He became gravely ill, even to the point of death. So, the Great Physician made a house call in the person of Isaiah, the prophet. The diagnosis was not good. He was told that he would not recover and that he should go home and set his house in order. Regardless of age, such news is devastating. Each person handles grief in his or her own unique way. But grief is often accompanied by denial, anger, and depression. Hezekiah, the good king of Judah, about whom these remarks are offered “turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord” (Is. 38:2).
Of all that may have been done in response to the news of his imminent death, Hezekiah chose the best course of action. He prayed. Just as he prayed when Jerusalem was surrounded by the vastly superior force of the Assyrians under the leadership Sennacherib, so also, he prays at the disquieting news of the prophet. In his prayer, he reminds the Lord of his faithfulness and how he had walked before Him in truth with all his heart, doing what was good and right in His sight (vs. 3). Then, he wept with great bitterness.
Weeping is not an indication of a weak faith; nor is a lack thereof an indication of a strong faith. Weeping in the face of heartache is a healthy human emotion. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). The inspired writer of Hebrews reminds us that “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hb. 5:7).
Prayer is a great solace to the grieving heart. Jesus invites us, saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). While this includes the burden we feel as a result of godly sorrow over the guilt of our sins; it also extends in ever-widening circles to every burden that causes us pain. Peter reminds us to cast “all [our] anxiety on Him, because He cares for [us]” (1 Pet. 5:8 cf. Ph. 4:6).
Prayer changes things—even the mind of God. Before Isaiah had even left the premises, God gave him instructions to return to the king with this message: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (vs. 5 cf. 2 Kgs. 20:4). James tells us that “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (5:16). Because prayer is plugging into the power of God, it has the power to add years to our life or life to our years. We know that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 Jn. 5:14).
In a manner of speaking, each has received a diagnosis of impending death. If the Lord should delay in His return, we know that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” (Hb. 9:27). Needed preparation is not so much the avoidance of the inevitable as the sure and certain reality of facing the judgment that is to follow. In view of this, Solomon concluded his twelve-chapter search for the true meaning of life with these words: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Eccl. 12:13). While offered in the context of national judgment, the words of Amos appropriately apply to our own responsibility in this life: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (4:12).