“As for you, do not pray for these people. Do not offer a cry or a prayer on their behalf, and do not beg me, for I will not listen to you.” – Jeremiah 7:16
Three times. Three times God tells Jeremiah not to pray for his nation because their rebellion and rejection of God’s rightful rule and their wickedness and violence towards one another has reached the point where God’s judgment is coming and will “not be quenched” (Jeremiah 7:20).
Some will say, “that only applies to Judah and Israel, not to us.” I don’t think we can wiggle out of it so easily. While the bulk of Jeremiah’s warning falls on Judah, warning of God’s judgment on Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Damascus, Hazor, Elam, and even Babylon are included (Jeremiah 46-51). Israel and Judah provide a picture of how God deals with all nations. Any nation that persists in rebellion and violence will face the unquenchable judgment of God. There comes a point where God says, “do not pray for these people.”
We are not there yet.
Across this nation, the Spirit of God is prompting Christians to pray. Far from a call to stop praying, we are being called to pray with renewed urgency. “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). With this urgency, we are to pray with an ancient focus. “…it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). From the beginning, it has been God’s plan to save rebels. He told Jeremiah to pray that he would see the “great and incomprehensible things” that would make up God’s mercy towards rebels (Jeremiah 33:3). We see clearly what Jeremiah could only know in part. In Jesus Christ, God reconciles His enemies. For this, we pray.
Don’t miss what this urgent, focused prayer requires of us who are already reconciled. We must pray for the salvation and reconciliation of our enemies. Whether they be political, ideological, or national enemies, we must pray for their salvation, not their destruction. We must cry out for God’s mercy on them, not just on us. Don’t forget that for citizens of this nation our economic, social, and religious well-being is inextricably tied together. Where God shows mercy, we all benefit. Where God shows judgment, we all suffer.