Bringers of Peace (7)
“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” Jeremiah 29.7
Praying for Babylon
In Psalm 137 the psalmist reacts negatively to an attempt on the part of one of his Babylonian captors to get him to sing one of the songs of Jerusalem. He was too distressed, too sad, and too angry to comply with his neighbor’s wish.
The bitterness and sorrow expressed in that psalm capture what must have been the heart burden of many of the people of Israel, as they endured captivity in Babylon. How could they sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land? How could they even think of letting the cruel Babylonians gain any benefit from their devotions? And yet– Psalm 137, bitter and hard as it is, is a prayer to God, what we call an imprecatory psalm, calling the judgment of God down against those who would harm His people.
God commanded His exiled people to pray for and about their captors; doubtless such imprecatory prayers often arose from the midst of the captive people. And God approved them, understanding and compassionate with His people all the way. And He would answer those stern and terrifying prayers in His own way and time.
But His people must not stop here. Even as they sought the Lord’s vengeance against their captors, the exiles in Babylon were commanded to seek His grace on their behalf, that He might penetrate their hearts, turning many to the knowledge of God. Asaph had shown the way for such prayer in Psalm 83.16. The people must also pray, as Daniel doubtless did for King Nebuchadnezzar, that their captors would repent of their violent and oppressive ways and learn to worship the living God.
Such prayers must have seemed like long shots for those who prayed them, but, given the experience of Nebuchadnezzar himself, we can believe that many Babylonians came to know the Lord as a result of such prayers.
A call to prayer
Seeking the welfare of the communities in which we live will be more effective when we bathe and envelop all our endeavors in prayer. Paul commanded that prayers and intercessions be made for all people everywhere (1 Tim. 2.1, 2). That surely includes the people in our communities, the teachers in our schools, those who own the businesses and farms, the civil magistrates, those who defend our nation at home and abroad, and all our neighbors, associates, and coworkers.
Even those who don’t like us or our faith.
God works through prayer, and if we wish to see the blessings of God come to the people in our communities, then we will have to pray for them, more often and more earnestly.
In our private devotions, before family dinners, in our churches and Bible study groups, where two or three believers are gathered for lunch or any other reason, let prayers ascend on behalf of our neighbors. The more we pray for people, the more we will be aware of them and their needs. The more attentive we are to them, the greater is the likelihood that we will begin to reach out to them with the love of God.
Prayer for our communities and our nation can unite churches across denominational divides, bring pastors together on behalf of their community without jealousy or suspicion, and create a united voice for revival and awakening for the entire world.
Will we pray?
The question is not, “Should we pray for the lost people of our community?” The question is, “Will we?” Will we pray for our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our world? Will we seek the peace of the world and the wellbeing of all our fellow humans before the Lord in prayer?
If we will not, then we must face up to the fact that we are disobeying a divine mandate, abandoning our neighbors to their folly, and stoking the fires of indifference – if not outright scorn – for the unbelieving world around. But if we will pray, who knows what God might be willing to do?
Those prayers may be prayers of anguish and anger at times; but they must also be prayers for God to work in the hard hearts of our unsaved neighbors, just as He has worked in ours, to bring new life, forgiveness, and hope to those who now live apart from God in a world full of rebellion and sin.
If each of us will pray each day for the people in our Personal Mission Field, we will find that those prayers can have powerful effects in helping us fulfill our mission as bringers of peace to our world. To that end, let us pray – individually, with other believers, in groups, day by day, pleading with God to pour out His Spirit for revival, renewal, and awakening in our day, beginning in our own lives, and in our Personal Mission Fields.
1. What are some things you might pray for the lost people in your community? For the people in your Personal Mission Field?
2. Meditate on Isaiah 62.6, 7. How does this speak to the kind of prayers a church should offer for its community?
3. What are some things you could do to improve your prayers for the people in your Personal Mission Field?
Next steps – Transformation: Work at your prayer life until praying for the people in your Personal Mission Field is more consistent and more fruitful.
T. M. Moore
This week’s study, Bringers of Peace, is available in a free PDF download, suitable for individual or group use. Simply click here.
Our booklet, Joy to Your World!, can help you get into a more consistent groove as a joy-bringer to the people around you. It will help you identify, map, and begin working your Personal Mission with greater fruitfulness. Order your copy by clicking here. Order two copies, and work through it with a friend. For more insights to God’s purpose in sending His people into captivity in Babylon, see our Scriptorium study on the book of Isaiah (click here for all 23 installments in the series).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.