Scripture: Isaiah 38.2-3
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Reflection: Prayer Beyond Petitions
By John Tillman
The adage, “Prayer doesn’t change things, it changes us,” is a cop-out.
If it is anything other than a cop-out it is at best a description of only part of what prayer is. It diminishes prayer to a self-counseling tool, a mere coping mechanism.
Todd Edmondson discusses this in his essay, Praying for a Change:
Such a perspective, however neat and tidy it might be, is profoundly unsatisfying and contradictory to what the Church has long held to be true.
When we envision prayer solely as something we do, as a work of human agency, it is almost impossible not to see it as a ritual designed for our benefit, as an incantation in which only the most superstitious or simple-minded people believe.
The healing of Hezekiah from his illness is a unique scriptural example of a prayer for change for several reasons.
- God directly tells Hezekiah that he will not survive. This is not an event where God’s will is unknown.
- There is no reason given for this illness. It is not a punitive judgement, like David’s child.
- Hezekiah’s prayer is bitter, but he makes no direct request for healing. He simply asks to be remembered, as the thief on the cross did.
- Isaiah delivers the message that God has changed his mind due to hearing Hezekiah’s prayer.
There is not a formula to be applied in a prayer for change other than giving ourselves to a relationship with God. We cannot attribute success to Hezekiah’s words or the words of any recorded prayer. We must, instead, get to know Hezekiah’s God.
That our prayers to God would bring the realities of this world into contact with divine purposes, or that God would join us in our this-worldly struggles, should not strike us as odd or irrational, because it is exactly what God has been doing for thousands of years… Indeed, other methods of affecting change and other recipients of our trust—from politics to technology to military might—would seem to be far less proved than prayer, if our memories were not so short and our imaginations so easily manipulated by the kingdoms of this world.
It is more important that we know God through prayer than petition him. God answers Hezekiah’s unasked prayer through relationship. Our needs, like Hezekiah’s will be apparent to God, when we invest time in a relationship that goes beyond petition.
Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66.7-8
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about Pleading Prayer
When we run out of pretty prayers and Sunday School answers, pleading is an intimate, ugly cry that dares to cast away its pride.
Read more about Finding God :: A Guided Prayer
Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.