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Pray like you mean it

The Old Testament can be a confusing book. Stories of violence and retribution may be hard to reconcile with Jesus’ message of mercy and forgiveness.

However, when we read the account in 2 Kings 6 — specifically verses 15-23 — we can see a foreshadowing of Jesus’ Gospel in the form of the prophet Elisha. (By the way, did you know that the names Elisha and Jesus — Yeshua — mean ‘God Saves’ or ‘God Is My Salvation’?)

Interestingly, like Jesus, Elisha raised the dead (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4), healed those from other lands (2 Kings 5), performed miracles (2 Kings 2, 2 Kings 6) and — as we will see — had an intimate relationship with God, founded on prayer.

Back to the story

During Elisha’s time, Israel was often at war with the Arameans, whose homeland is now located in present-day Syria. God had given Elisha great insight into the King of Aram’s plans and enabled the King of Israel to avoid the traps laid for him.

This made the King of Aram suspicious. How did Israel always know in advance what he intended to do? He suspected a leak in his inner circle. His advisors were quick to defend their innocence and point out that the prophet Elisha was telling the King of Israel their plans, enabling the Israelites to avoid being ambushed.

‘Don’t be afraid’

So, the King of Aram decided to take Elisha out of the picture. He gathered his troops and headed for Dothan where Elisha lived with his servant. When the servant went out early the next morning and saw the strong force of troops massing, he warned Elisha and asked what they should do.

Elisha said, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ (Does this sound like someone you know in Matthew 17, Luke 8 or John 6?) He told his servant that the heavenly horses and chariots outnumbered their enemies.

You could forgive Elisha’s servant for thinking his master had lost his mind. There were two of them against a great army with horses and chariots. Elisha sensed his servant’s unbelief and asked God to show him the spiritual reality of the situation. The servant looked again and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire that surrounded them. He saw the protection of God.

It’s easy to become fearful in the face of the problems we encounter. Like Elisha’s servant, we can focus on the issues confronting us and become overwhelmed. But when we look to God instead of our troubles, we receive the gift of faith, and know that God is on our side and He will provide a way out.

We define the world by our senses — what we can see, hear, smell, touch and taste — and through proprioception (the body’s ability to sense movement, action and location). But there’s also another level — the spiritual plane — where God is at work.

Prayer is an important means of influencing this imperceptible realm. We may not fully understand how it works, but God is involved in the world through prayer. He commands a heavenly army and intercedes for His people. We can be assured that God is in control. He speaks to us, guides us, protects us and — most importantly — loves us.

When we face challenges (maybe not an army of soldiers, but our battles can be just as real), He is there fighting for us. We may not sense Him on a physical level but, on a spiritual level, God is nevertheless at work.

Back again

Returning to the story again, it seems that before the servant had time to understand what he’d seen, the horses and chariots headed towards Elisha. But what would God’s prophet do — would it be a case of fight or flight?

For Elisha, neither was an option. He prayed. His prayer was specific — that God would cause the attacking soldiers to lose their sight (6:18).

The army arrived equipped for battle, but blinded. Elisha told them that they had the wrong location — that they were not in Dothan and the prophet of God wasn’t there. He offered to show them the way and led them to Samaria, the heart of Israel. When they arrived, Elisha restored their sight — another miracle! With God’s help, he had captured the King of Aram’s army.

If you know other Old Testament passages, you’d probably expect the army to be slaughtered, resulting in a great victory for Israel. But not this time! The King of Israel — notably referring to Elisha as ‘father’ — asked if he should kill them.

Instead, Elisha told the King to prepare a feast for the Arameans and send them home — a case of ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11).

We later read, ‘So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory’ (2 Kings 6:23). Rather than seeking retribution and revenge, Elisha chooses the way of grace. It’s a distinctly New Testament resolution to an Old Testament situation. A Jesus-focused way!


Elisha’s prayer was specific. It was tactical. It was inspired. This was a man who walked closely with God. We too have that same access as we pray for MAF’s work today. MAF is not alone. Our organisation is surrounded by God’s spiritual protection and deliverance, as are you.

Pray boldly.

This devotion was written by Adam Pope, Partnership Development, Training and Support Manager, MAF UK.

You can find out more about our overseas staff here.