ďPrayers for Desperate TimesóHezekiahís PrayerĒ††††
Isaiah 37:9-38††††† February 1, 2009
SI:† Weíre in the middle of a nine week study of prayers for desperate times.†
†† Weíre looking at nine different believers in the Bible who were facing
†† an overwhelming crisis, and they prayed, and God answered.
This morning weíre looking at an incident in the life of King Hezekiah.
Let me set the stage for this Scripture reading.
The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had invaded Judah.
†† His plans were to capture Jerusalem.
Nobody had been able to stand up to the Assyrians.
†† They were powerful, they had the latest military technology and weapons,
†† and they loved destruction.† They loved torturing and mutilating people.
Their specialty was impaling captives on stakes.
Their reputation for brutality was well-known and they used their reputation
† †to terrorize their enemies and destroy morale.
So when Sennacherib invaded Judah and was working toward Jerusalem,
†† he started sending King Hezekiah a series of intimidating messages.
†† Basically his messages were:† Iím coming.† Nobody can stop me.
†† And when I get done with Jerusalem you people will be begging for death.
He got very close to Jerusalem and then he heard that the Cushites were marching
†† against him so he had to pull away from Jerusalem to fight the Cushites.†
But before he left he sent one more intimidating message to Hezekiah.
†† ďIíll be back.Ē† Donít think for a minute that your god has saved you.
†† He hasnít.† Iíll be back and then you will be sorry.
So letís read and weíll see how King Hezekiah responded to the letter,
†† and the answer he received.
INTRO:† In the 1800s there was a young army officer stationed out West.
He was a Christian.† He had grown up in the Presbyterian Church,
†† and he had learned the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a boy.
Anyway, this place he was stationed was truly the wild, wild West.
†† There were often fights and riots in the streets.
†† The people were drunk and rough and disorderly.
One day this officer noticed a man, a stranger, walking down the street.
†† There was something about this man that was different.
†† He carried himself with confidence and purpose in a way that set him apart
†† from the lawless crowd in that town.†
As the man got closer their eyes met.†
The man stopped and looked at this young officer.
†† And then he walked up and poked him in the chest and said:
†† ďWhat is the chief end of man?Ē
Almost automatically the officer answered:
†† ďManís chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.Ē
The man nodded and said:†
†† I thought so.† You looked like a Catechism man to me.
†† The officer replied:† I thought the same of you.
Thatís a true story.† The army officer was a friend of the famous Princeton
†† Seminary theologian BB Warfield, and Warfield related his story
†† in one of his writings.
Your chief end, your chief purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
†† To the degree that you understand that and believe it and embrace it
†† and live it out, you will be different.† You will stand out.
You might not walk down a street with a different stride, but you will live
†† with a confidence and purpose that will set you apart from the world.
One big place that difference will show itself is in your prayersó
†† especially your prayers in desperate times.†
Because even as you petition God for help and say, Lord, I need your deliverance.
†† Even as you pray those prayers, you will do so with an eye towards his glory,
†† and that will make all the difference.
Everybody prays when they are in a crisis.
†† And the focus of most peopleís prayers is fixing the problem and returning
†† their lives to normal as quickly as possible.† So they turn to God as the fix it man.†
God, help me.† God, please, please fix this thing.† Iíll do anything.
But when a person believes that his chief purpose in life is to glorify God,
†† then even in a crisis, even in desperate times, he wants God to be glorified,
†† and that changes his prayers.
You see this in King Hezekiahís prayer.
He spread this threatening, mocking letter out before the Lord and he didnít prayó
†† O Lord, help me, help me.† Iíll do anything.†
†† Please, please get me out of this.
He prayed, O Lord Almighty, God of Israel,
†† enthroned between the cherubim, God over all the kingdoms of the earth.
†† This letter is an insult to your glory.†
†† Answer it.† Glorify yourself by delivering us and defeating our enemies.
I want all the nations to know that you alone, O Lord, are God.
†† For Hezekiah, Godís glory and his deliverance were one and the same.
†† That gave him tremendous confidence.
This is how we need to learn to prayóespecially in desperate times.
