The Prayer of Jehoshaphat
This prayer finds its place in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20 and is hailed by many if not all scholars as a prayer of great depth and integrity.
Before we look at this prayer in order to glean instruction and edification we must look at the background of the prayer, what prompted its occurrence, its purpose and the one who offered this prayer.
This account in Chronicles takes place during the reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah and Ahab in Samaria.
Israel is a divided nation.
The southern kingdom of Judah is threatened by advancing nations of considerable military power. The situation is such that King Jehoshaphat is fearful of these advancing forces, which if successful will bring an end to Judah as a nation.
The chapter gives an account of the nation seeking the help of the nations God “Yahweh”
The prayer that we are about to study is spoken forth by King Jehoshaphat and the end result of this prayer and the nations actions is deliverance from the Lord.
So we may ask
Does the answering of a prayer by God endorse the purity or perfection of a man’s prayer or the man himself.
James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Was Jehoshaphat a Righteous Man, perfect in deed and action. The answer with respect to his deeds and actions is clearly NO! He was a man who seemed easily manipulated and easily flattered. He made some terrible choices that brought him into conflict with God’s will and he displayed some choices that would make us question his ability to apply common sense. He may not have been consistent in his relationship with God and yet clearly he WAS a righteous man.
2 Chronicles 17:3-6
3 Now the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel. 5 Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance. 6 And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.
2 Chron 19:3 Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.”
2 Chronicles 20:32 And he walked in the way of his father Asa, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD.
This would also be the case with King David, who, despite making some terrible choices and clearly having sinned against the Lord maintained as the major directing focus of his life a heart seeking after God.
I’m not trying to condone sin, I believe that the believer is someone whose life is being lived with its main course of direction away from sin. We are Saints with the ability to sin rather than Sinners. The word Sinner implies by its very nature someone who is continually sinning. If we are sinners continuing in sin then we are not Saints.
1 John 3:4-9
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
When we study this prayer we understand that :
1. The scriptures do not present this as a model prayer (unlike the Lord’s prayer)
2. It is not referred to anywhere else in scripture
3. When we study a prayer in scripture we must remember that it comes forth out of anothers heart!
4. We must be careful to avoid taking a prayer and making it or any other prayer a “Religious Ritual”
5. We have only one incident in scripture of prayer being recorded as taught and this was by Jesus to His followers. “The Lord’s Prayer”
6. We are able to use “The Lord Prayer” as a means of guidance and measuring.
7. What we are not told may be important in our understanding of the text.
1 It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat.
2 Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria, and they are in Hazazon Tamar” (which is En Gedi).
3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
This prayer arose as a matter of necessity not as part of a regular prayer meeting. It was an extraordinary event. There are always times in the life of the Church and in the lives of its individual members that an extraordinary event will occur that requires us to “seek the LORD” for a specific answer to our need or the need of others.
Jehoshaphat begins to deal with this event by “setting himself to seek the Lord” proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah designating this time for Israel as being of supreme importance.
In modern society we would not appreciate the affect of a National time of fasting, but in an agricultural economy such as in Israel and Judah a fast of this magnitude would have clear implications on the economy.
We must also consider the implications of a fast on the military ability of a nation. This in natural terms is a negative strategy and a complete admission of defeat. Have you heard the expression “an army marches on its stomach!
Napoleon of course originally said this in French – “une armée marche à son estomac”. It is normally translated into English as “An army *marches* on its stomach”. He meant that an army’s success depends on logistics; however brave and dedicated the soldiers are, if they have no food they cannot march or fight.
Well, to proclaim a national fast would have meant a decline in military strength and in the strength of the people.
Paul encourages the sailors to eat, Acts 27:33-36 Elijah is fed by an Angel 1 Kings 19:5,
4 So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
The Word says that the people gathered “Themselves” together “even” out of all the cities of Judah “they came” to “seek the Lord”
There seems to be no indication that the people were instructed by the King to gather, instead they gather themselves and even out of all the cities of Judah.
Just as Jehoshaphat reduces his own military strength by proclaiming a fast now that people reduce their own ability to defend themselves by leaving the place of natural defence “the cities”
2 Chronicles 17
1. Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel. 2 And he placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken.
We too when seeking the Lord may need to put aside our natural positions of strength and rely on the Lord rather than on ourselves.
This must have been a considerable movement of people and travelling some distance they come to Jerusalem to “seek the Lord”
How often will the elders of the church struggle to gather the Lords people for prayer. Urging the people, telephoning, emailing, praying that hearts will be moved!
Jehoshaphat had not called and neither had rules been put in place for this time of unified prayer for when the people came they came as a family with the youth of the community and even the nursing children.
