Have you ever found yourself in prayer, constantly asking/praying in a rhythmic pattern of “Lord help me to....and I pray that You would...and help me to...and help me to...and help me to...and help me to?”
Seeing how God desires our ultimate dependency on Him, and then seeing how the Lord is limitless in what He can do, I find myself in this pattern of “I pray that You would...and help me to…” quite often. And...there’s nothing wrong with that.
But what strikes me about King Hezekiah, when he says a particular prayer in 2 Kings 19, is not his request. Instead, it's his reasoning behind his request that gives me pause. After being threatened by death to himself and to his kingdom, Hezekiah ends his prayer to God by saying, “Save us...that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
Do you see it? Let’s back up. King Hezekiah just received word from another kingdom, the Assyrians, that it was going to destroy the Israelites. In fact, Hezekiah received multiple messages from the Assyrians stating that Hezekiah’s kingdom would fall to ruins and that Hezekiah’s God wouldn’t be able to protect the Israelites, God's chosen people. In response, King Hezekiah ran to the Lord. Analyzing his prayer, you can see that Hezekiah does a couple of noteworthy things:
Instead of looking to his own devices, King Hezekiah humbles himself and first acknowledges who the Lord is.
15 Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.
- How important it is to explicitly acknowledge who the Lord is in prayer, especially in times of trouble/doubt. Before Hezekiah makes his request known to God, Hezekiah not only proclaims who the Lord is, but he also reminds himself just who he speaks to. I’m slowly learning the value of actively acknowledging who my heavenly Father is while I speak to him. Personally, this has helped me to pray further in faith when I remind myself who God is. He not just another man. I’m literally speaking to the Creator of the entire Universe (ponder that for a second!).
2. King Hezekiah then presents this life-threatening problem in a way that lays the burden of his request at the feet of God rather than hesitantly at his own. This shows true trust and dependency.
16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
King Hezekiah recognizes that this battle with the Assyrians is really not against him. It's against God. How many times do we find ourself in a situation in which we take the battle personally? The Lord warns us in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." He also warns us in Ephesians 6 that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we wrestle against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. It's pivotal to understand just who our battles are against. It's really not about you.
3. Lastly, King Hezekiah explicitly states the reasoning behind his request. He acknowledges that it's not about him!
19 “Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.”
- And this is where I take great pause! How often do we pray with this motivation? I mean honestly. It’s so easy for me to pray “help me to...” without any motivation for the Lord to receive glory, for His kingdom to progress here on Earth, or for others to come to know Christ. Often I’m just in need and I just send up a prayer. Often, I stop thinking about the Lord’s agenda and stop short-sighted by my own selfishness.
- But what I’m learning is that when I pray with the latter motivation, I subtly take myself off my own pedestal and place God in His rightful place. This guards me from bitterness or anger when I don’t see such a prayer answered, because it reminds me that I was never/should never be the center for why a prayer is answered in the first place. Rather, it reminds me that at the end of the day, Jesus really is the center of it all. (i.e. Colossians 1:16 "16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.")
- If He isn’t the center of your prayer, check your motivation as to why you are praying in the first place.
Is His will greater than your own want/desire?
- James 4: 2-3 “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
- Joshua 7:7-9 "Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies?9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”