Be Careful What You Pray For

“When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to You and have served You single-mindedly, always doing what pleases You.’ Then he broke down and wept bitterly.” (2 Kings 20:2-3 NLT)

Some of the most uplifting, encouraging, and yet challenging stories in the Bible are in the Old Testament. 2 Kings 19:20-37 outlines God’s reply to King Hezekiah’s prayer regarding King Sennacherib’s threat to conquer and destroy Jerusalem. Hezekiah was a good king and sought to be obedient to the Lord. Rather than cower in fear, he immediately prayed and believed God would deliver him and his people. As a result, Jerusalem was saved, and the King of Assyria was killed by his own sons.

But shortly after, King Hezekiah got sick and Isaiah the prophet gave him a message from God, letting him know to: “Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.” That wasn’t exactly the news the king wanted to hear, so, once again, he went to the Lord in prayer, pleading his case as a godly king. Once again, God answered, instructing Isaiah to tell the king to “make an ointment from figs,” which he did and the Lord granted Hezekiah fifteen more years of life.

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That’s a great story, but a couple of things happened in those extra fifteen years that caused me to wonder if God did the nation of Israel any favors healing their king. First, envoys from Babylon came to Jerusalem to bring their best wishes and a gift to the king, which was fine, but Hezekiah, without thinking of the implications of his response to his guests, showed them “everything in his treasure-houses – the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries!”

Later, Isaiah let him know that what he’d done would one day result in Jerusalem falling into the hands of the Babylonians, resulting in everything he’d shown them being lost. But, what’s worse, during those fifteen extra years, his son Manasseh was born and at age twelve became king when his father died, and he reigned fifty-five years. The Bible says, in reference to Manasseh: “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.” He essentially undid everything his father had accomplished that was right for Israel.

Corky Calhoun wrote: “God’s goal is not to buy us more time on earth, but to make sure we spend eternity with Him in heaven.” Unfortunately, common sense isn’t a spiritual gift, and too often we set into motion things that aren’t God’s will by praying selfishly and acting without thinking about the consequences of our actions on others.

Obviously, God knew what would happen before Hezekiah even prayed, but what this story illustrates to me is that if we’re not very careful, our obedience to God’s directives can create in us a spiritual “pride” that results in an attitude of entitlement. We live our lives, yes, even as God’s child, but with a blindness to the effects of our “walk with God” on others, especially our children and those closest to us.

You’ve perhaps heard the expression: “we can be so heavenly minded we’re of no earthly good.” Our pious behavior, rather than pointing people to Jesus, draws attention to ourselves, resulting in those we most want to see respond with faith in Jesus, get so turned off they run from Him. That’s why humility is so important in our relationship with the Lord.

We need to have people in our lives who aren’t simply “yes” people, but who are willing to confront us when we get out of line with God or others. It’s also why we need to pray daily that our heavenly Father’s Kingdom will come, and His will be done on earth, in and through our lives, as His will is done every day in heaven.

Food for thought.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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