Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Four-Fold Purpose of the Church: Devoted to “the Prayers” (Part 2)

In this sermon, Pastor Babij ask you to examine your prayer life honestly and enjoins you to attend congregational prayer times. Pastor Babij discusses how many of the prayers in Acts are inherently corporate. Pastor Babij also reviews the prayer of Hezekiah against the Assyrians and draws out the importance of: 1.) to Whom we pray, 2.) how we pray, and 3.) what to expect when we pray. Pastor Babij concludes by reminding you that real Christians desire to pray both individually and corporately.

Full Transcript:

Today we’ll be in 2 Kings 18-19 looking at the Old Testament about prayer. Let’s bow our heads now in a word of prayer.

Father, I thank You for bringing us here today that we’re able to have the Word of God in our hands and that we are able to be presented with the words from the King of kings. I pray that You would make us ready to receive it and put it into practice what the Word of God says so that we would be functioning members of your body. I pray that as we put those things into practice, we would not only reap the benefits of it but also that we would be in constant contact with You as we lift up our prayers to the throne of God. Bless us as we look at Thy Word today. Use it in the way You see fit, Holy Spirit. I pray that You would be honored. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

So we’ve been looking in Acts 2:42 that the disciples have been continuously devoting themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Now we come to the place that they are breaking bread and meeting together corporately to be involved with prayer. Of course, doctrine and teaching informs us about the nature and the practice of prayer. In other words, it leads to being devoted to the prayers, which are the foreseeable conclusion of true doctrine. Teaching or truth informs us how we are to approach God. And that is what prayer is all about.

There was one theologian who said that our concern for the truth is an inevitable expression of our concern with God. Not to care about truth is not to care about God. To love God passionately is to love truth passionately. Being God centered in life means to be truth driven in ministry. Just thinking about prayer, if you were to be given a self-examination on your prayer life, what would it reveal?

For example here are some questions. If you were to characterize your prayer life right now, would you say it is very satisfactory, satisfactory, satisfactory needing improvement, unsatisfactory, or very unsatisfactory. If you are honest with yourself, you can evaluate your prayer life on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the highest rating. How high would you consider prayer in your life? Getting to 10 will definitely tell everyone else that you are serious because you are praying.

How important on this scale do you consider the scheduled, public meetings of our church? And on a scale of 0-10, how important is prayer in your daily personal practice? If you practice prayer, when and where do you pray? What are the occasions and times that you pray during the day? Are those things taking place on a regular basis in your lives? If they are, you will think prayer is important.

Also, prayer is important when the church is gathered together. What changes or excuses will you need to lay aside? What priorities will need to be adjusted as a result of this self-analysis in order to improve your prayer life and your presence in the public prayer meetings. Now I said last time that one of the hindrances of the public prayer meeting is the temptation to individualize what God has made to be corporate. In other words it’s when someone concludes in their thinking that prayer is mainly a private matter.

However in our text in Acts 2:42, it is stressing a practice of prayer that is corporate. We are to pray together as a body. That’s why the definite article is there in the Greek, which is the original language of the Word of God. The definite article focuses on the church’s priority: the fellowship, the breaking of bread, the prayers, the Apostle’s teaching. So the practice of corporate prayer become a significant part of worship where the believers were eagerly desiring to participate together. Not many would deny prayer is important, but practically speaking many are atheists when it comes to prayer. We think we should do it but we don’t seek God’s face on normal days about everything. And we don’t meet with people to pray about these things.

In Acts 3:1 it says this:

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

The disciples of Jesus still thought it was important to be involved scheduled times of prayer. In fact, if you do a study of prayer in the book of Acts, which Luke is the author of, you’ll find that no less than 21 times are the prayers in Acts mainly corporate prayers. In Acts 4:23, the church prays for boldness in the face of opposition. In Acts 6:1-6, the church prays for the blessing of selected leaders. In Acts 12, the church prays for Peter’s deliverance, which we looked at last week. In Acts 12:12, Peter is delivered and comes to a prayer meeting. In Acts 13, the church fasts and prays for God to multiply His work. In Acts 16:16, Paul, Silas, and Luke collectively go to a place of prayer. Paul prays with the pastors as he gets ready to leave them in Acts 20:36.