Had anything else occurred prior to this event to have influenced the hearts and minds of a community to prepare themselves for such immediate and committed action.
Yes — we read in the proceeding chapter that he established Justice in the land through the administration of the law – through Spiritual means.
2 Chronicles 19:4-11
When Justice is established in the community of believers, when the Word is preached and faithfully taught, when all are encouraged to turn away from sin and warned against a heart of violence the results are evident.
Preparing to Seek The Lord
Preparation in prayer is of vital importance – for we present our petitions before the Lord – prepared! We do no come into the prescence of the King and ask Him to wait whilst we decide on what we will pray. We come prepared!
Jehoshaphat had a time of preparation whilst the people travelled to Jerusalem
The people had time to prepare as they journeyed to Jerusalem.
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
This prayer was made by a King – One who stood over the people.
So what can those who have leadership functions learn from the actions of Jehoshaphat.
This prayer was “in the congregation” not before or infront but IN – and he stood – He was in the temple.
Jehoshaphat – was in the right place spiritually and amongst the right people
He identifies himself with the people and in a measure STANDS DOWN from his place of authority and so from within the congregation he assumes his place before God and therefore God assumes the rightful place of RULER of Israel.
“A lesson in prayer for leaders”
When we are given the duty and blessing of leading prayer we are best “serving” the body by leading from within the congregation.
This is not to be taken to the extreme of legalism – a leader must pray from the middle of the group. The spiritual dimension is important, it is the heart of leadership that identifies itself with the brethren and assumes a status alongside them in humility. Giving God His rightful place of headship.
This act of humility demonstrates his acknowledgement that the LORD is KING.
Jehoshaphat prays amongst a great multitude and God is able to speak from out of that great mutitude.
What would have happened in no one had turned up! What happens if our coming together for prayer is a small affair. Every member of the body presenting himself or herself for the service of corporate prayer presents opportunity for God to minister.
“If one man holds his tongue then God will set loose a tongue to utter”
We know that at this time three other recorded prophets lived, Jehu, Elijah and Elisha but we will consider this later.
Taken without considering what is not said we might assume that this was a fairly quick meeting as no other prayers are recorded. But this was probably not the case and it may have been that after some time Jehoshaphat was moved to pray from within the congregation.
Not a prayer of questioning but of proclamation!
Proclamation to God in expression of faith! To the people to build faith!
Declaration of Truth: – the people are presented with statements of truth that will foster faith. Verse (6)
6 and said: “O LORD God of our fathers,
Jehoshaphat’s opening statement agrees with Lord’s prayer
9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
are You not God in heaven,
The people must realise that their God is not a God of a given locality “the God of the plains or the Hill Country”
1 Kings 20:22-24
22 And the prophet came to the king of Israel and said to him, “Go, strengthen yourself; take note, and see what you should do, for in the spring of the year the king of Syria will come up against you.”
23 Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they.
but He is the One God who occupies Heaven, the heaven that engulfs the whole earth. Omnipresence
and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations,
The people must realise that their God, despite the views of the other nations who declare this god or that god to rule them are actually ruled by the God of Israel. He is the ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. He can call forth a kingdom to judge others even Israel
5 “ Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
6 I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
he can raise up a kingdom and tear it down
6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
This does not mean that all wickedness the takes place in a given kingdom is caused or endorsed by God but that ultimately God has control over a Kingdom.
We often think of the national powers that have no acknowledgement of the true God, we are encouraged to “fear” In the 70’s past “The Soviet Union” and today “China or Iran” but we should not forget that our God rules the nations
23 He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.
they stand or fall on His command.
and in Your hand is there not power and might,
“In your hand” – within your control and essential to your nature – there is Power & Might – attributes possessed by God in complete measure
In contrast to the two Bulls in Northern Israel (1 Kings 12:28) the ancients believed that the Bull was a symbol of power and that God was to be worshipped as riding on or above the Bull.
It is “In Christ” that our Power and Might is found (Ephesians 1:19) no artefact, symbol or picture holds any power and God does not ride on or above such things – these things hold no power in themselves and attract no power from without.
so that no one is able to withstand You?
5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.
This power and might is above all other powers and his mighty beyond any others might and so “NO ONE” is able to withstand.
This does not speak of the controlling of will but speaks of a “conflict” of power and might in which God, despite resistance is always the victor.
7 Are You not our God,
“Our Father who art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9)
who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel,
acknowledgement of God’s prior victories, “how often we fail to acknowledge the working of God in our prayers – was this just a thing of the past – can we not declare his mighty deeds amongst us – the testimony of the Lamb
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?
