Three Reasons a King Prayed to God

To be honest with you, prayer is something I often gloss over, something I rush through.

I don’t know when it really started, but I think it comes from feeling like I have better things to do sometimes. I’ve got to go to sleep, I’ve got to eat, I’ve got to do this, that, so on and so forth.

As I spent some time reading the Bible this morning, I remembered just who it was we were praying to, and because God is who He is, prayer is something I should take a lot more seriously.

My favorite Bible story, and something I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, is 2 Chronicles 14-16. I try to read through it two or three times a year.

I haven’t read it yet this year, so I picked it up this morning and decided to read it one chapter at a time. Chapter 14 is about introducing Asa, king of Judah, son of Abijah. Asa is one of my favorite biblical characters because I find so much of myself in him. I think a lot of Christians would if you read the whole passage.

Anyways, after 10 years of peace and rest in his reign, war has come upon him. The Ethiopians, under the direction of Zerah, have come upon him and his nation and have brought an army of a million men and 300 chariots (2 Chr. 14:9). In comparison, Asa’s army has a total of 580,000 men, some with shields and spears and some with shields and bows (v. 8). It’s a complete mismatch by any measurement. Zerah’s army has more men and better positioning for the war.

Faced with these obstacles, Asa prays to God (v.11), the God he’s completely trusted so far in his reign:

O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.

In this prayer, Asa recognizes three huge characteristics of the God he serves – and the God you and I serve, believers – that compel him, and should compel us, to pray like he did.

There is none like God to help. “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.”

There is no other god like God, there is nothing else in all of creation, both in heaven and on earth, anywhere. As David Crowder Band used to sing, “There is no one like You, there has never ever been anyone like You.”

God, being God, has a unique power and ability to be able to help those who cry out to Him. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, and He has the great ability to do great things for us. Why wouldn’t we pray? Why wouldn’t we seek Him?

God is a God worth relying on“Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.”

God is one in whom we can place our trust. When faced with difficult circumstances like unemployment or sickness or any other hardship, we can’t fully trust humanity to solve problems. God might use them to offer solutions, but it is really God who is doing the work.

That’s why Asa fights this battle in the name of God. He doesn’t fight in the name of Asa or the name of Judah because he knows that’s not who’s going to give the victory. It’s God who’s going to give the victory. It is God who is worth trusting, always and forever, always more than man.

He is our God. “O LORD, you are our God, let not man prevail against you.”

If you are a Christian, God is a God who has chosen you. He has picked you to be His. Just like He has a claim on our soul, we have a claim on His ear, His attentiveness when we pray. We have a claim on the grace He offers us freely. He is our God, our Creator, our Father in heaven, the one who loves us so much He sent Jesus to die for us.

So we can come to God knowing that He hears us and answers our prayers. In John 16:23, Jesus says, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” All we need is ask, and ask humbly, honestly, in Jesus’ name, for His purposes and glory, and those things will be accomplished. Why? Because He is our God.

Asa’s prayers were heard, and a great victory was won. 2 Chronicles 14:12-15 says:

So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil. And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.

The LORD defeated the Ethiopians. God gave them the victory. God heard the prayer of Asa, king of Judah, and went before the king and his army and defeated their foe. This is the God we pray to. This is the God who has called us His own. This is a unique God, there is no one like Him. This is a God we can rely on. And this is a God who is ours.

Pray. Trust. There’s no one better to pray to, to rely on. And we know that Asa prayed this from a position of strength spiritually, but we don’t have to be in that place to pray this prayer, to trust God this way. We could be having a crisis of faith and pray this prayer. God is still the same God, and hears us just the same.

And I must remember that very, very, very rarely do I have better things to do than slow down, take a breath, and pray.


The Worst Kind of False Teacher

I was reading in Matthew 7 this morning and ran across Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount on false prophets. Verses 15-20:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Instantly, my mind went to people we in the evangelical subculture love to label as false teachers: Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, etc. And, to be fair, sometimes those guys, whether intentionally or unintentionally, paint themselves as such. One of the big items in the news recently was Creflo Dollar asking his flock for $65 million to buy a new plane, a fundraiser that was recently halted after backlash over the idea. Some people just can’t help themselves, can they?

Oh, I would know. Because often in my own life, I am the worst kind of false teacher I could ever listen to.

A King Knows The Best Way, Right?

2 Chronicles 14-16 is one of my favorite Bible stories because it shows me just how weak I am, just how little I know how to handle situations that come my way. It tells the story of King Asa of Judah, a king who initially is all about serving the Lord. His army of 580,000 dudes came up against an Ethiopian force of a million men, and Asa got the victory. How? He sought God to give him the victory.

His life was marked by submission to God, destruction of idols, leading the people to worship the Lord. He even kicked his mom out of being queen mother because she built a false idol! Asa was all about cleaning up the streets and leading people to worship God.

Then chapter 16 comes around. The king of Israel leads an army to build a city to make sure nothing could come in or out of Judah. Insurmountable odds? Maybe, maybe not. But not nearly as difficult, at least in my limited understanding, as defeating a million men in war with a significantly smaller force. But what does Asa do? He goes to Ben-hadad, the king of Syria. Syria and Judah have NEVER got along. Asa says to Ben-hadad, “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me” (v. 3).

Ben-hadad broke the covenant, attacking Israeli cities, which distracted Baasha to stop building the city, which ended the threat against Judah. Done deal! Judah is safe, all is well, King Asa once again saves his people from being defeated by their enemies.

But wait. A seer named Hanani comes to Asa and tells him off. Verses 7-9:

7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

Asa is chastised for his lack of reliance on God and his full weight of reliance on his enemy, the king of Syria. But one might argue: things got done! The task was accomplished! But was it really? The end result, as Hanani said, was wars that lasted throughout the rest of Asa’s reign.

What happened here? Asa trusted himself and his own decision-making over God, and in that, he was the worst kind of false teacher.

We Lead Ourselves Astray

It’s so easy for us to pick on the false teachers of our day, whether it’s those that are straight-up heretics or those that get one or two non-salvation things wrong. Joel Osteen, for instance, believes that salvation comes when you place your faith in Jesus.

But here’s where I got stuck this morning. How often do I lead myself astray? How often do I tell myself that I have the right way figured out and that I don’t need God to tell me what to do? I mean, that’s what I do every time I sin. I say God’s way is not good enough for me and that I’ve got it figured out.

When I sin, I act just like Asa: I expect my enemy (sin) to take care of needs. And perhaps it does, for a moment. But that action of sin displeases God because I’m not trusting God in that moment. God is there for me to lean on, but I tell myself that I don’t need him. In that way, I am exactly as Jesus describes in Matthew 7, walking around in sheep’s clothing but actually a ravenous wolf ready to devour any kind of consistent obedience I’ve built up. I am the worst kind of false teacher. I teach myself falsehoods every day.

Why do I listen to myself in those moments? Because I think I’ve got it all figured out. I think I know how to solve the problems that present themselves before me. I think I know what to do. I think I’m capable, when in reality I am far less capable than anyone. In those moments, I need the God of grace whose eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose hearts are blameless before Him.

And this is where the Gospel comes in. The only way my heart is blameless before God is because Jesus died on the cross, because He was not swayed by false teaching while He was on earth, because He did everything He was supposed to, because He fulfilled the law. He was perfectly obedient so I didn’t have to be. I have the opportunity to be forgiven for every time I choose myself over God because Jesus chose God every time.

I am the worst kind of false teacher.

Can I be honest with you? So are you.