King Hezekiah was a man of prayer. Today’s readings contain three of his prayers, and each one is different.
The first appears in 2 Kings 19:14–19 as Judah faced impending invasion by the Assyrians, who had invaded the land and besieged Jerusalem. When Sennacherib, the Assyrian general, sent a letter full of threats to Hezekiah, the king immediately ran to the temple where he spread the letter out before the Lord. The king’s prayer was bold and public. He begged God to vindicate Himself and show His glory among the nations. Hezekiah was desperate, but he also knew that his prayer was in accordance with God’s stated plans and purposes (2 Samuel 7:23; Psalm 67:1–2). The Lord answered with swift and decisive deliverance (2 Kings 19:35–37).
The second prayer appears in Isaiah 38:1–2. Once again, Hezekiah faced an imminent threat, though it wasn’t a national emergency this time—it was personal. God’s prophet, Isaiah, diagnosed the king with a terminal illness. Upon hearing the news, the king immediately turned his face toward the corner of his room. Once again, Hezekiah’s prayer was a desperate appeal for deliverance. Hezekiah asked God to remember how he had walked faithfully and wholeheartedly, doing what pleases the Lord (v.2). Hezekiah was a godly king, but I’m certain he also knew his own sin. There was no guarantee God would grant his request. I imagine that’s why, after making that appeal, the king wept so bitterly. God heard his humble anguish, and He extended the king’s life by fifteen years (v.15).
Hezekiah’s third prayer appears in Isaiah 38:9–20, and it is offered in response to being healed. In these circumstances, we might expect the king to respond with a poetic song of thanksgiving and praise. The king does write a poem, but it’s surprising, more contemplative than you’d think; he writes a hymn rather than a praise chorus. He does eventually give thanks (v.19), but first, the king reflects on the horror and oppression he felt when facing death (vv.10–14), as well as God’s power to forgive sins and restore life (vv.17–18). The experience sobered him, and it encouraged him to both “walk along slowly” (v.15) and to recount God’s salvation to the next generation (v.19).
I love how each of Hezekiah’s prayers is so unique, each shaped by his changing circumstances. We shouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same for us. But in every circumstance, Hezekiah knew where to turn, and he did not stop asking God for rescue. We can have the same confidence, to turn and take our desperation, tears, deep contemplation, and thanksgiving all to the Lord.
Written by Jared Kennedy