And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning behold, they were all dead corpses.
King Hezekiah was in a jam. Although he had trusted God, and did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, nonetheless his Assyrian enemy was knocking at his door. Sennacherib had sent three of his lieutenants to Jerusalem with a great host of Assyrian soldiers. Rab-shakeh, the spokesman for this terrible trio, taunted the Israelites, ridiculing their faith in Jehovah. He stood before the wall of Jerusalem shouting obscenities to the Jews and counseling them, "Let not Hezekiah deceive you. . . Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD. . . hearken not to Hezekiah. . . . Make an agreement with me" (2 Kings 18:29-31).
When the king heard that the Assyrians were outside the city walls, he rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. Here Isaiah, the prophet, encouraged Hezekiah that God had the situation well in control. Soon Hezekiah received a letter from the king of Assyria demanding that he surrender the city. What Hezekiah did next is characteristic of a man of faith. Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord God, and in his prayer we can see the elements of all righteous prayer.
His prayer was instinctively spontaneous (verse 14). When Hezekiah received the threatening letter, he immediately spread it before the Lord. There was no thought of calling a committee or seeking the advice of others; Hezekiah knew what to do, as did Elisha (2 Kings 4:33) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4) in similar situations.
His prayer was praisefully reverent (verse 15). He addressed Jehovah as, "O LORD God of Israel which dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone." The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9) indicates the same kind of reverence.
His prayer was intimately personal (verse 16). After he addressed God in a reverent fashion, Hezekiah said, "LORD, bow down Thine ear and hear." He had recognized God as sovereign; now he addresses Him as friend.
His prayer was respectfully informative (verses 17-18). Hezekiah did not demand of God what should be done. He was reminding himself in prayer of what God had promised. When we inform God of our situation in prayer, it is not because He is unaware of how desperate we are; we do it so we are aware of how desperate we are.
His prayer was purposefully direct (verse 19a). The time had come to get down to business. He pointedly made his request known unto the Lord. "O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save Thou us out of his hand." Hezekiah did not mince words; he was direct and forthright in his request to God.
His prayer was properly motivated (verse 19b). Hezekiah prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians, "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even Thou only." Anything that happens to God's people reflects on God's purpose. Our prayers ought to be motivated so that the world sees the grace of God in our deliverance from desperate situations.
His prayer was powerfully effective and 2 Kings 19:35-36 shows the powerful effect of the righteous man's prayer: "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses." Early the next morning Hezekiah and the Jews found their enemy routed and 185,000 dead soldiers. God had performed what He promised.
Prayer is the power that gets a hold of God. Each of us would be wise to study carefully Hezekiah's prayer and see how these seven characteristics of his prayer can be applied to our prayer lives. Let's be like Hezekiah and believe that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
MORNING HYMN I must tell Jesus all of my trials, I cannot bear these burdens alone; In my distress He kindly will help me, He ever loves and cares for His own.
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