†† We need to pray for God to be glorified.
No matter what comes against us,
†† no matter how we would like things to work out,
†† we must pray that God will be glorified.
And this is the great thing about that prayeróThe Lord will always answer.
†† He is jealous for his own glory, and he is pleased with those prayers.
Letís look at this passage in more detail and see what it means to pray
†† for Godís glory in desperate times.† Three headings.
1.† The necessity of God-glorifying prayer
2.† The content of God-glorifying prayer
3.† The power of God-glorifying prayer
MP#1† The necessity of God-glorifying prayer
The big reason we must pray for God to be glorified is because God is the center
†† of the universe, we arenít.† He is God and we arenít.†
He is the Creator.† We are his creatures.†
†† And so it is right and good for us to seek his glory in all things.
†† Seeking Godís glory does not diminish us, it fulfills us.
Just like the catechism saysóGlorifying God is our chief purpose.
In a backwards way, Sennacheribís letter confirms this.
Sennacherib said to Hezekiah:† Your God, the God of Israel is no God.
†† Heís nothing.† Heís no different from the gods of all the other countries
†† weíve destroyed.† Iím God.† Assyria is God.† Our military power is God.
†† Iím the center of the universe and Iíll deal with you as I wish.
What kind of man was Sennacherib?† He thought he was a great man.
†† But he was a horrible man.† His humanity was degraded.
When the Bulgarian pastor Haralan Popov was being tortured by the Communists,
†† one of his torturers said:† There is no God.† I am God.† You life is mine.
†† I can keep you alive or I can end your life whenever I want.
Itís an echo of Sennacheribís words and itís a chilling scene of depravity.
My point is that when people push the glory of God out of their lives
†† and set themselves up as the center, it ruins them.†
Godís common grace keeps people from getting as bad as Sennacherib.
†† But any time people quit glorifying God, they glorify power or pleasure
†† or control or any other number of things and they are diminished as people.
So the big reason we have to seek Godís glory in our prayers
†† is because he is God and he has made us to glorify him.†
Worshipping our Creator is our reason for existence.†
But there is another reasonóa sweeter reason.
And you see this in Hezekiahís prayer.† What does he call God?
†† Calls him the Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim.
The Lord.† Any time you see LORD in all caps in your Bible that tells you
†† that this is the Hebrew name Yahweh.†
Yahweh is the personal name of God that he used when he entered into covenant
†† with Abraham.† Name used for all his personal dealings with his people.
The God of Israel.† Israel was the name the Lord gave Jacob.
†† Do you remember when Jacob got the name Israel?† We studied a few weeks ago.
It was that very bad night of Jacobís life when everything was threatened by Esau.
†† A man came and wrestled with Jacob and blessed him.
This is the God who came to us as a man, in our great need, and
†† and grabbed us and struggles with us and blesses us.
Enthroned between the cherubim.†
†† The cherubim are the great angels that serve in Godís presence.
†† But they were also the gold images on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant.
What was that lid called?† It was the Mercy Seat.
†† And it was on that Mercy Seat, between the cherubim that once a year
†† the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on Day of Atonement.
You see, for Hezekiah, God was not just Godóhe was his Savior.
†† Hezekiah was an Old Testament believer but he was praying to Jesus.
†† He was praying to His Savior to come.
He wanted his Savior to be glorified.†
†† Because he knew that his salvation and Godís glory were one and the same.
†† Godís glory is your salvation.
When you are in a crisis, when you are going through a desperate time,
†† donít you want the best possible outcome?† Donít you want things to be restored
†† and made whole again?† Of course you do.
The best of all outcomes is that Jesus Christ is glorified.
†† Because his glory and your salvation are one and the same.
Listen to the way Ray Ortlund put it in his commentary on Isaiah:
†† ďWe need to pray this way.† We need to see our lives this way.† Why are we here?† Not to play in some sandbox of our own making, but to be living proof that God saves sinners.† Why is God here?† Not to service our convenience and our selfish dreams, but to display his glory in our salvation.Ē
You need to pray for God to be glorified because he is God,
†† and he had made you to worship him.†
And also because he is your Savior.†
†† His glory is your salvation.† It is your ultimate good.
