A common mistake in ministry is relying illegitimately on our own abilities–trusting in methods and strategies, rather than trusting in the Lord through prayer.
When we face trials and difficulties in life and ministry, we must learn that those are times God is calling us to prayer. In his excellent book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller wrote, “Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God.
In the Old Testament, we read about Hezekiah, a Jewish King, who was facing what seems like insurmountable problems. What appears to be an unstoppable Assyrian army, under King Sennacherib, was coming to defeat him and his people. During this time, he receives a letter that tells him he should admit defeat and give up. This letter also reminds him of how this army has already conquered all of the neighboring countries and no one has been able to stand against them.
Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God. – Paul Miller, A Praying Life
In Isaiah 37 we learn how Hezekiah responds. We’re told he takes the letter and lays it out before the Lord. The image of what Hezekiah is doing here is similar to what the Apostle Peter describes when he tells us to “Cast all our anxieties on the Lord.” The king takes this letter, representing all his anxieties, and lays it out before the Lord, meaning he lifts it up to the Lord in prayer.
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That’s when the Old Testament prophet Isaiah is sent to him by the Lord with a message from God of great hope and promise, telling him he does not need to fear the approaching army. Isaiah promises Hezekiah that God is going to deliver him. And then Isaiah tells him why. He says “ Because you prayed.” These are key words we need to never forget: “Because you prayed.”
The Greek historian Herodotus attributed the destruction of the Assyrian army to a sudden outbreak of bubonic plague. Isaiah, in another place, simply says the angel of the Lord went and struck down 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers in their camp.
These are key words we need to never forget: “Because you prayed!”…James writes, “You have not because you ask not.” There are things that God will do because people pray that he would not do had they not prayed.
Sometimes people say, “Prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer only changes you.” We need to be careful with such statements. Isaiah is clearing teaching us here that there are things that God did because this king prayed. This is very similar to what James tells us in the New Testament when he writes, “You have not because you ask not.” There are things that God will do because people pray that he would not do had they not prayed.
There are many times in your life and ministry when you will be fearful about what lies ahead. You will not see a way forward.
It may not be an army of problems as frightening as the Assyrian army under Sennacherib but, for you, it can feel like that. During these times, never forget that God is calling you to lay those fears out before the Lord in prayer and cast all your anxieties on him. John Newton wrote a poem that put it this way:
Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much. – John Newton
This doesn’t mean that you will always have a highly visible, miraculous destruction of your approaching army. But God still promises you deliverance. In 1 Peter 5, we read the Apostle Peter’s challenge:
”Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
So, every time you are faced with an approaching army in your life and ministry, never forget this one simple phrase from the Prophet Isaiah, “Because you prayed.”
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