What Is Your First Response?

The Fellowship  |  August 30, 2019

A house that's overlooking hills while dark clouds are overhead.

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” — 2 Kings 20:1

Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions are focused on different facets of prayer and what lessons we can learn about the power of our prayers. For more inspirational teachings about prayer, download our complimentary study.

The Bible tells us that King Hezekiah was close to death. Isaiah the prophet came to visit but only brought terrible news — Hezekiah was going to die soon and he should get his affairs in order. Upon hearing this news, Hezekiah immediately cried out to God, beseeching God to remember his faithfulness and good deeds. Then Hezekiah “wept bitterly.”

How did God respond to the king’s anguished prayer? Remarkably, He gave Hezekiah 15 more years to live.

What right did Hezekiah have to pray to God after Isaiah prophesied that he would die, the rabbis question. The answer lies in a teaching about prophecy: Any prophecy for good cannot be overturned, but a prophecy for evil can be overturned through prayer and repentance.

So what can we, living in a seemingly non-prophetic time, learn from this passage in Scripture? I believe we can take away a simple, but powerful message: There is no point at which we can rightfully give up hope when we trust in the goodness of God.

Hezekiah was sick and heard from one of the greatest prophets of all time that he was soon to die. But he didn’t flinch. He didn’t even think. He just prayed, instinctively, from his heart.

The verse tells us that he prayed first before we learn the actual content of the prayer. I believe it was written this way to convey the sense of how natural and instinctual the prayer response was for the righteous Hezekiah.

Can we say the same? When we receive bad news, what is our first response? Do we get angry? Call our spouse or best friend? Try to come up with a solution on our own? Or do we, like Hezekiah, turn immediately to God in prayer?

To be honest, this is not a reaction or response that we are born with. It is something we need to train ourselves to do. And that doesn’t come easy to us, who have been taught to be independent and autonomous. To be sure, these are valuable and worthwhile traits. But we cannot forget that our greatest and best source of hope is the One who is always there — no matter the pain, no matter the sense of hopelessness.

Discover more about the Jewish perspective of prayer in our complimentary Bible study, Prayer: The Work of the Heart.