The wayward people of Judah were awakened to the presence of the true God YAHWEH by King Jehoshaphat’s spiritual reforms. Even before Jehoshaphat made much headway with his initiatives, he received news that the joint forces of the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites were marching against Judah. When the Israelites took possession of the promised land of Canaan, they annihilated the people living there except for the Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites for these were Israel’s brother nations. Forgetting this kindness, a great army of people once spared was now advancing against Judah.
In spite of his military strength, Jehoshaphat’s reaction to this war threat is to seek God first. He initiates a nationwide fast and brings all the people in his kingdom together to the House of God in Jerusalem and prays with his threatened subjects. This prayer though short and simple is profound and one worth studying for this was a prayer made in accordance with God’s will and a prayer that saw immediate answers. This was also a prayer that worked a miracle.
2 Chronicles 20: 6 to 12 records the prayer of King Jehoshaphat.
King Jehoshaphat’s opening line is an acknowledgment of God’s Sovereignty, Power, Might and Lordship. Jehoshaphat chooses his words to convey a message to the whole assembly of Judah gathered at the Temple. This message is that his God YAHWEH alone is God, not just of the heavens but also Lord and Ruler of all the nations of the earth. This is an acknowledgment that brings an awakening in the hearts of the people. (Vs 6)
After proclaiming God’s dominion, Jehoshaphat proceeds on to recollect God’s promise to Abraham, His friend, to give the prosperous land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. Did God need this reminder? Certainly not! God does not ever forget His promises. Then why did Jehoshaphat talk about God’s promise given many years ago? Jehoshaphat recognized a need to remind the people standing right before him of their legacy in God. This reminder was more for them and for himself for every promise of God brings comfort especially when faced with trials. (Vs 7)
A Note of Fulfillment
Here again Jehoshaphat looks back into history to see the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and also talks about the Holy Temple built by King Solomon as a dwelling place for God. He did not say this to refresh God’s memory but rather for wayward Judah who had forgotten her first love. By so doing Jehoshaphat reminds himself and the people that God is always faithful to fulfill every one of His promises. (Vs 8)
A Prayer of Solomon
Jehoshaphat repeats the prayer of Solomon (2 Chron 6:13 -42) at the time of dedicating the Temple at Jerusalem. This was vital for the place where the King and his subjects had assembled to seek God was Holy Ground. It was God’s Dwelling Place and one He delighted in. God had been pleased with Solomon’s prayer of dedication and Jehoshaphat cries to God to extend His favor and hear the prayer of Judah at the time of war from the doors of His Sanctuary. (V9)
Only after acknowledging God, reminding the people of God’s promise and its fulfillment and banking on God’s favor on His Holy Temple, Jehoshaphat sets out the trouble at hand. He pours out his heart to God and brings to light the ingratitude of the people whom Israel had spared out of the fear of God and in honor of His command. (Vs 10, 11)
A Desperate Cry
At the very end of the prayer, Jehoshaphat unburdens himself and makes a desperate cry to God. He makes no reference to the forces in his own army but blatantly states, “….we have no might…”(Vs 12). Despite being a King and a man of authority, Jehoshaphat humbly states his inability to act to the threat at hand “We do not know what to do” (Vs 12). He does not stop with that but ends the prayer with a phrase of hope in saying “… but our eyes are upon YOU” (Vs 12). King Jehoshaphat directs the gaze of his people to their God in expectation and total submission. On the one hand he accepts their helplessness while on the other he finds help by looking up to YAHWEH. (Vs 12)
God, whose ears are always attentive to the cries of His children, gave an immediate answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer. He assured His helpless children that this was a battle they would never have to fight. True to His word, God Himself slaughtered the nations that marched against the people of Judah and gave them victory along with enormous loot.
Prayer is not about vain repetitions or selfish requests. Prayer is all about right standing with God, realizing who God is, looking up in faith and placing petitions in humility. With all these elements, King Jehoshaphat’s prayer emerges as one of the most meaningful prayers in the Old Testament.
Here are two books for further reading on Prayer.
Buy "Power in Prayer: Classic Devotions to Inspire and Deepen Your Prayer Life" by Andrew Murray from Amazon.com
Buy "Prayer" by Philip Yancey from Amazon.com