“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
- 2 Chronicles 20:6-12
“While working on the Student Bible my colleague and I made a selection of great prayers of the Bible, which can be read in a two-week period, one prayer per day. Some are intimate and private while others were delivered in a very public setting. Each gives an actual example of a person talking to God about an important matter and teaches something unique about prayer:”
- Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?
I will be intermittently away from the keyboard for much of many of the days for about two weeks. I had been praying about what I could write during this period, or for this period. I try to stay a few days ahead in my writing, but with my cataract surgeries, and – confession time a little laziness – along with the heavy doctor visit schedule, I was writing my posts just in time. (Pardon the typos, if there were any. Really my biggest problem is changing verb tense, at will, throughout paragraphs, and within a sentence as Yancey does in the quote, but homonyms and blatant typos do exist after several reviews.) I had just read Yancey’s book, and I thought of his list of prayers. The chapter on Prayers in the Bible had started with the Lord’s prayer, gone to the Psalms as a whole, and included a general discussion on the prayers of Paul in his various letters. Then Yancey lists fourteen prayers after the paragraph above. The thought of this list struck me. Then when I re-read the page in the book, the words ‘two-week period’ struck me. Rather than the Holy Spirit striking me out with a third strike, I decided to write a few ideas – maybe some really short posts – for each prayer. I will copy the Yancey quote and this paragraph for each of the fourteen, so if you read every day, you can skip this with the remaining parts.
Jehoshaphat gave a piece of Solomon’s prayer in his corporate prayer for the people – that the people would have the temple in which to go for prayer when troubles beset them.
In many ways, most of this prayer is a history lesson, reminding God (but also the people in attendance to build up their faith) of God’s promises to the people. In public prayer, the hearer is most definitely God, but the audience is the crowd who hears what the prayer leader is saying. The prayer can extend to them, to let them know more about God.
A portion of this prayer is an imprecatory prayer. I have written before that I feel that there is no problem in corporate style imprecatory psalms and prayers. They are in the Bible and there is a purpose for them. Jehoshaphat asks God to ‘judge’ the enemies who are violating the non-aggression pact that had been agreed by their ancestors. The violation of that pact should have serious consequences, but note that Jehoshaphat does not ask for dismemberment, rivers of blood, or any violent end to the enemies, just protection of the people of Judah. A violent end of life is implied as the war is imminent, and unless God intervenes, it will result in a bloody conflict.
Also note that Jehoshaphat admits that Judah is totally helpless without God. He humbles himself before God and his own people, admitting that if God does not intervene, they will not be able to defend themselves.
This part of the prayer, a total surrender to a higher authority, is missing from so many people’s prayers today. We may not be facing a deadly battle. It may simply be a baby with colic. Some people keep God in their pocket, like a rabbit’s foot, in case they need Him, but we need God all the time. To truly be born-again you must surrender your will to God – admitting that your path leads only to destruction and that God is the only way out.
To set this prayer in perspective, after Solomon, Rehoboam and his son were bad kings. Then Asa reigned, establishing reforms. He had a 41-year reign, followed by Jehoshaphat who reigned 25 years. Jehoshaphat was also a good king, establishing more reforms. When I say reforms, I do not mean the modern concept of ‘reform’ where secular progressives would move further away from Biblical teaching, but these were reforms that moved closer to what God had told His people to do in the Scriptures.
What was the result of the prayer? Jehoshaphat did not stop with the prayer. He laid prostrate before the Lord. He assigned men to sing praise songs as their army advanced to the hilltop overlooking the desert that was filled with enemy soldiers. Jehoshaphat had his corporate prayer, but in lying prostrate, he continued to pray. When the army reached the hilltop, they found only dead armies in the valley beneath them. Jehoshaphat’s prayer had been definitively answered by almighty God.
In spite of a clear demonstration of God’s power, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son did evil in the eyes of the Lord. It would be some time before Joash, Jehoshaphat’s great-grandson would reestablish son reforms until he acted improperly, and then Uzziah, Joash’s grandson before there was another truly good king of Judah.
What can we learn about this prayer? God tells us to love our enemies but hate evil. Imprecatory prayers carry a great deal of responsibility. In this case, Jehoshaphat asked for the enemies to be judged, leaving it up to God as to how that happened, and the reason was for the defense of God’s people. That, as it is, is safe ground. But one must be careful to forgive and love the enemy. Being humble before God and admitting that you cannot do it on your own (and none who have entered heaven have ever done it on their own), that is a prayer that we need to pray often.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.