“God answers prayer.”
We’ve all heard it. Believed it. Questioned it.
We innately believe there is someone greater than ourselves who can hear us and help us.
Sometimes we experience answers to prayer that make our hearts jump for joy. Other times, our prayers seem to echo back and mock at our pain.
I don’t know what your personal experience with prayer has been, but I know this: the Bible is absolutely clear that God answers prayer.
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
How do we connect with God in prayer so that we can experience the great and mighty things He wants to show us? Let’s look at a Biblical story that will give us insight into how to connect with God in prayer.
Answered Prayer in Jerusalem
It was a time of grave peril for God’s people in Judea. Many years of apostasy had led them far from God. Their sister nation of Israel had been swept off the map just a few years before by the brutal Assyrian army. Now Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was threatening a siege on Jerusalem.
King Hezekiah of Judah set to work as soon as he became king. He led out in sweeping reforms, reopened the temple, destroyed idols and led his people back to God. Then he organized workmen to dig a tunnel to carry water into Jerusalem and stop up the springs outside the city. Together, he and his people stored great quantities of food, built up the city walls and stockpiled weapons.
“‘Be strong and courageous,” Hezekiah encouraged his people. “Do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” 2 Chronicles 32:7-8
Then the dreaded day came when the Assyrian hordes encircled the city. Sennacharib’s representatives loudly mocked Hezekiah and the God of Judah and threatened the people of Jerusalem with total destruction. Then Sennacharib sent Hezekiah a letter demanding submission.
Hezekiah knew that everything they had done to prepare for a siege was simply not enough. They needed divine help. So he did what all of us should do in times of extremity — he prayed.
“Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it [the letter from Sennacharib] before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 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 reproach the living God. Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.” Isaiah 37:14-20
Hezekiah also sent word to Isaiah the prophet asking him to pray. The answer Isaiah sent back was most encouraging.
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it… ‘For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’” Isaiah 37:33,35
That night “the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.” Isaiah 37:36-37
It was a stunning answer to prayer and must have been the story of the century.
Hezekiah’s story is still filled with hope and instruction for us today. Let’s look at the lessons on prayer that it has for us.
1. Seek God in the Easier Times: Long before the Assyrians laid siege to Jerusalem, Hezekiah led his people to return to God. Hezekiah “did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.” 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.
We find it so easy to ignore God in the easy times and only come to Him when we’re in the trenches and the bullets are flying. But if we want to see answers in those difficult moments, it behooves us to seek God when life is peaceful. Then when the difficult times come, we will have a trusting friendship with the King of the Universe that will fuel our faith.
2. Spread Out Your Troubles Before God: Did you notice what Hezekiah did with the letter from Sennacharib? He took it into the house of God and spread it out before the Lord. He took it into the presence of the One who could do something about it and told Him all about it. We should do the same.
When troubles come in our lives, take them into the presence of God, spread them out before Him, and tell Him all about them. Bring those bills you can’t pay, the medical problems you can’t solve, and the children that won’t listen. Explain to Jesus exactly what is troubling you. He loves to listen and answer.
Did you know that Jesus tells us seven times in His final talk with His disciples to ask Him for what we need? John 14:13; 14:14; 15:7; 15:16; 16:23; 16:24; 16:26. It’s like He’s almost begging us to tell Him our needs, so that He can work in our behalf. His promise is sure: “Ask, and it will be given you…” Matthew 7:7.
3. Ask Others to Pray with You: Notice that Hezekiah did not pray alone. He turned to one he knew had a real connection with heaven, the prophet Isaiah, and implored him to “lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.” Isaiah 37:4
God never intended His children to walk alone in this world. He knows we need companionship, encouragement and support. That’s why He gave Eve to Adam, Jonathan to David, and Barnabas to Paul. It’s also why He encourages us to pray together.
Jesus promises special power for answered prayer when we pray together: “I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:19-20
Whether you are facing a major crisis or the daily stresses of life, seek out a prayer partner(s) who has a connection with God and can pray with you. Pray together regularly and you’ll be amazed at the ways God begins to move in your life. Not sure where to find someone to pray with? Talk to God about it. He knows where to find a prayer partner for you.
4. Praise God and Focus on Who He Is: Hezekiah began his prayer by fixing his gaze on God’s position and power. “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:16
This is a pattern that we see in almost all the prayers of the Bible. The great men and women of the Bible knew that they needed to get their eyes off of their problems and onto the One who could fix them. So they chose to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise,” because God “inhabits the praises of Israel” (Psalm 100:4; 22:3), God lives where our praise is – so let’s choose to praise Him today.
5. Pray for God’s Honor: Hezekiah did not ask for God to save Jerusalem just so their lives would be spared. His prayer was, “O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.” Isaiah 37:20
True prayer is not about just getting a wish list fulfilled. Its about connecting with the God of the universe and seeking the things that are on His heart. It is about communing with our Friend Jesus and caring about what happens to His reputation.
This is what Jesus meant in the prayer that He taught us when He said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Luke 11:2
6. Believe God Will Do What He Says: The Bible does not tell us how Hezekiah responded when he received Isaiah’s prophecy of the promised deliverance. But we do know this about Hezekiah: “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel… For he held fast to the Lord;” 2 Kings 18:5-6
Long before the crisis, Hezekiah had made a practice of trusting in God. When the crisis came, we can be sure that he continued believing and trusting.
After we have laid our requests out before God in prayer, we too must believe that He will answer. “Believe that ye receive” (Mark 11:24). We can take God’s promises as our own and trust that He will do what He has said. “Say, ‘I will believe, I do believe that God is my Helper,’ and you will find that you are triumphant in God.” Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol 5., p. 514
7. Act On Your Prayers: Hezekiah did more than pray for the safety of Jerusalem. For years prior to the invasion he had carefully prepared for a possible attack. He prayed and he worked.
God promises to do the impossible, but He also asks us to cooperate with Him in the fulfillment of His promises.
Think of Joshua and the Israelites at Jericho. The Commander of the Lord’s army came to Joshua as he prayed and gave him a battle plan and the promise of victory (Joshua 5:13 – 6:5). However, Joshua still had to call the army together, march repeatedly around Jericho, and shout in faith.
We too must pray in faith, then go to work with God. “The secret of success is the union of divine power with human effort. Those who achieve the greatest results are those who rely most implicitly upon the almighty arm.” Ellen White, Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 509
Does God answer prayer? Yes! He still answers as He did in the days of King Hezekiah. Maybe you don’t have an army camped outside your gates, but your problems may seem huge. Bring them to God in prayer. Lay them out before Him. He’s ready and waiting to answer. So come, my friend, let’s pray!
“I love the Lord, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2
Note: All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version.