So everywhere you go in the book of Acts prayer is mentioned over and over again. These prayers are inherently corporate, it involves others. In Acts, Christians regularly gathered for prayer. We don’t want this kind of prayer to be absent from our body. This is the pattern for all Christians and churches all over the world. We cannot change this pattern because we have to line up and submit to the Word.

We all need to repent of this crippling sin, because when we don’t pray it signifies that we are in some state of unbelief. We don’t believe God can actually do things when we pray. How do we know when God’s people are truly repentant? We know that when we actually take out our secret weapon of seeking God together with our supplications and petitions, as well as our praises. Talking about prayer is one thing, but doing it is another. You say should be doing this thing but are you changing your priorities so you can actually do it.

Scripture tells us that prayer is effective and it accomplishes much. This Lord’s Day, I would like to read to you a passage of the New Testament that drips with the effectiveness of prayer in the church. And then we’ll take a closer long at an Old Testament passage that displays the effectiveness of prayer.

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Philippians 1:3-6:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul is praising God and is showing the confidence he has that God saved the people and will continue to do that until He is done with the sanctifying work and can take them to Heaven. Look at what he prays in Philippians 1:9-12:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.

Paul is praying not only for their sanctification but that their love would abound and overflow the cup. That’s the kind of love God has for you. He’s also praying that they would do it according to the knowledge of the Word of God and with real, genuine spiritual discernment. You should look at what you’re praying for and believe that it is what you’re meant to do. We should be bringing our prayers before the Lord together.

Paul is praying for their continued holiness. From their days of being a baby, they would put one foot in front of the other filled with righteousness and good deeds that God wants to do through them. But it first came with the church praying for that. We need to be praying for each other’s sanctification together. Is the person sitting next to praying for you that this would be a result in your life?

If we don’t meet together for prayer we’ll never know. When we meet in prayer, we’re praying for all kinds of things. We’re praying for the women who are pregnant and the mothers who have young kids. We’re praying for people who are sick and others who need salvation. We’re offering up praises to the Lord! When more of the church takes that seriously, I believe that more of what God desires for us becomes visible and real and regular.

In other words, in prayer I expect things from God. I anticipate that when I pray God’s going to answer. If we’re all doing that, then we’re all going to be able to rejoice together and lift up the name of God together. With that in mind, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to 2 Kings in the Old Testament and we’re going to be looking at what’s going on with the northern kingdom with Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

We’re looking at several different kings: Hezekiah, who is the king of Judah and Jerusalem, and Sennacherib, who is the king of Assyria. Assyria was the nation that God raised up against God’s people to take them into captivity because they didn’t do something. Look at what it says in 2 Kings 18:12:

Because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded; they would neither listen nor do it.

That’s the northern kingdom of Israel, when the nation was split into two. Israel now is going to be taken by the Assyrians. They were not obeying God, so He chastised them. Nothing was happening at this point to the southern kingdom of Jerusalem, which Hezekiah ruled over.

I want you to look at the character of King Hezekiah. Let’s read what it says in 2 Kings 18:1-8:

Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

All those things you see here that he was definitely a pretty good king. His heart was for the Lord and he wanted to do the things that David passed down. But this is what happened. Once he found out that the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, came against the northern kingdom and took it, Assyria got a big head. Assyria thought that now they can also take the southern kingdom.

Now notice what it says in 2 Kings 18:13:

Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.

He did not seize Jerusalem yet, where Hezekiah was. 2 Kings 18:14 says:

Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

That doesn’t sound like the king anymore, he’s now afraid. He does something that he wouldn’t have done when he first started out. Look at what he does in 2 Kings 18:15:

Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king’s house.

This seems out of character for Hezekiah. Why would he do this? This would not be the right thing to do. But he does it because he is afraid because Assyria is a very powerful nation that has a tremendous army. It has chariots and horses and skilled people of warfare. Israel did not have all those things. Hezekiah knew that they could be easily taken.

