When God Says, ‘Don’t Pray’

Praying Through the Bible #82

TEXT: Jeremiah 7:1-16

The Bible is replete with commands, admonishments, encouragement, and even incentives to pray. However, this passage in Jeremiah is quite interesting because, from our feeble, human perspective, God is doing something that we would not expect Him to do. In this passage, God tells Jeremiah not to pray. It might be hard to imagine that God would say such a thing to one of His chosen ministers. But, yet, here it is in the pages of Scripture.

What would prompt God to issue such a directive? Why would God tell one of His servants to cease doing something that is good? As we seek to understand this passage, we must grapple with three aspects of this instance when God says, ‘do not pray.’

1. First, let’s consider the prophet. As we read this passage, we are hearing “the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord.” God commanded the prophet Jeremiah to “stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word…”

Jeremiah was a praying prophet. Samuel E. Balentine said, “Prophets in ancient Israel were specialists in prayer, and among the prophets, Jeremiah was a prophet of prayer par excellence.” Jeremiah interceded for the people, bringing their requests and responses to God. Some of Jeremiah’s prayers have been called confessions because they closely resemble the prayers of David in the book of Psalms as Jeremiah is honest about his feelings before God. Balentine goes on to say that Jeremiah prayed “prayers of confession and lament…with the fervent hope that God’s intervention would be both immediate and specific.”

2. The people. In verse two God says, “Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord.”

The first thing we notice about the people of Judah is that they are religious. God is speaking specifically to those who enter into the Temple to worship Him. God is talking to the “church people”, if you will. And what does God have to say to them? Look at verse 3: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.”

3. The punishment. Because the people of Judah would not repent, God tells them in verse 16, “I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.”

God had warned them through his prophet, Jeremiah, but the people of Judah would not listen. They were stubborn. They wanted to continue going up to the Temple pretending to be righteous, but not obeying God’s laws. God tells them to look to the land which had been occupied by the other ten tribes. That land had been destroyed because they would not heed the warnings of God’s prophets, and time is running out for Judah as well.

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