Here we go again! Another contradiction in the Word of God. One of the many incongruities in Scripture that make us wonder how to serve God when His Word gives conflicting instructions. Its easy to understand why we should pray without ceasing, but why did God instruct Jeremiah to "pray not" for His people?
To answer, a quick look at the preceding verse will reveal that in Jeremiah's day God's people "loved to wander" from Him, and had "not refrained their feet" (v. 10) from so doing. Little wonder their Father deemed them unworthy of the prayers of His prophet!
But aren't God's people today just as prone to wander? Don't we sing that old hymn, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love"? Why then does God tell us to pray without ceasing?
The answer lies, as it so often does, in "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15). You see, God's people in Jeremiah's day had a contract with Him, a covenant called the Law of Moses. Under that Law, if His people walked contrary to Him, He vowed to walk contrary to them (Lev. 26:23,24; 27,28). And in Jeremiah's day, God's people had not refrained their feet from wandering and walking away from Him. They left God no choice but to walk contrary to them, and no amount of praying on the part of His prophet could change what He was contractually obligated by His covenant to do (Jer. 15:1).
How different things are for God's people today! We are not under the Law, we are under grace! (Rom. 6:15). In "the dispensation of the grace of God" (Eph. 3:2), God is not obligated by the old covenant of the Law to walk away from His people when they walk away from Him, He is obligated by the new covenant of His grace "to dwell in them, and walk in them" and "be their God" no matter what (II Cor. 6:16 cf. Jer. 31:33).
So there you have it! Yet another contradiction in the Word of God explained, another puzzle solved, by rightly dividing the Word of truth.
But don't just sit there reveling in the riches of God's grace. Now that you know that God will hear your prayers for His people, pray! When you see your brother stumble in his walk, pray! When you find that you yourself have wandered from God, pray! God will never walk contrary to us, so pray that His people will respond to such amazing grace by choosing to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10).