Prayer is meant to be an honest conversation. The Prophet Jeremiah shows us that truth.
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net

         Through the centuries, theologians and exegetes have written endless volumes on the topic of prayer; where to pray, when to pray, what to pray, how to pray, and what to pray for.  If we cut through all of the voluminous rhetoric, however, we come to the unadorned truth that prayer is one thing and one thing only, dialog.   Prayer is meant to be a two way communication with God, nothing more, nothing less.  As we read through the Bible, we see that there are hundreds of examples of prayer, but we turn to the Old Testament to gain a full understanding of how this concept of dialog with the Father is central to anyone’s prayer life.

         Of all the faithful described in the Old Testament, we can see that the prophets were some of the individuals who were most often cited regarding their prayer life.  I don’t know about you, but if I received the vocation to be a prophet, I too would want to be in constant touch with the Lord.  This could not be truer of the latter day prophet, Jeremiah.  He was born around 650 B.C.E. to a priestly family and from a young age knew that he was destined to become a prophet.  Unfortunately, Jeremiah came on the scene when the nation was in crisis. His prophetic career spanned the era of the first destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile of the Jews.  This was not a fun time to be a prophet.

          At that time, in the history of the Jews, Jeremiah was charged with bringing lots of bad news to people who did not want to hear it.  Yet, when the Lord gives you a job it frequently becomes impossible to ignore the task and just go on your merry way, no matter how much you wish that you could wash your hands of it.  I am struck by the following passage every time I hear it or read it.  It never ceases to make me both humble and envious, at the same time, for the kind of relationship that it demonstrates that Jeremiah must have had with the Father: 

         “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were
         too strong for me, and you triumphed.  All the day I am the
         object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
                 Whenever I speak (publically), I must cry out, violence
         and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has
         brought me derision and reproach all the day.
                 I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in
         his name no more.  But then it becomes like a fire burning in
         my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it
         in, I cannot endure it.”    Jer. 20: 7-9 (NAB)

         So we have the anointed prophet telling the Lord God almighty that he is a bully, that the prophet himself feels cheated and is not real pleased about the whole thing. The call to the vocation of prophet was a heady one.  Imagine, you’re the one who is to speak the word of the Living God to his people.  Then you subsequently find out that this task has garnered you nothing but grief, ridicule, criticism and buffets from all those you loved and trusted.  This had to be a bitter pill, at the very least.  Jeremiah, though, is not shy about telling the Lord how he has been wounded by this and like a spurned lover he vows to have nothing to do with the Lord any more.   He washes his hands of the job!  But true love is a funny thing and instead of being relieved by his solemn declaration, he finally admits to God that he can’t rid himself of the love of the job and the love of the Lord because it is literally a fire within him.

         Jeremiah did not quit the “prophet business”.  In fact, after the destruction of the Temple , he stubbornly remained amidst the ruins until enemies forced him into exile.  He was eventually murdered by his own countrymen.  So, even devoted service to God does not guarantee smooth sailing through life.  The book of Jeremiah was complete and available shortly after the exile in the exact form that we have today.  Following generations came to regard him as one of the most valid and influential prophets ever.  He became more highly regarded in death than he was in life.  The truth of his life and vocation is plain to see in the way that he prayed.  Prayer is unabashed dialog with God.  Life isn’t fair and sometimes it is downright brutal.  But if we follow Jeremiah’s example we can learn how to gain courage, tenacity, insight, self disclosure and faith.  Regular prayer will do that for you, but only if it’s unvarnished in its truth!  Gather your courage and pray like Jeremiah did!

 © Copyright 2008, Kathryn M. Cunningham, all rights reserved. 

On the Net
Biblical passages on vain and repetitious prayers: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/vain_and_repetitious_prayer.html 






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