Jeremiah 37:3 King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”
This little detail is both very human and very ironic. In the verse ahead of this it’s just been recorded that neither the king nor the people were paying any attention to what God had said through Jeremiah up to this point, but now the king wants Jeremiah to pray for them! We encounter that all the time even today. People want the protection and blessings of God, but they don’t want to obey Him! Zedekiah was the son of a very devout, righteous king, but it doesn’t seem to have rubbed off. He only knew the outward forms, and didn’t have a personal relationship with the Lord. However, he knew without question that Jeremiah was a man of God, so he tried to get God’s help through Jeremiah. This strikes me as very similar to people praying to various saints rather than directly to God, when Jesus went so far as to tell His disciples, “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27) When we have a direct connection to the Source, why go through an intermediary? Zedekiah wasn’t as openly defiant as his nephew Jehoiachin, who we learn in the chapter before this burned a scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies, but neither did he have the spine to oppose some of his advisors, who threw Jeremiah into a cistern in the chapter after this. God draws close to those who choose to draw close to Him. As we read just a few days ago, God promises that He will allow Himself to be found by those who seek Him with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) When we find Him that way, we have great assurance that He indeed listens to our prayers and gives us what is best.
This is a factor in prayer that I’m not sure I have covered sufficiently in the past three months of preaching on prayer. As I have commented before, I grew up in a home where prayer was as natural as breathing, because my parents both had a clear, personal relationship with the One to whom they were praying. Going through the motions was thus easy for me, as was loving God, actually, but a deep personal relationship was something I had to grow into, and I’m still doing it! I feel like I’m in a little bit of a “catch 22” about this. I want the believers to pray, frequently and in faith, but their relationship with the Lord has to go deeper for that really to happen. At the same time, their relationship with the Lord isn’t going to mature without a lot of prayer! The key is the choice to obey, and not be like King Zedekiah, who didn’t pay attention to what God was saying. I have long felt that James was writing specifically for me: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) This isn’t legalism, but it is the choice to obey.
Father, I have chosen not to obey You more times than I could count, but You love me anyway. Thank You for Your truly amazing grace. Help me communicate that grace sufficiently that people will fall in love with You, repenting of their wrong choices and choosing You more and more consistently, growing into the deep fellowship with You that You desire, for their blessing and Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Praise God!