So what happens is Sennacherib sends out his entourage to Hezekiah and sends him a message. Let’s look at 2 Kings 18:17-20:

Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field. When they called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them. Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? You say (but they are only empty words), ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?

So he’s asking him this, “Who are you relying on? Us compared to you, and you’re not going to win.” Now look what happens in 2 Kings 18:21-25:

“Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? Now therefore, come, make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Have I now come up without the Lord’S approval against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.”

Now he was right up that, God did raise up Assyria to go against his people. He already held judgment on northern Israel. And now part of Judah has been taken by Assyria and they are coming to Jerusalem. And Hezekiah is frightened by this. And so the Lord did raise up Assyria to come against God’s people. Now notice what it says in 2 Kings 18:26-27:

Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall. But Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?”

That’s pretty strong, frightening language. Assyria had enough back them about all their victories; this is a winning team here. No one came up against Assyria and won until this day. They had a record they were confident about. It’s like a sports team that has won all their games and now they are cocky. They are bold and are confident in their past. But they don’t’ realize that the other team is hungrier than them because they haven’t won yet. So in this case he is trying to scare them. Look at what it says in 2 Kings 18:28:

Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” ‘Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, “Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.” But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “The Lord will deliver us.”

He’s putting the carrot out there saying that they are just going to come and take them back to their land and give fig trees and the best of the country. It’s tempting because if he did that, then the armies would not come against Jerusalem. At least that’s what he thought. Look at the end of verse 32, it says:

But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “The Lord will deliver us.”

That’s where Assyria made a big mistake. Because they are no longer defying Hezekiah, king of Judah. They are defying the King of kings, the Lord of Hosts. They are reviling Him and reproaching Him. They are mocking the living God and blaspheming His name by saying that God can’t do this. Notice what it says in 2 Kings 18:33-37:

“Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s commandment was, “Do not answer him.” Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh.

If you and I were in that situation, I think we’d be scared too. We are just human and we would be shaking in our boots. Them tearing their clothes and coming to King Hezekiah like that is a gesture of fear and not knowing what to do. When Hezekiah was given a message by his very powerful adversary, the Assyrians, the message was meant to frighten his opponent. And it worked! Look at 2 Kings 19:8-13:

Then Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When he heard them say concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “Behold, he has come out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah saying, “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?”

They are destroyed because the Assyrian army destroyed them! At that particular point, there is no way you can fight against Assyria and win. You are cornered, there is no where you can go. Egypt is not going to help because they are not going to go against Assyria. You’re done. Except for one man named Isaiah the prophet who has a suggestion to Hezekiah to take out his secret weapon. Look at what it says in 2 Kings 19:4:

Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the Lord your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left.

Half of Judah is taken by the Assyrians, but whatever is left is the remnant. Why would Hezekiah take out his weapon if he thinks the odds are against him? He obviously wasn’t thinking about taking it out because he was crippled in fear. Isaiah comes along and suggests for Hezekiah to take out the big guns. He said it because he wanted Hezekiah to remember that his enemies may make an assessment of him and judge him rightly according to his strengths and weaknesses, and conclude that it will be easy to defeat him.

But our enemies often assess wrongly where our help is actually coming from. That’s when they are in trouble and that’s where prayer comes in. I want you to look at Psalm 121:1-2:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

That’s why we ought to pray because our help comes from outside of us. It’s not about how strong or weak we are, but about who is for us. That’s why prayer is so incredibly important because if we do not pray, we cannot win. We will stand frightened by everything the world throws at us, and everything that comes up in the circumstances of our lives and jobs and families. Until God comes along and says what about prayer? You won’t think it’s going to work if you don’t know where your help comes from. I don’t have to depend upon the Egyptian army or any other aid. The Bible says my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Who has authority over all things. All of the power of the Assyrian army is nothing compared with God.

Here are some of the benefits of effectual prayer in 2 Kings 19:5-6. Prayer brought God’s prophet, designed to counterattack Rabshakeh’s words and alleviate fear. Isaiah the prophet brings encouraging words to the people in these verses:

So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.

