Friday, May 9, 2014

Heartache and Confidence: Hezekiah's Prayers

I remember the first time I prayed desperately, on my face.  My son was two weeks old, and I got a call from the doctor.  "We need you to come in; it's about your baby's newborn screenings."  Not content to wait until the doctor had an opening, I made them tell me what was wrong.  He had failed the screening for Cystic Fibrosis.  I would have to take him to the nearest Children's Hospital for further testing, but they couldn't fit us in until the next week.  For that week, I was a wreck.  I thought my faith was strong, but I was unable to stop worrying as I prayed with bitter tears.  As a loving Father, God was with me and answered my prayers.  But I could have saved myself much grief if I had prayed more like Hezekiah's second prayer and less like his first.

This king of Judah had a tumultuous reign.  Early in his kingship, he watched as the Assyrians defeated Samaria and took the northern kingdom of Israel into exile.  The mighty Assyrians would be a threat to Hezekiah and the southern kingdom for much of his reign.  During this time, Hezekiah also became ill.  The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah to put his affairs in order because he would not recover from this illness.  The king responded much the way I did when I thought my son was ill, if not in words, then at least in emotions (Isaiah 38).

"Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly (v. 3). 

Hezekiah's prayer was not wrong, nor was his heartache.  God looked down in mercy on the king and granted him fifteen more years of life, even giving him a sign that it would be so.  But the ruler must have learned about the power and mercy of God because his next big prayer was somewhat different.

Two different times, a representative of Sennacherib king of Assyria had taunted Judah and their king.  (Isaiah 36). Basically he said, "Your God can't save you and your king is lying to you.  We are coming and we will defeat you."  Defeat by the Assyrians was not pretty, and Hezekiah knew he had death or painful captivity to look forward to if the enemies won.  So this is what he prayed after the second taunt.

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. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 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 (Isaiah 37:16-20).
No bitter tears, no histrionics.  Hezekiah simply laid the case before God and asked that He deliver them for His own glory.  This time, Hezekiah had confidence that God could and would deliver them.

Once again, a loving Father heard the prayer of his child and answered.  Sennacherib's army was decimated in one night and the king of Assyria went home and was killed by his own sons.

In both instances, God heard and answered Hezekiah's prayer with mercy and love.  The difference is in Hezekiah's attitude.  In one, he is weeping, turning his face to the wall.  In the other, he is calmly asking God for deliverance.

Perhaps the reason for Hezekiah's different mindset has to do with the content of his prayers.  His first prayer was self focused.  "Remember what I have done, O Lord."  He begins his second prayer with a totally different focus.  He begins by praising God, then lays his problem before the Creator, and ends with a hope that God will be glorified in all things.  Only five words of the prayer are even a request: Deliver us from his hand.  God didn't need to be reminded of His own power and might, but it surely helped Hezekiah to say out loud how mighty God is.  Once he praised God for his power, he was better able to pray with confidence that God would take care of the Assyrians.

I think if I had to live that week almost six years ago over again, it would be different.  If I had praised God daily, if I had remembered in my heart and in my prayer that He loves my children more than I do, then maybe I would not have been so anxious. Oh, I would have laid on my face and cried as I prayed.  I'm not sure I could aspire to Hezekiah's calm where my children are concerned. But maybe if I had prayed that my son would glorify God in whatever state he was in, I would not have worried so much about the sickness.  God heard my prayer.  As it turned out, my boy is a carrier for CF but does not have the disease. Even if he had, I know that God loves me and my family more than I ever could.  The next time we have a scare, my heartache will be tempered with more faith.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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