The disciples of the Lord Jesus also had difficulties in this area and asked Him:
“Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1b).
Considering the prayers of others can greatly assist us, teaching us how to pray. Thankfully the Bible is packed with great examples of prayer that we can learn from. One such prayer is the prayer of Jehoshaphat, that can be found in 2 Chronicles chapter 20.
Jehoshaphat was not a perfect king. In chapter 19 he was condemned, by Jehu, for partnering with evil King Ahab and going to war with him. However past sin, once identified and repented of, did not prevent him from making further progress and showing great faith in God.
In chapter 20 we see that there is a great problem. A multitude of enemies has gathered to wage war on Jehoshaphat and God’s people, whom he represented.
“The people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 20:1).
Jehoshaphat learned that this great enemy was already at Hazazon-tamar, on the west shore of the Dead Sea, and would soon head for Jerusalem. In a similar situation (2 Chronicles 16:1-10) his father, King Asa, had made an alliance with a foreign king and was denounced for not relying on God. Although we do not know whether Jehoshaphat knew about this event, we can be thankful that he took a different course of action.
Instead of looking to human and material solutions he looked to God. Prayer was his first resort and not something he turned to if all else failed. For Jehoshaphat, prayer was not an optional extra but a fundamental necessity.
The prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 must be read slowly and meditated upon. As we will notice, this prayer was corporate, Jehoshaphat was praying on behalf of God’s people, but let me point out some simple observations that should help us to pray in a way that pleases God, whether privately or publicly.
He opens with worship, confessing God’s sovereignty and power:
"O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (v.6).
Although there was a great enemy on his doorstep, one that by human thinking could obliterate Jehoshaphat and the people, he knew there was a God in heaven who is above all.
Jehoshaphat then speaks of God’s gracious promises to His people:
“Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” (v.7).
Jehoshaphat also reminds the Lord of His promise to deliver them if they will only seek Him before His temple (v.9). He is not reminding God just in case He has forgotten but rather appealing to Him based on what He has promised.
Although believers, in this present age, do not have exactly the same promises as those given to believing Israel, we do have an abundance of promises. Recalling the promises of God from His Word is a significant element of effective intercessory prayer.
In verses 10-11 Jehoshaphat speaks about the problem specifically. There is no vagueness and there are no generalities, only details regarding the difficulties that they face. It is solely in verse 12 that we read of a request:
“O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You" (v.12).
Here we see a sincere confession of helplessness and dependence upon the Lord. God, who rules over the nations, ordained that enemies would gather so that the king would cast himself upon the Lord and see His mighty hand at work, something his father missed when he made a foolish alliance with Ahab.
Similarly, the Lord can cause great problems and difficulties to come into our lives so that we might cast ourselves upon Him, the One who cares for us.
It is worthwhile noting that all ages attended as the king led the people in this public prayer:
“Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord” (v.13).
The remainder of the chapter shows how the Lord answered the prayer of Jehoshaphat, defeating the enemies. Although your situation will be different from Jehoshaphat’s, the basic lessons from his prayer can be applied.
Praising His name, recalling His promises, detailing the problem, and looking to Him for help should be essential factors in our individual and corporate prayers.