“Now all the captains of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, ‘Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see), that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do” (Jeremiah 42:1-3).
When you pray to God, how do you want God to answer your prayer? Deep down inside, do you expect Him to answer your prayer according to your will or His? How do you react when His answer to your prayer is not what you wanted it to be?
As we continue reading through the book of Jeremiah, following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 39:1-8), we see Gedaliah becomes the puppet governor set up by the Babylonians to maintain law and order in the recently conquered territory (Jeremiah 40:5-6). Gedaliah encourages the people, including the former army commanders, to live at peace with the Babylonians (Jeremiah 40:7-12). However, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, one of the former army leaders, secretly kills Gedaliah the governor (Jeremiah 41:1-3). Later, Ishmael and the forces allied to him were defeated by another of the former army leaders, Johanan the son of Kareah (Jeremiah 41:11-12). Although Ishmael himself is able to escape and flee to the Ammonites following this battle, Johanan is able to recover many of the people taken captive by Ishmael (Jeremiah 41:13-15).
Following this civil war among the remnants remaining of the Israelites, Johanan considers leading those under his command down to Egypt for fear of Babylonian reprisals following these events. He comes to Jeremiah asking for God’s guidance as he says to Jeremiah, “that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing which we should do” (Jeremiah 42:3). Jeremiah welcomes their petition request: “Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, ‘I have heard. Indeed, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your words, and it shall be, that whatever the Lord answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you’" (Jeremiah 42:4).
Johanan and those with him respond that they will respect whatever God’s answer is to them: “So they said to Jeremiah, ‘Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God’" (Jeremiah 42:5-6). Although they mouthed these words, they did not mean them in their hearts. When Jeremiah tells them God wants them not to go to Egypt, but to remain in the land, they become enraged, accuse Jeremiah of speaking falsely (Jeremiah 43:2), and leave for Egypt anyway forcing Jeremiah to go with them (Jeremiah 43:4-7).
How often do I act like Johanan and those who were with him with regard to my prayer life? Instead of waiting for and obeying God’s answers to my petitions, I expect God’s answer to my prayers to simply be a confirmation of my preconceived plans. Today, unlike Johanan, when I call upon God in prayer I will say like Jesus, “...nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).