Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse to many Christians for whom their life assurance and confidence is built: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Yet, less well known is the command of verse 7 which frames and gives the meaning to the assurance: “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.”
The ancient Jews had experienced the heart-wrenching experience of having the Babylonians come and destroy Jerusalem and carry them into exile to Babylon. They grieved and they lamented, and rightly so. But there came a time for the Jews to cease their disappointment and despondency and turn their inward focus to the outward focus of prayer for their captors.
It is human nature to fold our arms and be sullen when things do not go our way. Put yourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of the Jews. They lost their home and their lives were completely turned upside-down. Perhaps you can relate to them. Maybe there are times when you feel like you are in exile, far from where you want to be. God is calling us all as his people to be concerned for the communities where we live and work, and to pray for their welfare, even if they have caused us harm. When we do this, we participate with Jesus in loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Our welfare is inextricably bound up with the community around us.
Gracious God, you have called me to a ministry of prayer. Give me a heart of concern for my community and my nation. I pray for them, that they might prosper in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and come to faith in him. Amen.