“Pray not for this people…”

Jeremiah-Lamenting-the-Destruction-of-Jerusalem-1630-RembrandtJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, Rembrandt 1630.

God’s laws were given to his people for their protection. The Ten Commandments contain the most practical spiritual, emotional, and economic laws imaginable.

Yet throughout history, many of God’s people have either rebelled against or ignored those laws, to their own detriment.

One day as I was re-reading the book of Jeremiah, several verses stood out…

In Jeremiah 7:16 God tells Jeremiah, “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.”

Again in Jeremiah 11:14 God says, “Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.”

And in Jeremiah 14:11-12 He reiterates, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”

Did you realize these verses were in the Bible?  Many times Christians are commanded to pray, to intercede — yet here God told Jeremiah not to. Why?

Because over and over the people had been told the consequences of breaking God’s laws and they had ignored the warnings. So now they wouldn’t be getting any more warnings, they would be getting the consequences. War. Famine. Disease. Captivity. (Or fires, tornados, floods, earthquakes, typhoons…?)

Prayer without intervention, without corresponding works and without repentance on the part of God’s people, just isn’t enough.

Is the day coming when God won’t hear our prayers for the United States?

In Jeremiah Chapters 42-43, a group of people requested Jeremiah to ask God for them what they should do, whether they should stay in the land under the rule of Babylon, or whether they should take the easy route and go to Egypt where they would be “safe.”

They declared that whatever God said, that’s what they would do. (42:6) So, Jeremiah asked God what they should do.

God said if they stayed put in their own land they would be okay, but if they went into Egypt they would be destroyed. Jeremiah gave the people God’s answer, but they didn’t like it. Instead of staying put like God told them, they went to Egypt and forced Jeremiah to go with them — and sure enough, they were destroyed.

Jeremiah is called the Weeping Prophet because he was grief-stricken over the sin of his nation, over the fact that the people kept ignoring God’s warnings. At one point he wanted to quit because the people were ridiculing him.

In Jeremiah 20:7, he said “I am in derision daily, everyone mocks me.” In verse 9 he says, “Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any  more in His name. But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing, and I could not refrain.” He continued warning the people, though they continued ignoring his warnings.

What might this mean for us today?

Unless we keep speaking out, standing up and intervening, and unless the people of our nation heed the warnings, there may come a day when God tells us to quit praying.

(Reposted from February, 2007 – still appropriate.)