Why should prayer be a priority? Mark Sheldrake shares lessons he's learned from Jehoshaphat's prayer in 2 Chronicles 20.
I am writing a 40-Minute Bible Study with Kay and we’ve been asking each other, “What do Christians struggle with?” Is it making time for studying God’s Word? Many of you probably nodded your head before you finished reading the entire sentence. What about prayer? Why is prayer such a struggle for so many?
Prayer is often a last ditch effort to ask God to help us out of a situation or circumstance after we’ve failed at it through our own efforts. It’s alarming to think that prayer is not high on our daily list of appointments.
When I proposed that one of the 40-Minute lessons be on reigniting prayer in the life of a believer, Kay pointed out something that I had never thought of. She said, “Mark, what if they have never prayed?” WHAT! WOW! This is hard to understand but it could be true of many who are in our classes, churches, families.
There are those who feel they are not good enough to pray based on how others pray. You’ve heard it, “I can’t pray in public!” They worry they will be judged for the way they pray. Others feel unworthy to pray because they do not feel freedom from sin and therefore struggle to go before a Holy God. Could this be why we fall further away from the Lord and our country slides further into sin? Has our lack of prayer failed to bring God to action on our behalf?
E.M. Bounds wrote, “Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings him into active aid.” We see this in action in 2 Chronicles 20:1-13. The sons of Moab and sons of Ammon, a great multitude, have come to make war with Jehoshaphat. When Jehoshaphat received word about them he was terrified.
If you have your Bible and don’t know this story, turn there now. Look at verse 3 and see Jehoshaphat’s response, “he was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast.” Jehoshaphat was about to go to prayer, the intensity of the prayer is shown through the proclamation of the fast.
Jehoshaphat understood that prayer is the greatest of all forces. Prayer calls God to action. I’ll leave the prayer for you to read on your own, but the prayer is a call for deliverance, a reminder of what God has done in the past and will do again. I love how Jehoshaphat concludes his prayer, “O our God will You not judge them? For we are powerless before the great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” — Wow!
Let me share four reasons why prayer needs to become a priority.
- Prayer plugs us in to the real power source: 2 Chr 20:6
God is the one who holds all power in His hand. When we cease to pray we hinder our ability to access His power and to see God work. Prayer is our humble admission that we cannot accomplish anything without God. (John 15:5)
- Prayer keeps our eyes on Victory: 2 Chr 20:7-8, 15
Prayer keeps us focused on God’s past victories not only in Scripture but in our own lives. It’s important to keep in mind all of the answered prayers, they are the assurance that God has worked and will work again according to His will. The battle, whatever it is, is not yours but His.
- Prayer keeps our eyes focused on God: 2 Chr 20:3, 12
Think about situation. A great multitude is about to wage war. The natural responses would be to gather the people, arm yourselves, and panic. But in verse 3 you don’t see that. Although terrified, Jehoshaphat does the right thing in seeking the Lord and keeping his eyes on God. Remember Peter when he tried to walk on water, what did he do wrong? Lost his focus. When we don’t pray we lose focus.
- Prayer moves God to action: 2 Chr 20:18-24
The battle belonged to the Lord and when Jehoshaphat and Judah began to worship God and sing, God moved into action destroying the great multitude. In verse 24 we read that Judah looked out over the wilderness toward the multitude of men and they were all dead and none had escaped. VICTORY! — God’s response to Jehoshaphat and Judah seeking the Lord.
Are you convinced yet that prayer is priority number one? Have you begun to evaluate your prayer life? This is good. You may also be saying, “Jehoshaphat only went to God when the circumstance was too much to handle.” Good point! I’m so thankful that the Bible is filled with instruction on prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul writes, “pray without ceasing.” Paul is telling us to never stop tapping to that power source.
Jesus, in John 15, gives us a phenomenal prayer equation. “If you abide (live, dwell) in Me, and my Words (Scripture) abide (live, dwell) in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This is where it’s at:
Living for Jesus + His Word in us = Answered Prayer.