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Today’s culture mocks devotion to the Christian lifestyle and obedience to God’s Word. Declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ is unpopular. Even sharing the truth of God’s Word and reminding Christians of the consequences of disobedience to God is unwelcome. When the truth falls on deaf ears it can be heartbreaking, we can feel ineffective, become discouraged, angry, disappointed and selfish in our prayers.
Can you imagine how Jeremiah felt after proclaiming God’s messages and warnings to the Israelites, God’s chosen people? From his prayers we can imagine his disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and yes, even anger. Consider Jeremiah’s prayer:
Jeremiah 17:14-18 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
if you save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for you alone!
15 People scoff at me and say,
“What is this ‘message from the Lord’ you talk about?
Why don’t your predictions come true?”
16 Lord, I have not abandoned my job
as a shepherd for your people.
I have not urged you to send disaster.
You have heard everything I’ve said.
17 Lord, don’t terrorize me!
You alone are my hope in the day of disaster.
18 Bring shame and dismay on all who persecute me,
but don’t let me experience shame and dismay.
Bring a day of terror on them.
Yes, bring double destruction upon them! Yes, bring double destruction upon them!
What is evident when you read this prayer?
I saw and heard three (3) things in Jeremiah’s prayer when I read it ALOUD:
- Personal relationship. Jeremiah’s attention is on his personal relationship with Jehovah God. It’s personal; it’s all about him (Jeremiah).
- Emotionalism mingled with faith. He acknowledges his faith in God to heal him because he is distressed, hurt (broken in spirit). He also acknowledges his faith in God to save (rescue and protect) him from the attacks of those who scoffs and mocks him because of his messages and warnings of disastrous judgment from God.
- Personal defense. He continues by expressing his faithfulness, consistency and persistence in his assignment. In essence, Jeremiah defends himself by saying, “I’ve done my job—I have done what You chose me to do, and I’ve said what You told me to say. Lord, this is Your plan; not mine.”
- Personal vindication/retaliation. After presenting his defense by reminding God of his obedience in carrying out his assignment, he then ask God to not let him be the object of terror or let him be destroyed. He acknowledges his hope (expectation) is in God alone when the time of disaster comes. However, he closes his prayer by expressing his desire for retaliation (vengeance) against those who persecuted him for doing his job. Basically, he unashamedly ask God to follow through with His plan to destroy those who persecuted him.
Important to note: God does not acknowledge Jeremiah’s prayer! In verse 19, God gives him another assignment with the command: “GO and stand in the gates of Jerusalem…”
Can you relate to Jeremiah’s personal conversation with God? Jeremiah’s prayer is really no different than ours when we are feeling overwhelmed in life and ministry, frustrated by challenges, and disappointed by people who hurt us, particularly those we are trying to help. Sometimes we may feel ineffective, yet we must be careful not to let our feelings of rejection and discouragement sabotage our faith and trust in the sovereignty of our God to the point that we are praying out of emotions instead of our spirit, which should be aligned with God’s will.
The next time you are frustrated, feeling overwhelmed, disappointed and discouraged, how will you pray?
No matter how perplexing or challenging your situation is your prayers do not have to be. They should be specific, but keep ’em simple. God is not impressed with lengthy prayers and flattering words to show off your vast vocabulary. Notwithstanding, there is absolutely nothing wrong with intelligent, articulate prayers. However, it’s not about being grammatically correct and fancy words; it’s about a believing heart. Since the Lord knows everything, there is no need to pretend. It is not your vocabulary that gets God’s attention, it is your faith.
Your faith in God, your relationship with Jesus Christ and your commitment to that relationship, regardless of your adversity, give you the privilege of talking to the Creator of the Universe, our Father, in your native language to express your needs and concerns in simplicity. After all, God can even interpret your silence because He hears your heart and sees your faith.
Wrong motives – “You ask and you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasure” (James 4:3). Selfishness is one of the greatest hindrances to answered prayer. Petitioning God for selfish reasons is certain to keep your prayers from being answered. Over indulgence is sin. Matt. 20:20-22; Luke 12:13-15). Note a proper motive is recorded in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. In other words, whatever you ask for in prayer and whatever you do in deeds (works) the motive should be to give God glory.
Psalm 66:18 and Isaiah 59:2 in no uncertain terms makes it clear that unconfessed sin in our heart is a hindrance to answered prayers. Always ask the Lord to cleanse and purify your heart and mind so that you can approach Him properly with the assurance that He will hear your prayers, and in His timing grant your request.
There is no need to try to impress others. We are all uniquely and wonderfully made in God’s image (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 1:26). We are complete in Him, (Colossians 2:10) and loved unconditionally by Him.
Trying to impress other people is like saying you are dissatisfied with who God made you to be. Be yourself and talk to your personal God. “And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).
When praying with others, there is always a danger of being more concerned with what they think about your prayers than being concerned with the One to whom your prayers are directed. Never try to impress people when you pray and God is certainly not impressed by prayers.