hezekiah resorted to after attempting to resolve the situation himself. He went to God first. Sadly, I am often much better at realizing I need to pray about something–or even promising to pray about something–than I am about following through and actually praying. Hezekiah didn’t hesitate. He prayed first.
Hezekiah prayed honestly. Isaiah 37:14 says that Hezekiah took the letter he had received and “spread it before the Lord”. (ESV) I imagine Hezekiah sitting down, unrolling the scroll, and literally looking heavenward and saying “Okay, God. Now what?” Obviously, I don’t typically have a threatening letter to lay before God but am I willing to figuratively “lay” my struggles, needs, desires, and, most especially, my sins before Him? Am I willing to be honest and vulnerable in my prayers?
Hezekiah praised first. Before Hezekiah started rattling off his many requests and petitions, he spent time in praise and adoration. Even though he himself was the King of Judah, Hezekiah acknowledged God’s authority and his dependence on Him. I often skip the important step of adoration and jump right into my list of requests, but Hezekiah was careful to praise God first.
Hezekiah prayed with certainty. In Isaiah 37:17, Hezekiah’s boldly asks “Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see.” (ESV) God had shown Himself faithful in Hezekiah’s life before and, because of this, Hezekiah prayed confidently, knowing God would hear and answer. Reflecting on God’s past faithfulness in my life and answered prayers should give me confidence to approach Him boldly in any situation.
Hezekiah prayed dependently. Hezekiah didn’t mince words. He laid it all out there—Assyria was coming to destroy Jerusalem, and they needed divine intervention. God knows all my needs and struggles. I don’t pray to inform Him. I pray to remind myself of my dependence on Him and to invite Him to meet my needs.
Hezekiah prayed for God’s glory. Hezekiah wasn’t interested in being the hero. He didn’t care about accolades and praise. He wanted God to be glorified in their victory. His simple prayer in Isaiah 37:20 was “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, SO THAT all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (ESV) What motivates me to pray? Is it my desire for a certain outcome, or do I want God alone to be glorified, regardless of the answer I receive?
Hezekiah prayed anyway. In the beginning of Isaiah 37, Hezekiah sent his servants to seek wise counsel from the prophet Isaiah. God’s response, through Isaiah, was the answer Hezekiah was hoping for “Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard…..I will make him [the King of Assyria] fall by the sword in his own land.“ (ESV) This seems like a pretty good answer to me! God had already answered and promised that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria! In fact, by Isaiah 37:8, the King was already busy fighting somewhere else. God’s promise had already begun to come true! But that didn’t stop Hezekiah from continuing in prayer. God planned to deliver Jerusalem all along, but Hezekiah’s prayer helped God accomplish His divine purpose. My prayers don’t alter God’s plan. My prayers help to accomplish the good and perfect plan God already has for me. God’s sovereignty should never stop me from praying. Rather, it should drive me to Him in complete dependence because I need Him so desperately.
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered. Isaiah 37: 36 says “The angel of the Lord struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians” (ESV) The passage doesn’t record Hezekiah’s response, but I think it’s safe to assume that he praised and thanked God for the victory. When God answers my prayers, even (or especially!) if His answer is different than I had hoped, am I careful to thank Him and give Him the glory?
Father, thank you for the gift of prayer. Help me to pray with the humility, boldness, and persistence of Hezekiah so that Your plan will be accomplished, and You will be glorified in my life.