Seek the Peace
By T. M. Moore
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
A bitter, hard prayer
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. 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, 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 harm His people.
God commanded His exiled people to pray for 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.
Seeking God’s grace
But the people of God must not stop here. Even as they sought the Lord’s vengeance against their captors, the exiles in Babylon were commanded also 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.
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.
God works through prayer, and if we wish to see the blessings of God come to the people in our communities, then we shall have to begin praying for them 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 blessings of God.
Prayer for our communities and our nation can unite churches across denominational divides, bring pastors together on behalf their community without jealousy or suspicion, and create a united voice for revival, renewal, and awakening for the entire world.
Will we pray for our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our world? 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?.