A Warning Against Insincere Prayers (Part 1)

Praying Through the Bible #86

TEXT: Jeremiah 42:1-7

Has someone ever asked you for something, and even though they said all the right words and had the right expression on their face, you detected insincerity in their request? Unfortunately, we can offer insincere prayers to God as well. Our prayers can sometimes lack transparency. To put it bluntly, we can try to fool God with our prayers forgetting that He already knows our hearts before we even open our mouths.

We see an example of insincerity in prayer in our passage today. As you know, the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah and took many of the inhabitants of that land in chains to Babylon. Only a small remnant was left behind under the leadership of a governor appointed by the king of Babylon. After the Babylonians left Judah, this governor was assassinated by a Jewish army officer. Shortly thereafter, another army officer named Johanan deposed the murderer and was appointed the leader of the Jewish remnant. Johanan intended to lead the remnant out of the desolate land of Judah down to Egypt to escape any further Babylonian wrath.

Our passage tells us that he and the other leaders of the remnant go to Jeremiah and ask him to pray to God for them in order to get God’s perspective on what they should do. However, we quickly find out that something is not quite right about this prayer request.

1. We have a case of false humility and insincerity. Verse 2 tells us that Johanon “said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.”

On the surface, it sounds like the Israelites are on the right track. It appears as though they have humbled themselves and are willing to listen to God and God’s prophet on this matter. The land of Judah had been ravaged by war, and to escape the uncertain future of their own homeland, they are planning to go down to Egypt. But, they come to Jeremiah seeking the Lord’s advice first. However, as we will see from later verses, their actions and words are only a show of piousness and humility.

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