God Responds to Prayer
"And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD." (2 Kings 19:15a)
Hezekiah had good reason to pray! Hezekiah was the King of Judah. Maybe you've heard of Judah: it was a small nation, the only two tribes left over from the Twelve Tribes of Israel. And Hezekiah, King of Judah, had a problem: he was an enemy of the pagan king of Assyria, Sennacherib (pronounced sen-AK-er-rib). Assyria back then was a little like America is today: the strongest nation on earth. And the nation of Judah was like one of those tiny countries you see on a map so small that nobody remembers the name of. In other words, King Hezekiah was no match for King Sennacherib.
Because Hezekiah and Sennacherib were enemies, Sennacherib brought his forces down to do battle against Hezekiah and the Kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib fought hard, and his armies defeated a lot of Judean towns. Hezekiah became frightened. So instead of relying on God, he sent money some of it was God's money to Sennacherib, trying to buy him off!
Well, Sennacherib didn't just want money. He wanted to humiliate Hezekiah in the capital city, Jerusalem. So Sennacherib sent messenger boys to Hezekiah, announcing that Sennacherib would defeat God's people if they resisted him.
What could Hezekiah do? He'd already sent money to Sennacherib, but Sennacherib wasn't satisfied. Hezekiah was so upset that he tore his clothes and went to the temple of the Lord. Instead of sending more money to the wicked king Sennacherib, Hezekiah sent word to Isaiah, the prophet of God, asking what to do. Isaiah sent back word not to worry, since God would take care of Hezekiah's problem with Sennacherib.
When Sennacherib heard what Isaiah had said, he sent a letter to Hezekiah, repeating his threats. Hezekiah grew very upset again. This time, he didn't send money to the wicked king, and he didn't even call on God's prophet. Instead, he spread out the letter on the ground and prayed to God.
After Hezekiah had pled with God for help, God sent word by the prophet Isaiah saying that God had heard Hezekiah's prayer. In Isaiah 37:21, God says that because Hezekiah had prayed, He would rise up against Sennacherib and defeat him. Soon afterwards, God miraculously killed 125,000 of Sennacherib's troops, and Sennacherib returned home to Assyria without ever fighting against Hezekiah. Eventually, two of Sennacherib's sons assassinated him while he prayed to his false god.
You've probably noticed that the story of Hezekiah and Sennacherib is complicated. You can read the whole thing in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37. Each version of the story gives details that the other one doesn't mention. When Isaiah tells the story, he makes the point that this devotional is making: it wasn't until Hezekiah himself prayed to God that God defeated Sennacherib.
Was it bad for Hezekiah to ask advice from God's prophet, Isaiah? Of course not! And when Hezekiah asked advice, God promised to help. But it wasn't until Hezekiah himself prayed that God actually struck down Sennacherib's army. God had planned to fight against Sennacherib, but He waited to do it until after Hezekiah asked Him to do it. God wants His people to bring their concerns to Him and to rely on Him to do His will.
When you face difficult circumstances, it's not good to try working things out on your own, as Hezekiah did when he paid money to Sennacherib. It is good to ask advice from older, more mature Christians like your teachers, parents, and pastors. But that's not enough! You should ask God for help. God wants to hear your prayers, and He wants to show His power in response to your prayers.
God powerfully responds to the prayers of His people.
» When I face difficulties, do I try working things out on my own? Or do I pray for God's direction and help so that I'll know how to respond?
Truth In Real Life
“Pray often; for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.”
John Bunyan was born in England on November 30, 1628. He was sixteen years old when England was going through a civil war in 1644. He became a soldier. One particular afternoon, young Bunyan was suddenly called away from his post. A fellow soldier took his place and was killed shortly thereafter. He would likely have died as a teenager if this soldier hadn’t traded places with him that day, and there was no doubt in his mind that God had something important planned for his life.
Like his working-class family before him, Bunyan grew up learning the trade of a tinker, or a brazier – someone who mends pots and kettles. When Bunyan got married in his early twenties, he and his wife were very poor (she had been an orphan). All they owned were a couple of Christian books which her father had left her before his death. They both treasured and read the books often. Bunyan, especially, was influenced by what he read. He was realizing that his current lifestyle and choices were wrong.
Eventually, because of this conviction over sin, he trusted Jesus Christ to be the Savior and Lord of his whole life. With the changes in his new lifestyle came also the desires to preach and to share the Gospel. God’s grace had made such a difference in his life!
John Bunyan became a preacher at a time in England’s history when preaching outside of the state church’s approval was considered a crime. The leaders of the day believed that rightly-preached doctrine would start a rebellion. Bunyan kept preaching, anyway. He felt compelled to share the Gospel of grace.
He was convicted of preaching against the law and was sent to prison for twelve long years. This was a painful time of constant separation from his wife and children, and they remained impoverished, since there was not very much Bunyan could do from his prison cell to bring in money.
He did do a lot of thinking and writing while he was in prison. It was during this time in prison that he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress – the greatest Christian allegory ever written. An “allegory” is simply a story told with word pictures. Missionaries everywhere still translate Pilgrim’s Progress into the language of their people to share this story with those they wish to win.
Do you think it was difficult for John Bunyan to know his family was suffering in his absence? Do you think he wondered sometimes whether God was really taking care of them, or whether he had made a mistake? Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress and learned a little more about how to understand the Gospel through its allegorical stories? Do you believe that God can use the difficult circumstances in your life for His greatest glory and for your greatest good?
Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.