Why Pray? Jeremiah 33:1-3
Christians talk a lot about prayer. Slogans like “Prayer changes things” and “Nothing of eternal value is ever accomplished apart from prayer” fill plaques on our walls and are etched in the data bases of our minds. For all of our verbiage, I am not sure that we really believe what we say. It is my observation that the church in the twenty-first century doesn’t really believe in the power or the importance of prayer. I base this conclusion on several bits of evidence. It is a popular move among some churches to eliminate prayer meetings. A number of pastors do not believe prayer is important in doing God’s work. Finally, many in the church do not pray much at all.
What does God say to all of this? The most eloquent answer is in Jeremiah 33. When God speaks the words we are about to explore, Jeremiah, His obedient prophet, is sitting in the courtyard of a prison. He is a prisoner, not because he has done anything wrong, but because he has done everything right. He has obeyed God and proclaimed the politically incorrect message that God wanted him to preach. In this dark hour, the LORD speaks once more to Jeremiah and exhorts him to pray.
If anyone had a reason not to pray, it was Jeremiah. He did exactly what God wanted him to do. Look where it got him. Did he have health, wealth, and prosperity? No, he had a prison life, an unpopular persona, and an uncertain future. At the very moment the LORD spoke to him, Babylon was building siege ramps outside Jerusalem to breach the city walls. The present circumstances were not fun, and the future did not look promising for Jeremiah
The LORD not only gave Jeremiah an unpopular message, He also commanded him to do something that looked insane. Jeremiah was to redeem his nephew’s land, which was not under swamp water, but under the feet of an invading army. What in the world was God doing? Whatever it was, it didn’t make any sense to Jeremiah. Although he did not understand, he very carefully obeyed the command. We can readily see why Jeremiah could be reluctant to pray. Yet, pray he did in Jeremiah 32:17-25, and praying was what God wanted Jeremiah to do again.
Understanding Jeremiah’s reluctance, the LORD gave His prophet several reasons to pray. First, Jeremiah should pray because God answers prayer. “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison.” (Jeremiah 33:1).The LORD, who had spoken to him before, talked to Him again. God responded to prayer before and Jeremiah needed to recognize that the LORD would answer prayer again.
Often we are like the Children of Israel in the wilderness, we forget what God did for us in the past. In Exodus 17:3-7, we read: “The people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’ Then Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The LORD answered Moses, ‘Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” Do you know what happened in the sixty days prior to this? Let us review. The last of the ten plagues was wrought upon Egypt and they let Israel go. God delivered the people at the Red Sea. He supernaturally gave them water to drink at Marah. He provided them Manna at the Desert of Sin. The LORD gave His people the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to remind them visually that He had not forgotten them or departed from them. What more could He do? A little trouble came their way, and what did these ungrateful people do? They whined and blasphemed God. Then they sought to destroy His leaders. They forgot and did not pray.
We don’t do things like that, do we? When we find ourselves unmotivated to pray and indulging in a little self-pity as the wilderness wanderers did, let us remind ourselves what God has already done and what prayers He has already answered. This fact alone will motivate us to pray.
God gave Jeremiah a second reason to pray. He should pray because of who God is. “Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name).” (Jeremiah 33:2) What does ‘it’ refer to in this statement? ‘It’ could be Jerusalem, (the city which was the symbol of God’s covenant with Israel). ‘It’ also could be the earth (as some of the newer translations assume). ‘It’ might be all things. From the verses to follow in Jeremiah 33, ‘it’ probably ‘refers to the future.
The God into whose throne room we rush is not only the God who made all created things. He is also the one who creates, forms, and establishes the future. He controls what is ahead This is the very point that Peter and John raise in their prayer with the early church when persecution came. Acts 4:24 and verses 27-28: “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them. For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” They sought the Sovereign God who created, formed, and established the future!
We talk to the sovereign God also when we pray. He is more than just the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Apostle Paul. He is more than the God of history. He is the God who creates the future. Tomorrow is in the palm of His hand. This fact alone should supremely motivate us to pray.
God supplied one other fact to motivate Jeremiah to pray. He said, “(the LORD is His name).” (Jeremiah 33:2). The name of God here is the name Yahweh. Yahweh was and is the always faithful, covenant-keeping God of Israel. The God who always kept His promises called Jeremiah to pray.
The LORD called to Jeremiah in the courtyard of the prison and said to him. “Jeremiah, call unto me.” After motivating Jeremiah to pray, God gave Jeremiah an incredible promise if he would pray.
God’s promised that He would answer him and show him great and mighty things that he did not know. What things would God do?
First, He would give Judah a future. The Babylonians would conquer them, as Jeremiah had preached, but unlike many other peoples, Judah would not cease to exist. God would judge sin, but God would give them a future. “Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.” (Jeremiah 33:6-8)
A second future fact that Jeremiah did not know was that God d would take care of him. If you are in prison for prophesying the invasion of your home country, you can wonder what will happen to you when the enemy comes. God provided safety to Jeremiah. Jeremiah would not die in the Babylonian invasion.
Finally, Jeremiah did not know God would vindicate him. While his current popularity polls were not good, God’s people recognized he was indeed a prophet sent from God and preserved his book as Scripture. Now many centuries later we are still reading what God said through him.
Do we remember all that great and mighty things God has done for us because we have prayed? Do we remember how God answered our prayers in the past and made provision for us? Do we realize that when we pray, we talk to the God who holds our future in the hollow of His hand? Let us make it a point to pray.