MP#2† The content of God-glorifying prayer
What does it look like to pray for Godís glory?
†† Do you just pray:†
†† Lord, you know the situation.† Do what you need to do to be glorified.
Lord, this person is sick.† Be glorified.†
Lord, I have this algebra test.† Be glorified.
Or do you pray for specifics?†
†† Do you ask God for help and healing?†
†† Do you tell him your desires and what you think is best in the situation.
Lord, this person is sick, heal him.
†† Lord, I have an algebra test.† Help me make a good grade.
Itís a combination of both.
The Lord wants you to ask him for things.†
†† He wants you to make your desires known.
The Bible is clear about that in its teaching on prayer and in its examples
†† of good prayers.† Like this one.† Hezekiah prayed:† Deliver us from his hand.
†† Hannah prayed:† Lord, give me a son.
Now, there is a qualification.
Everything you ask for must be in accordance with Godís will.
†† That means it has to be a lawful and God-honoring request.
†† You canít ask for something that you know God doesnít want you to have.
And you ought to ask for things with an honest examination of your motives.
†† Why do you want this thing?†
Remember James deals with this when he says you ask with the wrong motives
†† that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.†
Our motives are never perfect, always mixed.
†† So you do need to examine your motives and set them before God.
But after taking all of those things into account, bottom line is that
†† the Lord wants you to ask him for thingsóespecially in times of crisis.
And at the same time, you must to pray that God will be glorified.
†† What that means specifically is that you pray Jesus Christ is glorified.
Remember, Hezekiah was praying that his Savior would be glorified.
†† His Savior would be known by all the nations of the earth.
†† The Lord, the one between the cherubim.
So your prayer ought to also beóLord Jesus, I want your name, your reputation
†† to be glorified in this matter.† I want people to come to know you.
† †I want my family to know you and love you more through this.
†† I want your church to be blessed.† I want your name to be honored through this.
Back in 2000, Dr. James Boice, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia,
†† was diagnosed with liver cancer and moved very rapidly.†
Let me read to you just a part of what he told his congregation.
A number of you have asked what you can do, and it strikes me that what you can do, you are doing. †This is a good congregation, and you do the right things. †You are praying certainly, and I've been assured of that by many people. †And I know of many meetings that have been going on. †
A relevant question, I guess, when you pray is pray for what? †Should you pray for a miracle? †Well, you're free to do that, of course. †My general impression is that the God who is able to do miraclesóand He certainly canóis also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. †So although miracles do happen, they're rare by definition. †A miracle has to be an unusual thing. †
I think it's far more profitable to pray for wisdom for the doctors. †Doctors have a great deal of experience, of course, in their expertise, but they're not omniscientóthey do make mistakesóand then also for the effectiveness of the treatment. †Sometimes it does very well and sometimes not so well, and that's certainly a legitimate thing to pray for. †
Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. †If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself? †He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn't by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have. †Jesus said, "Don't you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?" †But He didn't do that.† And yet thatís where God is most glorified.
Those are good words from a godly man.
Pray, he says, for my healing.† Pray for effectiveness of treatment.
†† Pray for wisdom for my doctors.† Pray, if you feel led, for a miracle cure.
†† And above all, pray for the glory of God.
His glory which is seen most clearly in Jesus Christ.†
The content of your prayers when you are in a crisis should be different
†† from the desperate prayers of an unbeliever in the same situation.
You may both plead for healing.† But for you, underneath that request,
†† must be this deeper oneóI want Jesus Christ to be glorified.
What happens when believers pray this way?
MP#3† The power of God-glorifying prayer
When Hezekiah prayed the prophet Isaiah sent him a message.
†† Lord says, Because you prayed, this is what Iím going to do about Sennacherib.
†† And he gave him a poem.
Whatís the theme of this poem in verse 22-35?† Itís the sovereignty of God.
†† Sennacherib says:† Iím great.† Iím powerful.† I do what I want.
†† Iíve conquered all the nations.† I cut down whoever stands against me.
