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The Prayer of Hezekiah: Turning Your Face Toward The Wall

African American news from Pasadena - Professor Hopkins and faith"In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover." Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD: "Remember now, O LORD, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life." (NRSV)

In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings (20:1-6) the prophet Isaiah informed Hezekiah the King of Judah that he was going to die. After a bout of sickness, Hezekiah, who began his reign at the age of 25, prayed and began to wail and lament unto the Lord upon hearing this news. Before the prophet Isaiah departed the King's court, the Lord spoke unto him about Hezekiah's healing and extension of life. Hezekiah went on to live fifteen more years.

In this passage several things stand out in particular; 1) Hezekiah's response suggests that he was troubled with this news; he wept bitterly and petitioned the Lord. He did not directly ask for healing or an extension of life, he simply asked the Lord to remember his faithfulness, his works and his heart. 2) Hezekiah had such a relationship with the Lord that news of his death was foretold unto him. 3) Upon hearing this news the King immediately turned his face to the wall and petitioned the Lord; the Lord changed Hezekiah's situation, granting him, no doubt, deliverance from his sickness and an extension of life.

It is within God's authority to grant health and life. There are many among us that have been graced with these two gifts. At the same time, others have passed in the seeming dawn of their life. Hezekiah prayed, lamented and wept unto the Lord at the news the prophet foretold. God heard the prayer of Hezekiah and thus gave him a kind of reprieve. What was it that led to this change? Hezekiah's prayer suggests several things about the nature of God. With prayer change occurs. Prayer is in fact a change agent. The prayer of Hezekiah demonstrates a submissive act while at the same time also an act of assertion. Prayer is listening to God. Prayer changes attitudes which leads to changes in behavior and acts. Prayer allows us to reflect upon and pay obeisance to God's grace, power, ability and sovereignty. Prayer is an act of vulnerability; it also shows a mood of prolepsis (an expectation of hope). The prayer of Hezekiah is archetypal (typical) of what we should do when troubled:  troubled having lived a life committed unto the Lord. While many pray asking amiss (see James 4:3), authentic prayers exhibit the above elements. Like Hezekiah, are we truly able to 'Turn Our Face To The Wall?'

[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Director of J.D.Institute and is a Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. He is the author of "Ecclesiastes" in the African Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]

 

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