A Warning Against Insincere Prayers (Part 2)

Praying Through the Bible #87

TEXT: Jeremiah 42:1-7

Last week, we began looking at the insincere prayer of Johanan and the people of Israel. They had been left behind after the Babylonians took many of their fellow countrymen captive. They had already determined to go down to Egypt to escape further Babylonian wrath. However, they gave a pretense of spirituality and being in tune with God by asking Jeremiah to pray for them and to seek God’s direction on their behalf.

We saw, first, a case of false humility — the children of Israel were not truly humble before God. They were still determined to have their own way. They were only pretending to want God’s direction for their situation, and if God’s answer to their prayer did not line up with what they wanted to do, they had already decided that they were going to ignore what God said.

2. In the sad case of Johanon and the remnant of Israel, we have a case of determined willfulness. Now, Johanon and his people already had their minds made up that they were going to go down to Egypt. But in verse 5, they said to Jeremiah, “The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us.” We will see that these are simply pious words from people who still have sinful hearts.

The children of Israel do not really desire the Lord’s guidance on this matter. In fact, they already know what God is going to say about it because God’s prophets, including Jeremiah, had warned Israel and Judah against turning to Egypt for help numerous times. What they are really doing here is asking God to condone what they have already planned to do.

3. We have a case of final disobedience. The Bible says in verse 7, “And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.” God responds to Jeremiah’s prayer request after a period of ten days. Why did God wait so long to answer? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Perhaps God was giving the Jews a chance to get their hearts right with Him and to come to Him in honesty and sincerity. But, they don’t take that chance.

In His answer, God expresses His knowledge of their hearts. He knew that they were thinking that if they could get down to Egypt, they would not have anymore trouble. They would not suffer through famine or war. In Egypt, they could rebuild their lives that had been destroyed by their own sin and the punishment that God had sent through the Babylonians.

However, God warns His people against going down to Egypt. He tells them that if they put their trust in Egypt instead of in Him, all of the calamities that they are trying to escape in Judah will happen to them in Egypt instead. However, if they trust God and remain in the land, God will bless them and provide for all of their needs.

Sadly, the Bible reports, “So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah.”

Sometimes, when we ask God to show us His will, we think we want to do it, but deep in our hearts we know that we may not do it at all if we don’t like what He tells us to do. When we pray, we must be truly humble in our hearts and be ready to obey God’s will so that our prayers will be sincere in God’s sight, and so that He will be inclined to hear us and answer us.


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