The story of Jehoshaphat is found in 2 Chronicles 20, and the situation was dire. Jehoshaphat was being attacked by three large enemy nations and was paralyzed by fear. What he did was an excellent example of what we need to do in times of crisis: he “set his face to seek the Lord” (2Ch 20:3). With all the nation of Judah before him, he stood in the court of the temple and prayed to his God.
What is our first response when faced with difficult situations? We need to challenge ourselves – is prayer a last resort or a first response? Has prayer become a crutch for us to pick up when it’s difficult to walk or is it a vibrant part of our daily lives?
There is a good reason why Jehoshaphat turned to God in this time of crisis. If we go back a few chapters and explore his life, a number of key factors emerge. In chapter 17 it says the Lord was with him because he walked in the ways of his father, David. He sought God and walked in His commandments. His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord and he removed the false places of worship. Although he was far from perfect, he had a teachable spirit. When he was rebuked by the man of God in chapter 19, he repented and “set his heart to seek the Lord.” He went throughout his kingdom bringing his people back to the Lord and teaching them to fear the Lord.
The reason he “set his face to seek the Lord” was that he had already “set his heart to seek the Lord.” The secret to making prayer a priority and a first response in times of crisis is this very thing – setting our hearts to seek the Lord. If our hearts are right with God and if we are enjoying daily communion and closeness with Him, seeking His face will be the automatic response.
His short, nine-sentence prayer has important lessons for us to learn (2Ch 20:6-12). In verse six, he ascribes rightful greatness to his God. He gives God the credit for being who He is – the God of our fathers, the God of heaven, Ruler of kingdoms, the One with a hand of great power and might. Do we pray little box-sized prayers that reflect a stunted concept of God, or do we approach the throne of grace with “large petitions” that reflect an understanding of the greatness of the God we worship? Faith is deepened as we learn more of the character of our God.
In verse seven, Jehoshaphat takes a look back at past blessings and victories that God brought to His people when He drove out the enemies before them. It is essential in our prayer life to remember and recount to our God how He has worked in days past. I am not advocating living in the past, but it is faith-inducing to recall God’s mighty deeds of days gone by. Imagine those desperate, scared, feeble people remembering the victory of the Red Sea when God rescued them from the looming Egyptian army. What courage it would have inspired in them to recall the day that Jericho’s great fortress walls crumbled to the ground at the command of the Lord. The principle is exactly the same in our lives. Faith is strengthened as we appreciate God’s sovereign power.
Not only did Jehoshaphat remember the past, he reiterated God’s promise made to King Solomon regarding His people who would find themselves in danger (2Ch 7:12-14). In verse nine of our present chapter, he told God, “If … [we] cry out to you in our affliction … you will hear and save.” Based on this promise that God made years before at the dedication of the temple, Jehoshaphat proceeded to state his problem to the Lord, clearly and specifically. As he did this, he acknowledged his utter weakness and absolute dependence upon his God. If we are going to live the life of faith, it is essential that we recognize our own weakness and learn to depend upon the Lord in all things.
As Jehoshaphat and the nation waited before the Lord, He graciously gave an answer through His spokesman, Jahaziel. Sometimes God uses His more widely recognized and public men, and other times He uses His obscure and unknown servants to deliver His message. Such is the case in this situation. When news came from the Lord of His blessing, abiding presence, and salvation, the reaction of Jehoshaphat was immediate. Even before the victory was physically achieved, he celebrated by bowing before the Lord in worship and praise. Then the Levites began to praise and the singers began to lift their voices to the army, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2Ch 20:21). As they were singing, the Lord began to work and the enemy nations began to fight with one another to their own demise.
While we don’t have enemy nations coming up the street, tearing down our buildings, stabbing us with swords, and shooting us with arrows, we do live in enemy territory and we do have needs that require total faith in our God. I love the words of the psalmist, “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (Psa 116:2 NLT).
After they collected the spoil, on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah (2Ch 20:26). I remember speaking a message of encouragement on this to the believers in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, during one of my early gospel series with Albert Hull. The meaning of the name Beracah is significant, for it means “blessing.” They gathered in the “valley of blessing.”
God’s blessing comes in many different forms. For the gospel meetings in Annapolis Valley, it wasn’t in the form of souls being saved, but it was a personal blessing I experienced in my own soul, as God used a mighty man of faith to impact my life. His example and guidance provided spiritual blessing that helped me immeasurably. When we pray, we must be waiting on God for the answer He gives. We must be aware and conscious that sometimes God’s blessings are different from our longings. May God encourage all of us to “set our hearts” and “our faces to seek the Lord.”
 All Scripture references in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.