Let Us Pray with Fresh Urgency

day33_raised_hands-300x223In the Old Testament record, King Jehoshaphat’s remarkable military victory over a coalition of enemy nations came about by God’s direct intervention, but that doesn’t mean that Judah’s king needed only to sit back and watch this victory happen (2 Chronicles 20). His urgent prayers appear to be a critical element.

Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was in the south end of ancient Israel. Some men came and told him that a huge number of the soldiers of surrounding kingdoms had already amassed a vast army to wage war against him. These enemy states included – Moab, Ammon, Edom, and several other peoples, all located in present-day Arab lands of the Middle East.

The massive coalition was already on the march around the southern region of the Dead Sea and was moving northward toward Judah’s southern border.

The king was understandably alarmed. His first move was to proclaim a fast for the whole nation. The people responded and gathered in Jerusalem from every town to seek the Lord’s help.

Then, with this throng of people filling the temple area, King Jehoshaphat prayed one of the most moving prayers recorded in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 20:6-12).

His prayer acknowledges God’s sovereign rule over all, and reminds the Lord that by divine providence he had given Israel the land they were currently occupying. Back then, he goes on, when his people were coming to claim the land as their possession, the Lord had spared these very attackers from fierce assault by ordering Israel’s fighting forces not to attack them.

Then comes the King’s impassioned acknowledgement: “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

The people must have listened in silence to Jehoshaphat’s prayer. It was both fervent and urgent, but not desperate because it was directed confidently to the source of all power in the universe: “Our eyes are upon you.” It was prayed in a spirit of dynamic trust.

A prophet named Jahaziel then stepped forward to announce the word of the Lord: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.”

The story moves quickly to conclusion. The king appoints singers to lead the troops with singing. The Lord at the same time creates a mysterious ambush against the enemy coalition which throws their fighting forces into confusion. In their chaos, they begin to kill each other.

Jehoshaphat’s troops gather the spoils of battle. They return to Jerusalem with joy. The fear of the Lord falls on surrounding nations, “when they heard the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel” (2 Chronicles 20:29).

Does physical warfare with all its horror and hurt stand as a metaphor for another kind of warfare Christians are engaged in – the struggle against “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms?” (Ephesians 6:12)

It appears to. For good reason, some believe this event in the life of Jehoshaphat is the inspiration for Psalm 83: “O God, do not keep silent; / be not quiet O God, be not still. / See how your enemies are astir, / how your foes rear their heads. / With cunning they conspire against your people” (Psalm 83:1-3).

A many-faceted war is going on in our world today that is destructive to many believers who want only to live lives fully devoted to Jesus Christ.

According to a report from Roman Catholic authorities, over 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of something related to their faith.

That 100,000 would be vastly more than the troops of Judah that God spared millennia ago.

And, according to the World Evangelical Alliance 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. While we try to process such atrocious conditions we are aware of growing anti-Christian sentiment in the land where we live. It is mounting, and who knows what persecution will yet come here?

We of course cannot know precisely how Jehoshaphat’s prayer figured into God’s ways and his action. That is divine mystery. Still, this story suggests that it is time to pray our prayers with fresh urgency for those elsewhere in our world who suffer bitter indignities and even cruel death because of their faith. And that God himself will intervene to protect Christ’s church here at home and fashion its character for more effective witness.

But, however urgent, let us pray with the confidence and urgency of that very psalmist, who said: “Let your enemies know that you, whose name is the Lord – that you alone are the most high over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18).

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2 thoughts on “Let Us Pray with Fresh Urgency

  1. It’s interesting that Jehoshaphat ‘s first response was to proclaim a fast for the whole nation of Judah.I wonder if that’s because fasting is an aid to focussed prayer.I find it so.Or perhaps ,in fast ,we are aware of our frailty and dependance on God.

    I think it was important Jehoshaphat acknowledged his powerlessness in the face of the attacking army. He acknowledged he didn’t know what to do but he had his eyes on the Lord He realized God’s sovereignty & his total dependance on the Lord. And so he knew to completely trust in the Lord and there was no need to fear. Eyes on the Lord,he knew he had no cause for fear.

