Day 191

Invisible but Invaluable

Wisdom Psalm 83:1–18
New Testament Acts 28:1–16
Old Testament 2 Kings 19:14–20:21


Every Monday morning, he would phone our offices. He would ask about the events and services taking place during the week, and the people involved in them. For decades, Charles and his prayer group have faithfully supported the church in prayer. They are examples of many in our church who intercede for us. Their prayers may be invisible but they are also invaluable.

The word ‘intercession’ generally means praying for someone else (although, it can also be used of praying for oneself). We are all called to intercession. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority’ (1 Timothy 2:1–2).

Jesus is the great intercessor. He ‘made intercession for the transgressors’ (Isaiah 53:12). He ‘is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us’ (Romans 8:34; see also Hebrews 7:25). The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us and through us: ‘The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express… the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will’ (Romans 8:26–27).

In the Old Testament passage for today, we see Isaiah’s role as an intercessor. Interceding for others is part of the role of a prophet. Intercession was also made by kings, for example, David, Solomon, and Hezekiah. You, too, are called to this invisible but invaluable ministry.


Psalm 83:1–18

A song. A psalm of Asaph.

1 O God, do not remain silent;
   do not turn a deaf ear,
   do not stand aloof, O God.
2 See how your enemies growl,
   how your foes rear their heads.
3 With cunning they conspire against your people;
   they plot against those you cherish.
4 “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
   so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

5 With one mind they plot together;
   they form an alliance against you—
6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
   of Moab and the Hagrites,
7 Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
   Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
8 Even Assyria has joined them
   to reinforce Lot’s descendants.

9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
   as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who perished at Endor
   and became like dung on the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
   all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession
   of the pasturelands of God.”

13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
   like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest
   or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so pursue them with your tempest
   and terrify them with your storm.
16 Cover their faces with shame, LORD,
   so that they will seek your name.

17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
   may they perish in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD —
   that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.


Intercede for seekers

This psalm is a prayer of intercession – interceding for people to have knowledge of God’s final vindication, and for this to result in conversion prior to that final day.

The surrounding nations want to destroy the people of God (v.4). Yet, the psalmist sees this more as an attack on God himself. He refers to them as ‘your enemies’ (v.2) who ‘form an alliance against you’ (v.5). This is a reminder that an attack on the people of God is ultimately an attack on God.

The prayer of the psalm is that God’s enemies will be routed (vv.9–15). However, it is also intercession for conversion: ‘Cover their faces with shame so that they will seek your name, O LORD’ (v.16). There is an inherent desire that others would seek the one true God: ‘Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth’ (v.18).


Lord, I pray for all those currently on [Alpha](, that they will seek your name. I pray that you will act; that you will not keep silent; that people know that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
New Testament

Acts 28:1–16

Paul Ashore on Malta

28 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honoured us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Paul’s Arrival at Rome

11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.


Intercede for healing

I have sometimes heard it suggested that Christians should no longer pray for miraculous physical healing. It is argued that miracles of healing were particular to the ministry of Jesus and the immediate period after his death and resurrection. Some have even suggested that in the period covered by the book of Acts, miracles were already dying out. However, this is clearly not the case.

When a viper fastened itself on Paul’s hand, he shook off the snake into the fire and suffered no ill effects (vv.3–5). Here we are in the last chapter of Acts and we read of how Paul is an example of Jesus’ prophecy about those who believe in him: ‘They will pick up snakes with their hands’ (Mark 16:18).

When Paul and those with him were in Malta they met with Publius, the chief official of the island: ‘He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him’ (Acts 28:7–8).

This is such a simple model for us to follow. First, when Paul heard that Publius’ father was sick, he acted in faith. He believed God was able to heal him so, ‘[He] went in to see him’ (v.8).

Second, he acted with boldness. Publius’ father was presumably not a Christian. Yet Paul was courageous enough to offer to pray for him, and to do so publicly, laying hands on him. It might have been tempting to think, ‘What if he’s not healed?’ ‘Will I look a failure?’ ‘Will it bring the gospel into disrepute?’ But Paul took a risk. He acted in faith. He prayed, laid hands on him and God healed him. ‘When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured’ (vv.7–9).

Far from dying out, there is an explosion of miraculous healing as the book of Acts comes to an end. Luke clearly sees that this is something that continues in the life of the church. The real question is not, ‘Does God heal today?’, but, ‘Does God answer prayer today?’ If he does, why would we exclude something as important as health? Prayer for healing is an important part of intercession.

Pippa and I have prayed for so many people over the years. It is certainly far from the case that all have been healed. We do not pray for the sick because they all get healed. We pray for them because Jesus told us to do so. Over these years we have sometimes seen extraordinary healings. Do not be discouraged. Keep on praying with faith and boldness, love and sensitivity.


