When the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, “See, he has set out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered?”
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I have heard your prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria. This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him: She despises you, she scorns you— virgin daughter Zion; she tosses her head—behind your back, daughter Jerusalem. For from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege-ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/ ).
Hidden away in an often overlooked section of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius recommends that the retreatant begin his prayer by standing a few paces away from where he will pray, looking down at the spot, and making some kind of act of humility and reverence for a few short moments. It may seem like a rather fine detail, but in fact it can make a large difference. The underlying lesson is that our disposition is crucial for how we pray. If I simply plop down and expect to immediately enter into some rather profound meditation on Sacred Scripture, I may pass an entire hour in aimless thoughts and distractions. But with a simple, patient start to the prayer, I am made more receptive to whatever further graces the Lord has set out for me.
Today’s reading from the book of Kings can provide some insight into the disposition to take into prayer, the reverence and humility that St. Ignatius recommends. Hezekiah addresses God in four different ways before moving on to ask divine help. He calls God the God of Israel. He calls Him the one “enthroned upon the cherubim.” He calls Him “alone God over all the kingdoms of the earth.” And he confesses that “You have made the heavens and the earth.” Far from just pious epithets, these phrases help us understand how we too should think of God.
Much could be said on all of this, but what emerges above all else is that God is Holy and Glorious, the source of all power, and the founder and creator of everything we know. Of course, to really come to know what these titles mean is the task of a lifetime, but we should take St. Ignatius’ and Hezekiah’s example and always begin our prayer with a brief recollection of Who it is that we pray to.
—Mr. Timothy Kieras, S.J.
Lord, when we come to you in prayer, we sometimes underestimate your presence. We believe you are “sort of” with us. We are told your love is everlasting, but with all the happenings in the universe how could you possibly give thought to me? When we refocus on You – Almighty Creator, the Son of God who wept for His friend Lazarus, and the Spirit who dwells in every facet of life, we stand in awe of your wondrous love. Let this love and goodness shape our thoughts and guide our behavior. We will embrace the day with renewed confidence in our value and our legacy.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!