Joshua 4:1-24 – memorial stones
Jehoshaphat pin points Abraham – Not Moses, Nor David or Soloman, but Abraham and refers to him as “God’s Friend” this is the first reference to Abraham as a friend of God.
Jehoshaphat recognises that Abraham was an eternal friend “ a friend by faith”
The people are able to identify with Abraham – he was a man of “Faith” not of kingly splendour or one who worked great miracles like Moses. He was a man of “faith” made certain by obedience, it was this that made him “A Friend”
8 And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying,
The people are reminded that THEY are the descendants of Abraham and this only by natural birth, what of us here tonight, his spiritual descendants all being of the faith of Abraham and FRIENDS of God for we like him do not speak through a priest, vicar, pastor or other intermediary but as a Priestly nation we all have personal access as FRIENDS.
Here I am reminded of my failings in prayer, I recognise that the privilege of entering into the very presence of God was bought for me at great price. That to talk with God the creator of the Universe is surely greater than any other experience – and yet I so very often fail to take advantage of such a wonderful gift from God. That He would wish to talk with me!
9 ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’
There is reference made to the prayer of Solomon at the Dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42)
and it is stated in remembrance that if disaster comes as a result of
Sword – the assault of other nation against Israel in battle
Judgement – the assault of other nations against Israel in battle as a result of sin
Pestilence & Famine – Judgement
They will be delivered.
Jehoshaphat reminds the people that it is the people who are to stand (not just a priest or king) but the people themselves who are to stand before the Lord and cry out.
The people are to cry out “in our affliction” and God will hear and save
There is no repentance in this prayer and therefore we can assume that this is the AFFLICTION OF SWORD and not of judgement. God has not brought these nations in judgement against Judah and therefore the people are able to appeal to the JUSTICE of God
We cannot appeal to Justice if we are afflicted because of Judgement – for the believer this would be the discipline of the Lord. In that case we would need to appeal to the Grace and Mercy of our God in humble repentance.
It is therefore essential that we seek the Lord for guidance on how we should pray.
Let me give and example, in the congregation a brother has forsaken his wife and is engaged in an affair with a female member. This is a secret sin and yet he suffers with some affliction. If the church comes together and fasts and prays for this mans deliverance, will the Lord hear and answer?
So very often we decide in our pray meeting “what we want God to do, rather than to ask him what He wants to do and pray accordingly”
10 And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them—
Jehoshaphat states facts: These nations were not destroyed by Israel after the departure from Eygpt. Duet 2:5 and Israel was not able to touch their land
11 here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.
Jehoshaphat states facts: That these nations have come to undo that which God had worked so powerfully to put into place.
The will of God is clearly understood and Judah’s case is presented as if to the Judge and His jury. In prayer we are able to present a case of fact with confidence and are able to use the promises and will of God as revealed in scripture to direct our prayer for justice.
We are also able to appeal to the fact that this action or event is primarily an affront against God rather than us ——– throw us out of OUR land —NO! throw us out of YOUR possession which YOU have given.
Believing wife – how do you pray for your unbelieving husband. Do you pray that his stand against God upsets you and yours or do you appeal on the basis of the affront to HIS NAME.
12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
The declaration of dependence on God. That the nation of Israel looks to God to judge acknowledging its lack of power and inability to even know what to do. Despite this their eyes are not on the problem and a resulting panic of fearful response, but their eyes are on the Lord.
There is no refugee exodus, no fortification of cities or preparation for battle. Instead the men of Judah had come to one place with women, children and little ones. In the midst of such a great threat and a national disaster the family is drawn to prayer. Not just the men, not just the women but the family, little ones and children.
During the time of Elijah Elisha and Jehu a man nowhere else mentioned in scripture in any prophetic role is the subject of prophetic gifting and the one that announces the decreed deliverance of God. The response is one of complete faithful obedience on the part of the people and as a result the Lord goes out before Judah and defeats the enemy without Judah entering into battle and only as a result of the praise of faith.
To move against an enemy in the early hours with praise and worship is humanly speaking a strategic blunder of great magnitude. Yet victor was assured.
2Ch 6:34 If Your people go out to war against their enemies by the way that You shall send them, and if they pray to You toward this city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name,
Let this account of the prayer of Jehoshaphat should cause us to question are engagement with prayer.
Religious Observance – or – Fearful Dependence
Ritualistic Prayer Meeting -or- Gathering of Seekers of the Lord
Unprepared Directionless -or- Prepared and Directed Prayer
Performance & Power -or- Humility in Unity
Praying the will of Man -or- Praying The Will of God
Expecting the Expected -or- Expecting the unexpected