Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24, 2012 … Praying Like the Ancients

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 206 

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Isaiah, Chapter 37-39 [NIV] To study these chapters, go to this linkPassage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Psalm 76 [NIV] To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Isaiah 38: 1-6 : [NIV] … 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 "Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.  
Highlight Passage: Isaiah 37: 1-4; 14-18; 33-37 : [NIV] … 1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, "This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives." … 14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 "Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.” 18 "It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. 19 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 20 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God." … 33 [God through Isaiah] "Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: "He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 34 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city," declares the Lord. 35 "I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!" 36 Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. 

My Journal for Today: There’s a lot which one could journal about in all the assigned chronological chapters from the writings of Isaiah and Psalm 76 for today’s reading. However, I want to focus on the exposé on prayer in Chapters 37-38 of Isaiah’s book; but, I will do so in reverse order; because in studying these chapters it’s quite obvious that chapter 38 was written before chapter 37. Why they were compiled in the order they were in our Bible, I cannot say; and I could find no commentary to give me the reason.

No matter; what I want to focus on were the prayers of both Isaiah and Hezekiah into today’s Bible study; and there is a lot of meat for us to digest here today.

First, we note that these two men had a priority strategy when it came to handling problematic circumstances in their lives; and their first-order and priority strategy (what I’d call a “battle plan”) was what? Yes, … if you’ve read even my highlighted passages above, you’ll note that PRAYER was the default problem-solving strategy for both Hezekiah, the King of Judah and Isaiah, the Prophet of God whom Hezekiah relied upon most.

When Hezekiah became deathly ill (see highlight on Chapter 38 above), Isaiah had a word from God that Hezekiah was close to death (and true Prophets of God never were wrong in their prophesies). Hearing the gloomy message from Isaiah, what did Hezekiah do immediately, almost in knee-jerk reaction to the news? HE PRAYED! And what did Hezekiah’s Pastor/Prophet do immediately. HE PRAYED!! And what was the result? God “changed His mind;” … or some might say it appeared that God changed His course when, in actuality, it was God’s plan all along that the Lord would add length to the life of Hezekiah so that the King would be able to deal with the Assyrians who were coming to assault Judah at the time of Hezekiah’s illness.

Then we move chronologically to the exposé in Chapter 37, where the confrontation between the Assyrian King, Sennacherib, and Hezekiah occurred in Judah. Here we read the Assyrians boastfully came to capture Judah; and by all human perspective, the Assyrians were a far superior force than the Israelites in Jerusalem and Judah. So, what did Hezekiah immediately do? Yes, … at Isaiah’s exhortation, HE PRAYED!!! And you can read Hezekiah’s prayers above in bold/underlined from Isaiah 37: 16-20, where the king prayed for God’s deliverance from the superior forces of the Assyrians. And what was the result? God protected and delivered those in Judah … well, at least for this brief period of history.

If we fast forward in biblical accounts, one day, Hezekiah’s pride would grab a hold of him; and the tribes of Judah would be consumed by the judgment of God by their captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. But right at the time of Chapters 38 and 37 in Isaiah, in that correct chronological order, we read of how God honors the prayers of surrendered believers, especially leaders, like Hezekiah and Isaiah.

And that principle of God bending down to listen to His children, especially when we’re in distress, can be found in one of my favorite psalms [see Psalm 116, verses 1-6]. This is what Hezekiah and Isaiah relied upon; and their surrendered attitudes of humility were honored by God when He gave Hezekiah healing and longer life and Judah deliverance from the Assyrians, … all in answer to the humble prayers of God’s servants, Hezekiah and Isaiah.

But you might ask” “Will God answer my prayers the way He answered those of these Old Testament giants?” Well, on the authority of God’s word (such as Proverbs 3: 5-6 and Paul’s exhortation in Phil. 4: 6-7 as well as Jesus’ pronouncements in John 15: 7), when we’re in proper vertical alignment with God, as were Hezekiah and Isaiah when they prayed in these historical times, we can expect the same superpower from prayer with powerful personal outcomes like our Bible icons experienced as we read about them in their times.

Right now as I write this, I’m reading a book by a new friend of mine. The book is entitled Superpower: Praying Like the Ancients. I met the author, Matthew Bryan, who lives here in Memphis, a few months ago; and his new book (which can be accessed at his website – linked here)  has really given my prayer life a boost. It’s a short, but powerful, read; and if you’d like to get more Isaiah-like prayer results, I’d highly recommend Matthew Bryan’s cleverly-written book to help you.

That’s enough for today; and if you can get the kind of enhanced prayer life from this read, much as I have recently from applying the biblical principles exhibited by Hezekiah and Isaiah and written about by Matthew Bryan in his new book, this journal entry will be well worth the time God used for me to write it.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You today for highlighting Your wondrous and powerful vehicle of prayer to bring my into alignment with Your will and Your way … especially when I pray to You from Your word. And I do so today in the Name of Jesus! Amen

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