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DEVOTIONAL: Avoid Empty “Religious Talk”

[P]ray for us to the Lord your God…. – Jeremiah 42:2 (NIV)

An old saying goes, “Talk is cheap,” and that can be especially true in the religious realm. Interestingly, Jesus, who was called “a friend of sinners,” reserved his harshest condemnation for the fake religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees.

In the Book of Jeremiah, we see where Jerusalem had fallen to a foreign invader, Babylon. In 42:1 we read “all the people both small and great” approached Jeremiah the prophet and asked him to pray for them. Their plea sounded sincere: “that the Lord your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do.” (v. 3) In other words, since they recognized Jeremiah as a man of God, they asked him to pray for God to guide them. So far, so good.

Jeremiah took their request seriously, prayed about it, and after ten days God sent a message to the prophet to relay to the masses. Despite being occupied by a hated foreign power, the people were to sit tight and remain in Judah and not run off to the perceived safety of Egypt.

However, when Jeremiah gave them that answer he had received from God, it was not what they had expected or wanted to hear. “Azariah (…) and Johanan (…) and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie!'” Instead of obeying the answer, they accused Jeremiah of trying to trick them and being in cahoots with someone else who would betray them all to death or exile. “So Johanan (…) and all the commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the Lord, so as to stay in the land of Judah.” (43:4)

It’s easy to toss off empty talk or cliché phraseology like “pray for me” or “I’ll pray for you.” But, do we sincerely mean it? Moreover, when we ask for prayer, are we ready to act on what God tells us to do, especially if it’s not what we expect or like?

S.G.D.

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