And the Lord says:† Sennacherib, I guess you havenít heard.
†† All these things you and your armies have doneóthat you brag about.
†† I ordained those things.† I planned them long ago.
I used you.† I used your pride.† I used your violence.†
†† I used your victories to accomplish my purposes in human history.
Iíve ridden you like a man rides a wild horse.
†† And now that Hezekiah has prayed, Iím going to put my bit in your mouth
†† one more time and Iím going to turn you away from Jerusalem,
†† and ride you right on back to Assyria to your death.
And Iím going to save my people in Jerusalem and Judah.
And God did exactly that.† 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died overnight.
†† (Mentioned by Greek historian Heroditus, mice in camp, bubonic plague.)
†† Sennacherib took decimated army back to Nineveh, where he was assassinated.
†† And Hezekiah and Jerusalem enjoyed a time of peace and rebuilding.†
The bigger message of this poem is that Jesus Christ is riding all human history
†† like a man on a wild horse.† Even the sin and pride and restless energy off
†† human race canít thrown him off.
Jesus has his bit in its mouth and is turning it for his purposes.†
Hereís the question this poem raises.† If God is sovereign over all history.
†† If he has ordained the rise and fall of empires.
†† If he moves kings even as they act out of their pride and free will.
If the Lord is that sovereign, then what role does prayer play?
The answer from this story isóIt plays a huge and crucial role.
†† The Lord said to Hezekiah:† Because you prayed . . .
Because you prayed, Iím turning Sennacherib away and delivering Jerusalem.
†† Hezekiahís prayer for God to be glorified and to deliver them,
†† as the instrument God used to save Jerusalem.
We need to just take this at face value.
Jesus Christ is sovereign over history, working out his purposes,
†† and he somehow uses your prayers for his glory to accomplish things.†
†† Through your prayers evil is pushed back and people are blessed.
Our Revelation reading confirms this.† Mighty angel collects the prayers of saints
†† as they rise to God in heaven.† Puts them in censer, put off heavy incense smoke.
Then at Godís command he hurls this to earth and the earth is shaken.
†† God hears prayers, uses them to accomplish his sovereign will on earth.
Now, you might hear this and say:† Thatís great.† Thatís an awesome picture.
†† But honestly, I just canít get too concerned about things that bigó
†† the rise and fall of empires and Jesus riding through history.
I just want to survive another day.
†† I just want to keep my marriage together and raise my children right.
†† I just want to make the right decisions in paying my bills, handing
†† the day to day pressures that I face at work and school.
I just want to get through this crisis Iím in right now that might not seem to big
†† to other people but itís huge to me.†
Your concerns are not small to God.†
†† Because his glory does not just advance with rise and fall of empires,
†† it advances from person to person.
And when a man or woman prays:† Lord, Iím facing this crisis,
† whether itís financial, physical, relationalóhelp me and be glorified in this.†
That prayer is powerful and Godís glory spills over to other people.
There are so many examples of that in this church.† You who have prayed in crisis.
†† And through that powerful prayer, God has extended his glory to other people
†† in your circle of influenceóspouse, children, friends, co-workers.
We have some friends who have been in a crisis with parentsófinancial, emotional.
†† Itís been very hard.† As they have prayed for resolution and for Godís gloryó
†† their children, their church members who know them, they themselves closer
†† to Christ.† Some stories more dramatic than others.†
CONC:† A politician recently said that you should never waste a good crisis.
He was talking about the current financial crisis and was saying that
†† he was happy it fell in his lap because he could make political hay out of it.
No matter what you think of that as a political strategyó
†† spiritually speaking I think we should be willing to sayó
†† Lord, I donít want to waste this crisis.
Yes, I want deliverance.† Please deliver me and quickly.
†† Please act and set things rightóbut above all, be glorified.
†† May Jesus Christ be glorified and his glory extended to my children,
†† to my family, my church, my friends, and to this world.
When we pray that prayer, we can walk with confidence.
†† And stand out from the crowd.† Because we know Jesus Christ will be glorified.
†† And our salvation is his glory.