“Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.” – 2 Chronicles 20:20-23
The first story I think about when I am overwhelmed or facing a seemingly impossible situation is the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Three nations were coming to conquer Israel. The King was afraid. In that moment of fear he sought the Lord and then gathered his people together to seek the Lord. In his prayer in verse 12, he said these words: “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
King Jehoshaphat was not going to be victorious by conventional means, by some new strategy or secret weapon. He needed the impossible. He needed God. God made it clear to them that the battle belonged to Him. They just needed to stand still and watch. The king “appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” (2 Chronicles 20:21) So against all odds in a strategy that made no sense by earthly understanding, they positioned themselves on the front line singing, praising God and watching. God created in their enemies’ mass confusion among the warring tribes and the different tribes began to fight with each other, losing the war.
It’s easy to read this story and miss what a great thing it was for Jehoshaphat to call the nation to prayer over this crisis. It would have been very human to panic. He could have trusted in his army. He could have looked for diplomatic answers, but he didn’t. He also could have felt angry toward God. It would have been easy for Jehoshaphat to have said, “What’s the deal, God? I tried to bring the nation back to You. I taught them to put away their idols and follow You because You’re worthy to be trusted. And now we’re facing annihilation. I don’t get it.”
It is easy to feel that way when we have tried to follow God and then get hit with difficult trials. We complain, “God, this isn’t fair! I am trying to follow You, but I have all kinds of trouble, while non-believers I know are enjoying the good life.” But Jehoshaphat didn’t fall into that trap of blaming God. He did what we should all do when we are overwhelmed in a crisis: He prayed.
He put prayer first. He realized that he could do some things after he had prayed, but he could not do anything worthwhile before he prayed. Prayer was his strongest weapon. So he resisted all the other natural urges. He recognized his great need, so he prayed. So should we, remembering that with God there is no impossible.
Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place and survivor of the German concentration camps, used to have people come up to her and say, “Corrie, my, what a great faith you have!” She would smile and reply, “No, it’s what a great God I have!”
- Do you believe it was the right thing for Jehoshaphat to pray?
- What is your motivation for praying? How has your motivation changed over the years? Why?
- How does the story of Jehoshaphat motivate us to pray? How might it influence how we pray?
- If you could ask God to do something significant in your life today and knew that He would grant your request, what would your request be?