Be careful what you pray for. Have you ever heard that warning? It’s often followed up with the phrase, “because you might get it.” But, that’s not all of the story. Far too often we pray for God’s intervention, his help, and his guidance only to reject the answer. Consider today’s reading of Jeremiah 42.
You recall that our reading has been covering the invasion, and now occupation of, Israel by the Babylonians. Well, in chapter 41, a man named Ishmael and 10 of his buddies went to see their Babylonian governor. During dinner, the men jumped up and killed him. Now, this seems like the kind of thing you do when your city has been seized by the enemy, but it still comes with consequences. Specifically, someone is going to come looking for you. Ismael and his buddies got scared. Real scared!
Have you ever been so scared that you started to pray? That’s exactly what they did. In fact, they went to Jeremiah, the prophet, and asked him to pray for them. They were specific too. They asked God to “show them what to do and where to go” (v3).
Of course, God answered. That’s what God does. He always answers us, we just are not always listening. Or, at least not openly listening. In this case, God’s answers were empowering. He said “stay here” (v10), “do not fear the king of Babylon” (v11), and “I will be merciful” (v12). It’s the perfect answer!
God is promising to return them to their land. He is offering them peace and freedom. But, if you read on through chapter 43, you will see that they reject it. Instead of staying, they flee to Egypt! Why? Why? Why?
The answer seems so easy as I sit here and read the story. But in my heart, I know that it is not. We all fall victim to this scenario. We pray for the answer, but when we get it, we do what we want anyway. Not because we think our way is better, we know that it’s not. It’s just easier. Sadly, it also perpetuates our pain and suffering.
So now, be careful what you pray for. Better to know this before you start asking. God will answer your prayer. And, his answer will require that you become someone bigger and better than you are today. It will take courage, surrender, and faith. If that’s not what you want, maybe you should consider not asking.