2 Chronicles 20:5-13
We must never forget that every believer in Christ’s new assembly, the church, is a learner. Everyone who follows Jesus follows after him, striving to know his glory and how to please and serve him. Because of his surpassing worth and redeeming love at the cross, we humble ourselves before him. We call out, “Lord Jesus, what will you have me to do?” As we take this very seriously, neither teacher nor hearer will be arrogant or careless. Everyone will say, “This word from the Lord is for me, in order that I might be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” As I see it, one of our great needs is to be transformed in regard to prayer. In the clash of fear and faith, this is most important, and I am not exaggerating for effect.
In our series “When Desires Clash” we have focused on the life of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Every person, including followers of Jesus, experiences a conflict between desires for good and desires for evil. The desires for evil come from the sin that is within us, as well as from the world around us. A person who is not a Christian, though ruled by sin, may have desires for good because of what we call God’s common grace, the work of God’s commands on their consciences, and the salt and light effects of believers. The Christian has desires for good not only from those sources, but also from being a new person in Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the reading of the Word, and the fellowship of believers. What we read of in this section is a clash of fear and faith, in Jehoshaphat and his people. After a short time of relative calm, everyone is in fear for their lives, their families, and their possessions. So they gathered to pray. But how did Jehoshaphat lead them in prayer in this critical hour?
The situation was unpromising for worship and prayer, especially for a people who had wandered from the living God. If they knew of the curses of the law covenant for disobedience, their outlook would be bleak (Deuteronomy 28:25-26; etc.) So what should you a person at such a time? You run toward the Lord, not away from him. This is what David learned after his great sin in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. It is what every godly person learns, because you learn how surpassingly merciful the Lord is! Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16 ESV). Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8 ESV). And so Jehoshaphat prayed.
Jehoshaphat started with worship (20:6-9). We all have much to learn at this point. If we claim to have a Christian world and life view, it ought to transform our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions, especially in the way we pray. Don’t you agree? When we pray, we should not be merely following some set formula or pattern. Any ritualistic or legalistic person can do that. Therefore, I am not simply saying, “Let’s begin with adoration,” as in the well-known “ACTS” prayer pattern. I point to a basic change about our view of God and us. Our culture overemphasizes the individual human at the expense of God and other people. Let’s become counter-cultural and treat God like he is God! We all need to approach in an attitude of worship, being influenced by the truth of who the Lord God is. So then, what can we learn?
Jehoshaphat lifted up God’s majestic greatness (20:6).
- He knew he was praying to the Lord, the I AM, the living God, and spoke in conformity with the truth of who the Lord is. Do we speak to God like he is Almighty God? Or do we speak to him like he is a clerk in the grocery store? “Uh hello, could you help me get this?” We need to slow down, to think about whom we are conversing with, and to talk like we’re talking to the Creator and Ruler of all. Using a set form of prayer will not help at all at this point. The change must come from the attitude of our hearts, which flows from what we really think about God.
- He took the truth of the Lord to heart and acknowledged that he is God of heaven (Deuteronomy 4:39). He was not speaking to some mere tribal god, but to the God over all. Read on your own a picture from heaven about the Lord’s glory (Revelation 4:2-11).
Here is a suggestion, if you feel you need help. Put some of the opening words of prayers from the Bible on 3×5 cards, and use them to develop a change in how you begin conversing with the Lord of heaven and earth. This verse (2 Chronicles 20:6) is one to start with. Look in the Psalms and Revelation also.
Grace and peace, David