PRAYING without LISTENING to God’s WORD is 'USELESS': Now King Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land gave heed to the words of the Lord which He spoke by the prophet Jeremiah. And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "Pray now to the Lord our God for us." (Jer. 37:1-3)
The above passage describes a time during the early phase of the siege of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. during the reign of Zedekiah, who was the third son of Josiah to reign as king over Judah. His appointment by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Jeremiah (see Jer. 36:30) concerning Jehoiakim, his brother. Jehoiachin, his nephew and predecessor, had been taken into exile and Zedekiah had now been appointed in his place.
Zedekiah, a vassal ruler under Nebuchadnezzar, was not strong-willed like Jehoiakim. Being weak and vacillating, he was led by the whims of the evil princes who came to power during the reign of Jehoiakim. Judah needed a strong, godly leader, but Zedekiah possessed neither quality. Zedekiah, like Jehoiakim and so many other kings before him in Israel and Judah, had rejected the word of God and its warnings of judgment, although it was communicated tirelessly and faithfully by God’s messengers the prophets. From the king to the common people, no one “paid any attention to the words of Jeremiah.”
However, even though Zedekiah was disobedient to God, he sent a two-man delegation to Jeremiah asking him to intercede for Jerusalem, for him and all his people. Babylon had just lifted her siege against Jerusalem because the army of Egypt had marched to Jerusalem’s aid. Zedekiah hoped Jeremiah’s prayers would help the Egyptians force Babylon out of the land (see 21:1; 34:21, 22), but God’s answer was not the one Zedekiah sought. Jeremiah announced that the Egyptian army that had marched out to support Judah would be crushed, and the Babylonian army would soon return and attack Jerusalem.
Zedekiah wanted the intercession of the man of God but not the instruction of the Word of God. He never should have separated the two as they go together always (see Acts 6:4). He wanted God to be his servant and deliver the city, but he was not willing to be God’s servant and obey the Word!
When we apply this event in our lives, let us be clear that praying without listening to God’s word is useless! When we do not listen and obey God’s Word, we are sinning against God. If we harbor sin in our hearts and pray, our prayers will not be heard as the Psalmist tells us so clearly: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Psalms 66:18) Only when we abide in Jesus Christ and His word abide is us does God truly hear and answer our prayers. This is what our Lord Jesus has declared: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:7)
Let us make a deliberate effort every day to read, meditate, reflect and hide God’s Word in our hearts. This way His Word will abide in us, and we can clearly discern His direction each day. Let us attempt to know His will for us through His Word. It is then only that our prayers will be speedily answered by God.
"Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15)