Why shouldn’t Hezekiah fear? The Lord of Heaven’s armies is on his side. That is the encouraging words that come when we pray. God alleviates the fear. Secondly, it brought him a word from God’s prophet with a statement of hope because he really brings an encouraging prophecy. It says that King Sennacherib will fall by the sword in his own land. Did it happen yet? No. God is laying before him the concept of having faith in the prayer prayed to Him and the hope for the future will come to pass. That is what He is saying to the king and to the people. The people are hearing from the prophet because the prophet is speaking on behalf of God.

The next benefit is found in verse 14-20 which is to lay out his situation before God and implement the secret weapon of prayer. God gives us time and is patient with us. He doesn’t always expect us to get it right away. He knows that sometimes we are like little children and are fearful of life, growing old, troubles in the world, and in our culture. People everywhere are being conditioned to live in fear. Just think about the stock market and investments being made because people are scared that they will lose their house. Fear is a great motivator and people have done many things because of fear.

I want you to see something amazing in our text. Look at what Hezekiah does in 2 Kings 19:14:

Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

Hezekiah adores God and puts Him in His rightful place. He knows who He is speaking to and is no longer afraid. His eyes are fixed on the King of kings and the Lord of lords. What brought him there? Prayer! Now look at the rest of the passage in 2 Kings 19:16:20:

“Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God.”

That is the most comforting and awesome thing! And it’s not because of any strength that anyone has! It’s only because he prayed and gave God the glory. He asked God to open up His ears and eyes to the situation and God says to tell Hezekiah that He heard him and will answer him and he’s not going to have to lift a finger. He is God and for His people. No one is going to blaspheme His name or hurt His people. I heard this once said, that without persistent prayer we have no defense in battle against evil. Individually as churches, we are meant to invade and blunder the strongholds of Satan by prayer. Here’s the good part, between what I just read and the end of chapter 19, here’s what happens. Isaiah the prophet gives a prophecy against the fall of Assyria with this flowery language about what God is going to do. Look at what 2 Kings 19:32 says:

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, “He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. “By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,” declares the Lord. “For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”

Hezekiah wasn’t a really good king and has fallen drastically to what a king ought to be. Yes he prayed, but God is going to deliver the city for His own sake and for the sake of His servant David. The next person to sit on the throne of Israel is Jesus Christ. No one can mess up God’s plans. Look at 2 Kings 19:35-37:

Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.

So Hezekiah didn’t have to lift a finger or get his bow ready. God did it in the night when everybody else was sleeping. He went down there and killed everyone. He sent King Sennacarib’s army running back with their tails between their legs. And his two sons were so infuriated by what happened that they killed him. That’s the judgment of God. And this is all because they prayed and God answered. So that means if we are not vigilant, we will be ensnared by fear and temptation. Our defense and our offense is an active, persistent, earnest, believing prayer force. Because that is what God wants. Regular continued prayer shows where one’s priorities, concerns, and passions are. It shows whom we truly worship.

I implore you to remember prayer is always first. It is always the most you can do. It gets the ear of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. How can we let our secret weapon just stay in the closet or collect dust somewhere where no one knows how to use it? Christians shouldn’t miss out on the greatest gift God has given us and that is corporate prayer. Real Christians desire to be devoted to the prayers. That’s what it says in Acts 2:42. Here’s the bottom line. We need to have a continual, inner channel with the communication of God. We need to have a thankful heart that God hears us and we will do what He says. I pray that looking at the Scripture will motivate us to be those kind of people.

Brethren, let’s pray together as a church. And if you haven’t done that in the past for whatever reason, it’s time to put that aside and bring the requests before the Lord.

Lord, thank You again for Your kindness in giving us the Word of God. I pray that as we prepare to take the Lord’s Table, I pray that we would be aware of what the Word of God has said this morning. I pray that we would not take it lightly and that for the first time in our life we would take something very seriously about a spiritual blessing that has been given to us. Make us a praying church and Lord prepare our hearts to partake of the elements in the Lord’s Table. I pray this in Your Name, Amen.