When Prayer Might Not Be Enough

Prayer doesn't always change things.

Take Zedekiah as a prime example. The King of Judah contacts Jeremiah and makes a logical request: "Please pray to the Lord our God for us" –Jeremiah 37:3, NIV. Great tactic particularly when threatened by enemies about to destroy your city and take you into captivity in a foreign country. 

Small problem.

Just prior to noting the request, the Scripture says of Zedekiah: "Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet" –Jeremiah 37:2, NIV.

I was instantly reminded of a man in Venezuela who asked us to pray for him. He was going through a difficult time financially and, as we discovered later, involved in a complicated interpersonal relationship challenge (i.e. cheating on his wife).  I confess I hesitated to pray for him because I doubted that my prayers would get much farther than the ceiling.

Like Zedekiah, he wasn't planning on listening to God, he just wanted God to get him out of a jam. I suppose he thought that God wouldn't notice the inconsistencies in his life especially if the request came through a third party.

In the King of Judah's case, the Lord's answer was not encouraging. He sent Jeremiah to tell Zedekiah to forget it. God expected something more than a thinly-veiled attempt at manipulation.

Would the answer have been different if Zedekiah and the people had been genuinely repentant? For Judah it was even too late for that–consequences had to be accepted. But what is certain is that God's arms were always outstretched to his people and would continue to be even while they were in captivity in Babylon.

I am happy to pray for anyone who feels the need for the support of a third party. But God is no fool. He expects what John the Baptist proclaimed: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" –Matthew 3:7, NIV.

God is more than willing to forgive the repentant heart and and give that person the power to change. But where there is no will to change, there is no repentance. Where there is no effort to change, the power source that energizes change remains cold and silent.

I didn't pray for rescue for my acquaintance in Venezuela. There was no point since there was no desire to repent. But I did pray for a repentant heart. There is always a point to that.


  1. Another example is King David himself - he fasted and prayed, but God didn't change His mind, and the boy died as consequence for David's sin.


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