Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers
"Pray to the Lord your God on our behalf... that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do."
-- Jeremiah 42:2-3, HCSB
After Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon, the temple burned, and most of the people deported, the remnant left in the land were devastated and sought God's will for their future. Should they remain in the land or go to Egypt?
So they asked Jeremiah the prophet to pray and seek God's will for them. In this scripture we learn four important lessons about praying for God's will.
1) If somebody asks you to pray for God's will, do it! Jeremiah told them, "I have heard, I will now pray to the Lord..." (Jeremiah 42:4).
We should take prayer requests seriously, and make them a high priority. Jeremiah had been willing to pray for the people time and time again, even when they were disobedient, and even when God told him to stop praying. (See Jeremiah 14:11, 19) The prophet Samuel said, "I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you." (1 Samuel 12:23)
2) Don't get in a hurry when praying for God's will. Some people pray quickly and act impulsively, without truly seeking God's direction for their lives, searching the scriptures, considering the alternatives and consequences, and waiting on God's direction. If God's will has not been clearly revealed, do not rush the matter. Jeremiah spent ten days in prayer before God revealed His will to him. "Now at the end of 10 days, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." (Jeremiah 42:7)
3) If you pray for God's will, be prepared to obey. When Jeremiah got an answer, it was not the answer the people wanted to hear. He told them that God said to stay in the land, but they wanted to go to Egypt. They called Jeremiah a liar (Jeremiah 43:2) and accused Jeremiah's scribe Baruch of inciting him to betray them into the hands of the Babylonian army (Jeremiah 43:3). But Jeremiah reminded them. "You have led your own selves astray because you are the ones who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, 'Pray to the Lord our God on our behalf.'" (Jeremiah 42:20) Their actual words to Jeremiah had been "pray to your God," but he was reminding them that the Lord was their God, as well, and they had an obligation to obey Him.
4) The safest place to be is in the center of God's will. When the remnant of Jews decided to disobey God's will, they went to Egypt and forced Jeremiah to go with them. Archaeologists have found there was a remnant of Yahweh worship in southern Egypt that existed for a time in the Elephantine community, but it ceased to exist, and by 410 B.C. they temple was destroyed and all record of this group of Jews was lost. Jeremiah had told them they would be destroyed in Egypt and never return to their homeland (Jeremiah 44:27-30), and his word came true.
Notice the word contrast between Jeremiah 44:27 and the famous and popular verse, Jeremiah 29:11. They are direct opposites. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord promised a future and hope; He promised good and not disaster. But in Jeremiah 44:27, they they refused to follow God's will, He promised disaster and not good. This is an important reminder that Jeremiah 29:11 is not a guarantee that all of us will have a good future. Many people who read Jeremiah 29:11 fail to keep reading in verses 12-13, which instruct us to pray to the Lord and seek Him with all our hearts. The Jewish remnant prayed, but their prayers were insincere. They didn't seek God's will with all their hearts. It may not be easy to follow God's will, but it is always the safest way to go.