    Then God completely assures Jehoshaphat through His prophet Jahiazel.Don’t be afraid ,God says,for He will fight the battle for Jehoshaphat & his people. Of course the battle is won.

    Pastor,I’m sure physical warfare is a metaphor for the struggle between good and evil,between the world and the Spirit.On first reading the Old Testament and the merciless extinction of the Canaanites .I couldn’t understand how this could be ,in the light of Jesus’s New Testament teachings.God would never authorize genocide,surely .Then ,by using bible commentaries and talking with church elders I began to see how the bible uses allegory and metaphor to convey an urgent message.

    Ephesisns 6:12 helps me understand this and also helps me understand Revelations,which I also found hard to grasp at first.

    I understand Christianity is the most persecuted faith or idea in the world.Christian persecution certainly didn’t end with Constantine’s conversion.Looking at a recent book ,’Christianophobia : A faith Under Attack’, I found many instances,often brutal, of persecution of our faith ,all over the world.

    Even in UK we are forbidden wearing the Cross in some workplaces and some schools are not being allowed to perform the Christmas Nativity plays.It’s unsettling to hear this may be so even in Canada.For here in UK we get the impression that Canada and USA are the most church attending and believing of all nations.

    2 Chronicles 20 teaches us to put our trust in God and have no fear.But pray we must,with the greatest urgency.Pray throughout the day at every oppurtunity,whether in short bursts or longer prayers in our home prayer spaces.

    We need to pray for our fellow Christians under attack around the world.Such as the 276 Nigerian schoolchildren ,abducted from Chibok Secondary School at night in mid April this year, then forced to renounce their faith. Earlier,in February,the same kidnappers,Boko Haram ,killed 100 Christians in the villages of Doron Baga and Izghe and killed 59 schoolchildren in North Easdt Nigeria.

    Pator ,you are right to call us to prayer.To pray with confidence.

  2. After this weekends ultimatum to Christians by Islamist terrorist group ISIL ( ‘Islamic State of Iran and Levant’ ) our prayers are needed more urgenty than ever.Pastor,Your words about persecution of Christians were prescient.

    In Mosel,in Iraq, there has been a strong Christian community forr 2,000 years.Mosel is such a special place for we Christians,For I believe it is none other than the city known in the Bible as Nineveh !

    Nineveh is the city God commanded the prophet Jonah to , to call upon the citizens to repent.Jonah disobediently set sail for Tarshish instead so the Lord whipped up a storm to shipwreck him.Learning that Jonah was the cause of the storm that threatened their lives, his shipmates tossed Jonah overboard.Jonah was swallowed by the whale & the rest is history. Spat out ashore ,he escaped and learned his lesson.The people of Nineveh also repented & eventually became a faithful Christian City.

    Now Nineveh has been given an ultimatum by ISIL , the new Islamist terrorist group’ Islamic State of Iraq & Levant’ Some newsreaders call them ISIS,The ultimatum to all Christians in Mosel ( Nineveh as was ) is – renounce Jesus and convert to Islam or we will kill you all unless you leace the city.

    I learned alot about persecution of Christians in the Holy Land from the words of a pastor who was recently a canon at my church, St Michael’s Coventry.His name is Andrew White & he left Coventry to bcome Anglican chaplain to Iraq & vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad, the only Anglican church in Iraq. Andrew had to flee Iraq a few days ago but vows to go back very soon to continue his Mission.

    In 1998, age 33 Andrew was appointed Director of International Ministry at my Coventry church ,St Michael’s,heading our International Centre for Reconciliation. In 2005, he moved topastor in Baghdad .I read his 2009 book ‘Vicar of Baghdad ‘ and look forward to his book ‘Father Forgive’ due later this year.

    Right now I’m reading Pastor Don Bastian’s ‘First Love’ which must be very helpful for any pastor but I find it very helpful for every Christian since we are all called to serve the Lord.

    I’m pleased that the two recent Just Call Me Pastor blogs are last 2 blogs are about prayer.Prayer is always available to us ,something we can do to let God know we stand on His side in this struggle between good and evil,between love and hate,between holiness and sin, between light and dark..

    Please pray for our Christian family in Mosel ,threatened with death for their faith ,and for Pastor Andrew White.

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