Lord, help us to have the courage to take every opportunity to lay hands upon those who are sick and to pray for their healing. Thank you that you are a God who heals today.
Old Testament

2 Kings 19:14–20:21

Hezekiah’s Prayer

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

17 “It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.”

Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall

20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. 21 This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him:

  “‘Virgin Daughter Zion
   despises you and mocks you.
  Daughter Jerusalem
   tosses her head as you flee.
22 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
   Against whom have you raised your voice
  and lifted your eyes in pride?
   Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers
   you have ridiculed the Lord.
  And you have said,
   “With my many chariots
  I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
   the utmost heights of Lebanon.
  I have cut down its tallest cedars,
   the choicest of its junipers.
  I have reached its remotest parts,
   the finest of its forests.
24 I have dug wells in foreign lands
   and drunk the water there.
  With the soles of my feet
   I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.”

25 “‘Have you not heard?
   Long ago I ordained it.
  In days of old I planned it;
   now I have brought it to pass,
  that you have turned fortified cities
   into piles of stone.
26 Their people, drained of power,
   are dismayed and put to shame.
  They are like plants in the field,
   like tender green shoots,
 l ike grass sprouting on the roof,
   scorched before it grows up.

27 “‘But I know where you are
   and when you come and go
   and how you rage against me.
28 Because you rage against me
   and because your insolence has reached my ears,
  I will put my hook in your nose
   and my bit in your mouth,
  and I will make you return
   by the way you came.’

29 “This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:

  “This year you will eat what grows by itself,
   and the second year what springs from that.
  But in the third year sow and reap,
   plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
30 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah
   will take root below and bear fruit above.
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
   and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

32 “Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:

   “‘He will not enter this city
  or shoot an arrow here.
   He will not come before it with shield
  or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
   he will not enter this city,
   declares the LORD.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
   for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.

Hezekiah’s Illness

20 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”

9 Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”

10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”

11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

Envoys From Babylon

12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armoury and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”

15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

20 As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 21 Hezekiah rested with his ancestors. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.


Intercede for deliverance

Sometimes in your own life you may be faced with seemingly overwhelming problems. This is a great model of how to deal with them. Hezekiah did not despair. He did not panic. He did not give up. He turned to God in prayer.

This account of Hezekiah’s prayer and God’s deliverance is recorded three times in the Old Testament (see also Isaiah 36–39 and 2 Chronicles 32). Further, the events of this period are corroborated by Babylonian sources.

When Hezekiah received the threatening letter and was faced with a seemingly overwhelming problem, ‘He went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD’ (2 Kings 19:14). He prayed to the Lord, ‘O LORD… you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see… Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God’ (vv.15–19).

Hezekiah’s intercession begins by consciously recognising who God is. When we intercede we are speaking to the one who alone is, ‘God over all the kingdoms of the earth’ (v.15). God has the power to resolve these seemingly overwhelming problems.

Hezekiah’s prayer was for God’s honour and glory, ‘so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God’ (v.19). Jesus taught us to start our prayers, ‘Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:9–10).

I love the expression, ‘He… spread it out before the LORD’ (2 Kings 19:14). Hezekiah spoke to God about the problem. The prophet Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah saying that God had heard his prayer. He delivered the people from the threat of the Assyrians in answer to Hezekiah’s intercession.

Hezekiah also prayed for his healing. He was ill, at the point of death (20:1), and he interceded on his own behalf: ‘Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD’ (v.2). Again, God answered his intercession: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you… I will add fifteen years to your life’ (vv.5–6).

Hezekiah experienced God’s amazing blessings in answer to his intercession. However, the passage ends with a note of warning. When envoys came from Babylon, Hezekiah showed off all his treasures (vv.12–15). He appeared to be taking the glory for all that the Lord had given him. Isaiah told him that as a result, ‘nothing will be left’ (v.17). If we take the glory for what the Lord does for us, it is at our own peril.


Lord, as we look around at the state of our city, our nation and our world, we need your deliverance. You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see. Pour out your Holy Spirit again. May we see people seeking your name again. May we see miracles of healing. May we see the evangelisation of our nation, the revitalisation of the church and the transformation of society, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.

Pippa adds

In Acts 28:15 , we see Paul arrive, finally in Rome. It says, ‘The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us’. At the sight of these people he thanked God and was encouraged. After such a long and traumatic journey, no wonder he was pleased to see the Christian community awaiting his arrival. Even though travelling is now so much easier, Nicky and I really appreciate the kind, smiling people who have met us at airports, driven us to our destination and generally looked after us. Wherever we have been in the world the Christian community has been so kind and has support us in so many amazing ways.

Verse of the Day

2 Kings 20:5

‘This is what the LORD… says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you’.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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