This is a Bible study on 2 Kings 19-20 and the prayers of Hezekiah. 

Source: The Outlook, 1985. 3 pages.

The Prayers of Hezekiah

Read 2 Kings 19:14-19, 20:1-6

The recorded prayers of Hezekiah are short, they were uttered under differing circumstances and they are of great importance for us to understand our own prayer life. He prays when real danger threatens him and the country of Judah. Again he prays when he is very sick. At such times we also turn to our God in prayer and we often wonder how we should pray under such circumstances.

An Imminent Danger🔗

In the first Scripture passage noted above, Hezekiah is deal­ing with the danger posed by the armies of Assyria under Sennacherib as they are about to attack Judah. This is a tre­mendous host. No one has been able to stop these armies. Sennacherib boasts about this fact. What can Judah do? Isaiah the prophet has already given Hezekiah assurance concern­ing the threatening danger. Isaiah has a very important place in the kingdom of Hezekiah. He has access to the royal house at any time and is a trusted counselor of the God-fearing Hezekiah. Isaiah tells of the history which is here unfolding in chapters 37 and 38 of his prophecy. It must, therefore, not escape our attention that Isaiah has already spoken about the outcome of this "danger" before Hezekiah prays. Hezekiah sends ambassadors to Isaiah to ask for guidance and for the prayers of the prophet. Now Hezekiah may pray calmly and confidently.

The king of Judah has received a letter of the king of Assyria uttering his threats against Hezekiah and against Judah. The king of Judah reads the letter and then takes it to the house of God. Dramatically he spreads this letter before God for Him to read what this man is threatening as though God were a fellow human being. See what this letter contains that so deeply disturbs Hezekiah! He lays the whole problem before God.

The Address🔗

In Hezekiah's touching prayer he adores the God to Whom he comes. That ought always to be first. He comes to Jehovah, the God of Israel, Who has given His promises to His people — He is the covenant God. This is the God who sits above the cherubim. Hezekiah is not in the Holy of Holies, he may not come there. He spreads out this letter before God but God dwells in the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant stands with its cherubim folding their wings toward each other above the mercy seat. Now God is enthroned above these cherubim. He is the God, the God "of all the nations of the earth." Many of these nations have made their own gods, but He is the God Who has made heaven and earth. In other words, these gods of the other nations have no standing. These other nations and kingdoms should also acknowledge that the God of Israel is the only God Who is to be feared. Sennacherib has spoken of the impotence of the gods of the nations. He has defeated them all and he puts the God of Israel on the same plane with these other gods. Hezekiah must not think, says Sennacherib, that his God can save out of my hand.

A Confession of Faith🔗

This adoration of God is also Hezekiah's confession. He confesses his faith in this God and confesses Who He is. He is the Maker of Heaven and earth and He is also his covenant God. This is the God in whom Hezekiah trusts. He knows that this God may not be placed on the same plane with those who are not gods.

The king continues to speak to God as to a fellow human being. He asks God to "incline His ear" and to "open His eyes" to all the evil that the king of Assyria is planning against the people of God. However, he is not only plotting against the people of Judah; he is defying the living God! The honor of God is very closely related to the wellbeing of His people. If Sennacherib conquers Judah, what will happen to the promises given by God to His people throughout the centuries? What will the heathen say? With this kind of argumentation Hezekiah shows that the king of Assyria would then indeed place the God of Judah on one level with all other gods. So must His people pray. They must base their petition on God's promises!

Hezekiah continues by asserting that the kings of Assyria have indeed laid all the other nations waste. They have conquered all that they faced. Assyria is a power to be reckoned with! Not only have these kings destroyed the lands around them; they have also burned the gods of these nations. They could do this, says Hezekiah, because they were wood and stone. The kings of Assyria could destroy the nations together with the gods in whom they trusted. This emboldens Sennacherib to think that he will also be able to destroy Judah and her God!

Hezekiah now prays that God will save him together with his people out of the hand of the king of Assyria. This is not an idle request. His trust in his God knows no bounds. If God is willing to do it, He surely is able. No earthly king shall be able to stand before Him. Therewith Hezekiah and his people will be rescued out of the hand of this hostile king; thereby also all the nations of the earth shall know that the God of Judah is the only God Who exists. No other gods have been able to save out of his hand. Jehovah can! All men shall realize through this salvation that the God of Judah alone is to be feared. He only is worthy of homage. This salvation will honor Judah's God.

Anticipating Total Salvation🔗

Throughout this episode we are reminded of the full salva­tion of the people of God which is to come at a later date. It is the same God who will give complete salvation from sin. The One Who prays for his people is greater than Hezekiah!

