As I've studied the prayers of the Bible this week, I came today to the trust expressed by Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. The background to Jehoshaphat's prayer is that he's just been informed that a great multitude is assembled against him, and to make matters worse these are the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir--nations whom the Israelites did not invade and destroy when they came from Egypt. Verse three records the king's reaction when he is informed of this threat: he is afraid first, then he counters his emotions by setting his face to seek the Lord, and then he takes action by proclaiming a fast throughout all of Judah.
His prayer starts by enumerating God's power and might. Then he lays before God the immediate problem and ends with the cry of faith: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." As all of Judah stands before the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man who prophesies what to do: "Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you." (vv. 15-17)
So the people followed this directive and the men entered into battle being led by a contingent dressed in holy attire, singing and praising the Lord. And the Lord, of course, kept His promise and fought the battle for them. This Old Testament account foreshadows the ultimate divine rescue won for us at Calvary. Looking at prayer on this side of the Cross, John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely, with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon his name [cf. Joel 2:32]. By so doing we invoke the presence of both his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace; and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take best care of us. (emphasis mine)
Calvin writes about prayer in a section titled "The Way We Receive the Grace of Christ." I've only just waded into this material, so I've got a lot of learning to do. When I told my friend Nathan that I was doing a series on prayer this week, his eyes lit up and he practically leaped from his chair to grab his own copy of The Institutes in order to recommend the material to me. (Nathan's book recommendations have cost me a lot of money, but I have no regrets about the investments!) The section I quoted above eloquently expands upon the point of Jehoshaphat's expression of faith: "we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take best care of us."
This is magnificently displayed for us in the events of Easter, for surely we never would have conceived to ask to be delivered from the judgment of our sins. Yet, this great need was declared and fulfilled in the gracious will and mighty power of God, so that we can rest fully in His finished work.
May you have a joyful weekend celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord. Happy Easter!