Isaiah 37:21-22 and The Absolute Necessity of Prayer

Prayer room in John Wesley's home. This is just off his bedroom, and he would rise at 4 am every morning for prayer.

Prayer room in John Wesley’s home. This is just off his bedroom, and he would rise at 4 am every morning for prayer.

John Wesley once said, “God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.” Prayer is our way of reminding ourselves of our utter dependence upon God and it is a way of showing God our faith in him. We would not pray if we did not need help, and we would not pray for help if we did not expect to receive it.

In this section of Isaiah, Hezekiah prays to the Lord for deliverance and help as the Assyrians are threatening to destroy Jerusalem and deport the people to other parts of their empire. Hezekiah reads the threats that have come to him in the form of letters, immediately goes to the Temple, spreads the letters out before the ark of the covenant, and asks the Lord for protection, deliverance, and victory over the Assyrians–all so the Assyrians, and the rest of the world, will know that the Lord is the only true God, exists, and acts on behalf of those who worship him.

Hezekiah received this answer:

Then Isaiah, Amoz’s son, sent a message to Hezekiah: The Lord God of Israel says this: Since you prayed to me about Assyria’s King Sennacherib,  this is the message that the Lord has spoken against him…

Here is faith and God’s response to faith. Hezekiah did not depend upon another nation or military or gods to help him, although that was what the conventional wisdom of the day said he should do. Everyone thought that Hezekiah would make a treaty with Egypt to protect Judah from Assyria. Hezekiah does nothing of the sort. But neither does Hezekiah simply assume that the Lord will act. He does not presume upon God because he is Jewish, or resides in Jerusalem, or is a descendant of David, or is near the Temple of the Lord.

Hezekiah does not depend upon others or assume that God will act. Instead, Hezekiah pours out his petitions to the Lord in prayer. He does this because he knows he needs help and he knows the Lord is the only one who can help him. And notice the Lord’s response–Since you prayed to me. It was Hezekiah’s act of faith in prayer that prompted the Lord to act.

Perhaps Wesley is right after all. Perhaps God does nothing except in response to prayer.

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