A Prayer in Illness🔗

In the second passage listed at the top of this lesson, Hezekiah prays in the midst of very serious sickness. This is a very moving passage, but also a difficult one. The occasion is clear. Isaiah the prophet is commissioned to go to the king to tell him that he will not recover — that he is going to die. What a painful message he is called to convey to this man of God who is deathly sick. Will this message now so upset him that he loses the will to live. Or would the will to live now be sin? Besides all this, consider that this word of the "unchangeable" God does not go into effect, but that He "changes" His mind! These are some of the great difficult matters which face us in this passage. Because Hezekiah will not recover from this illness, he must set his house in order. He must regulate and make his final arrangements for all the things which pertain to his house and property. How do you do that? There is evidently still time to do this. He also had a mind able to do this. But, what distressing news to hear in the prime of life! It is thought that Hezekiah was about 35 or 36 years old at this time — cut off in the midst of his days!

What is the proper reaction to this news? Should he just say: The Lord who does not change has spoken and, therefore, His will be done? I think this would be a proper answer, but, it is not the answer or the reaction of Hezekiah. He turns himself to the wall and prays. Why pray when the judgment has already been made? A question which often rises in the hearts of God's people is, "Does prayer really change things?" Surely, no one will come to the conclusion that Hezekiah is not submissive to the will of God! The question is: How are we to deal with the God Who hears and answers prayer? Does Hezekiah now have sufficient excuse to cease from praying? Has the time come to stop praying when the prophet has brought this word?

The content of his prayer sounds strange to us. Hezekiah asks God to remember how he has lived before Him, "in truth and with an undivided heart." He has done that which was good in the sight of the Lord. Is he here basing his prayer for restoration on his own goodness? It may sound that way. However, Nehemiah also prays virtually these same words again and again and they find favor in the sight of God. Has God not promised long life to those who walk before Him according to His law? (Proverbs 10:27) Here, too, he bases his petition on God's word, on His promise. It is always a mystery to the people of God when the wicked live a long life (See Psalm 73). But why must a man such as Hezekiah, a God-fearing king, be cut off right in the midst of his life? That is the content of his prayer. And, we read, Hezekiah "wept sore." Is he afraid to die? That conclusion does not follow from his weeping. We must realize that life is sweet for the believer. Neither was the outlook on eternal life as clear then as it was made later in the New Testament.


The sequel is amazing. While Hezekiah prays and Isaiah has not left the royal property, the prophet is told to go back to Hezekiah with not only a different message, but one that was the very opposite of what he had been given before. What a glorious message it was. This "sick visitor" must tell Hezekiah that his prayer has been heard and that his tears have been noted. Isaiah must go to "the prince of my people" with the words of "Jehovah, the God of David thy father." Not only is his prayer heard, it is answered in a way beyond anything he would have dreamt. "I will heal thee," says God! In the days when medical science knew little concern­ing the human body, God would heal him. He is the only One who can heal. To show that the cure is miraculous, he is also assured that he will go up to the temple on the third day. The man who was deathly sick will in 72 hours be well enough to go up to the house of God. The promise assumes that Hezekiah will want to go there to bring his thanks for restoration.

The answer to his prayer now becomes very specific. Isaiah must tell him that the Lord will add fifteen years to his life! Has anyone else ever lived who could walk in the assurance that he would live another fifteen years? He will not be an old man when these fifteen years are completed, but he will certainly live to an age which is above average for his time.

Besides his bodily restoration the Lord also informs him that he will be delivered out of the hand of the king of Assyria. His fifteen years will not be spent as a captive in Assyria! The God to Whom he prays is able to prolong his life and is also able to defeat world-powers. He is the God to Whom His people pray.

Hezekiah has seen correctly. God will defend Jerusalem "for mine own sake" and for my servant David's sake. The promise which He has once made shall stand throughout the generations. This God is our God forever!

Questions for Discussion:🔗

  1. What do you think of the "dramatic" way in which Hezekiah spreads the letter of the king of Assyria before God? Is this example to teach us to entrust all our needs to Him and hide nothing?
  2. Is there a difference between the adoration of God and thanks to God in prayer?
  3. Is it wise for us to allude to various attributes of God in our prayers? Why does Jesus tell us to use the simple address: Father?
  4. How well must we know the word of God in order to be able to base our petitions on His word?
  5. God does not change (Malachi 3:6; 1 Samuel 15:29; cf. 11). How then must we understand the one word of God to Hezekiah that he will die and the other that he will live? Can we understand this difference?
  6. May we ever think of the unchangeableness of God as though He were unfeeling?
  7. Is there a conflict between Hezekiah's prayer after he has been told he will die and Paul's decision not to pray anymore concerning his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8 ff.)?

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