Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Model Prayer

How should we pray? What should we say? These can be some of the questions that jump to mind when we pause to pray. Ecclesiastes has some great advice for prayers and pray-ers:

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much busyness, and a fool's voice with many words. (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3)

Not using many words, being careful what to say. In my readings in Isaiah, I found a great model prayer being uttered by King Hezekiah. The situation is that Jerusalem is about to be besieged by King Sennacherib of Assyria, who has conquered every kingdom up to now. Sennacherib boasts about his achievements and cracks his knuckles as he looks forward to another victory.

Hezekiah prays:

16"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD."

A great prayer, and one that God in his mercy answers. There are a few elements to it:

1. Be clear who you are addressing. Hezekiah is talking to the God of Israel, the one and only God and King of all the kingdoms, the one who made heaven and earth. Catching the vision of who God is, and reminding ourselves of this can help us to pray rightly, and to expect big things from our big, big God.

2. Asking God to hear and see the situation. God already knows our sticky situations, yet in his grace he hears our cry. As we cry out to God, the situation becomes clear in our mind, and also reminds us that God knows what is happening.

3. A passion for God's glory. Sennacherib was mocking God, and Hezekiah doesn't like this, so he asks God to intervene for his own glory and name's sake. This is what leads to the final petition, the plea for God to act:

4. Asking God to act. Having aligned his own will with God's, Hezekiah asks God to act to save them, so that the whole earth will know that God is God. There are no false motives here, like self-preservation, only a desire for God to be famous.

O God, help us to pray according to your will and for your glory! Make us pray-ers more and more.

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