Do Not Pray for These People

Today's reading from Jeremiah 7.

Look at the list of wrongs God gives concerning Jerusalem's unfaithfulness. They were lacking in justice as evidenced in their treatment of resident alien's, orphans, and widows. They easily shed the blood of the innocent. They worshiped false gods while continuing in a mocking and heartless worship of God in the temple. As you can see, these are some pretty heavy issues.

However, the question needs to be asked as to if God seriously doesn't want Jeremiah praying for Judah? If we were just reading this one verse divorced from all other Scripture, then we might believe this to be the case. Yet, Scripture must be used to interpret Scripture. When we consider Jesus' teaching on the persistent widow in Luke 18 and other teachings on prayer, then we recognize that God's message to Jeremiah is something a little different.

Through these words, God is conveying that the people of Jerusalem are too far gone. They have willfully neglected and rebelled against Him and His ways for so long that they were unable to receive correction and totally unwilling to repent. Jeremiah was to join God in allowing them to reap that which they had sown.

Oh, the people of Jerusalem might respond to Jeremiah's words or God's actions, but it would be a token act. Instead of teaching their children the ways of God, they were training up the next generation of pagans. What God desired was not another sacrifice. He didn't want the people simply keeping another festival. He wanted the people to receive His love and live in relationship with Him.

As I type this, the thought that keeps going through my mind is about our culture. How many tragedies have we experienced recently? Following those tragedies, how many people have taken to social media or television to utter the words, "thoughts and prayers" to those grieving? What if instead of offering these token words we actually prayed? What might be different if we actually approached the One True God intentionally and on His terms instead of lifting up warm thoughts to some nameless generic "god"?

God doesn't want "thoughts and prayers" in the wake of tragedy. He doesn't want dispassionate and token acts of religiosity. God wants us. He wants to hold those who weep and to comfort those who are grieving. He wants to be in relation with those He loves.