2 Kings 20

2 Kings 20 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence

The question is often asked whether prayer actually changes God’s plans? And some might be tempted to use this particular passage to show that Hezekiah actually changed the mind of God through his humility and prayer to extend his life by fifteen extra years. But is that really what’s happening here? Certainly, we know from Matthew 6:25 that we cannot add a single hour to our life through worry, but can we add days or even years through prayer? If so, then perhaps we should forego any new diets, stop paying health insurance premiums, and just focus on our prayer lives. Of course, we could always benefit from the latter option, but would the force or the sincerity of our prayers be the necessary and proper ground for God’s will to be carried out in our lives? In other words, are God’s actions dependent or even modified in some way by our prayers? In short, the answer is No.

In Psalm 139:16, David says “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Here he means not only the number of days but also the various circumstances, even down to smallest details, have all been laid out in advance for us before any of us were ever born. So, the question must be asked, did God originally plan for Hezekiah to live a shorter life span but then change His mind because of Hezekiah’s repentance, or did God determine in advance that Hezekiah’s lifespan would include those seemingly extra fifteen years? Again, the latter option is the only one that meshes with Scripture, for in 1 Samuel 15:29 the prophet Samuel says, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” Likewise, Moses says the same thing in Numbers 23:19 that God does not change his mind like a man. And in Malachi 3:1, God himself says, “I, the Lord, do not change.” So too in Isaiah 46:10 he says emphatically, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” But if we were to grant that Hezekiah’s prayer changed God’s mind, then we would have to say that God did what pleased Hezekiah rather than carrying out his original purpose. So, how do we reconcile these two things: God’s eternal purpose and our prayers?

If we accept from the beginning that God’s purpose from before creation will be carried out in its entirety even down to the smallest detail, then we must understand that that also includes our prayers. So then, was God lying when he told Hezekiah that he would not recover from his sickness? No, he was merely pronouncing upon him the judgment he deserved. In the same manner God told Adam that the day he was to eat of the fruit from the forbidden tree that he would surely die, but he did not die, for the Lord covered his guilt and his shame on that day. He also commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac but then provided him a substitute offering instead. In a similar manner, the Lord informs King Hezekiah of the judgment upon him due to his sin in order to move him to pray for forgiveness and mercy.

Since God is not in the habit of telling us normally when we are going to die, this shouldn’t be an issue for most of us. But God has revealed many other things to us and to our children in His Word, both in terms of promises as well as commands, and He tells us these things pointedly to drive us to pray regarding these same things, intending to utilize our prayers to carry out His perfect will. No, our prayers are not the ground of God’s eternal decrees, but they are the instrument through which God often carries out His will on earth. So, when He gives us warnings in Scripture it is so that we would go to the Lord in prayer concerning these warnings. When He gives us precious promises it is so that we can go to the Lord in prayer concerning these promises, and when He gives us His commands, it is so that we would call upon the Lord to assist us in carrying out His commands.

But since God doesn’t usually tell us the time of our death in advance, there is certainly nothing wrong with asking for a lengthening of days, so long as we understand that we are not actually changing God’s mind through our prayers, but rather humbly submitting ourselves to His eternal decree even as we lift up our earnest desires unto the Lord. But this shouldn’t discourage us from praying, rather it should encourage us to know that the Lord values our prayers so highly, that He planned from before creation to move us to prayer and then use those prayers to carry out His perfect will.