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Praying Through the Bible #86
TEXT: Jeremiah 42:1-7
Has someone ever asked you for something, and even though they said all the right words and had the right expression on their face, you detected insincerity in their request? Unfortunately, we can offer insincere prayers to God as well. Our prayers can sometimes lack transparency. To put it bluntly, we can try to fool God with our prayers forgetting that He already knows our hearts before we even open our mouths.
We see an example of insincerity in prayer in our passage today. As you know, the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah and took many of the inhabitants of that land in chains to Babylon. Only a small remnant was left behind under the leadership of a governor appointed by the king of Babylon. After the Babylonians left Judah, this governor was assassinated by a Jewish army officer. Shortly thereafter, another army officer named Johanan deposed the murderer and was appointed the leader of the Jewish remnant. Johanan intended to lead the remnant out of the desolate land of Judah down to Egypt to escape any further Babylonian wrath.
Our passage tells us that he and the other leaders of the remnant go to Jeremiah and ask him to pray to God for them in order to get God’s perspective on what they should do. However, we quickly find out that something is not quite right about this prayer request.
1. We have a case of false humility and insincerity. Verse 2 tells us that Johanon “said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.”
On the surface, it sounds like the Israelites are on the right track. It appears as though they have humbled themselves and are willing to listen to God and God’s prophet on this matter. The land of Judah had been ravaged by war, and to escape the uncertain future of their own homeland, they are planning to go down to Egypt. But, they come to Jeremiah seeking the Lord’s advice first. However, as we will see from later verses, their actions and words are only a show of piousness and humility.
Notice what Johanon tells Jeremiah. He says, ‘Go and pray to YOUR God so YOUR God will tell us which way to go.’ His words communicate a sense of distance from God. The people do not claim God as their own. They do not call Him their Lord. They are not truly ready to submit to Him.
Notice, now, how Jeremiah responds. He says, “I will pray to the Lord YOUR God according to YOUR request, and whatever the Lord answers YOU I will tell you…” Jeremiah wants the people to understand that if they are truly seeking God’s direction, they must be willing to respond in submission to the Lord. He refuses to be a middle man between them and God, and even though he is going to go to God in prayer for them, God’s answer will be one that they have to respond to.
How many of us are good at carrying ourselves in a manner that makes us appear humble? We know how to act as though we are in tune with God when in reality we are distant from Him. Part of real humility is truly desiring what God wants and being willing to give up what we want. Andrew Murray said, ”God often cannot hear the prayers on our lips because the desires of our heart after the world cry out to Him much more strongly and loudly than our desires for Him.” What does God hear when you pray to Him?
When we look at Johanon’s words, it seems as though the children of Israel are taking a positive step toward true humility after all that they had been through. But Jeremiah detects the insincerity of their request. They are not as close to God as they try to appear. Their words do not line up with what is in their hearts.
When we pray, we must choose to humble ourselves, let go of what we want, and be open to what God wants. We must refuse the temptation to couch our prayers in spiritual terms that we think are pleasing to God. We cannot want God to say “yes” to us alone; we must be humble enough to be willing to say “yes” to Him.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in twenty-three foreign countries. He is the author of thirty-four books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts, The Prayer Motivator Devotional and the Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report and the Second Coming Watch Update. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, and a Master’s degree in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for twenty-five years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.