A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?” “Why have they aroused my anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”

“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”

Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?

Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.


Before we do anything else, we need to understand- we are not talking about ordinary prayers.

There was a man sitting in the chapel outside of an operating room. His daughter was inside the room, on the table, and the surgeons were fighting for her life. The man was praying for his daughter, but they were not ordinary prayers.

They were desperate prayers.

The man was begging for her life.

Meanwhile, somewhere else, a young man was in jail, following a hit and run accident. The charges were very serious, and his father was praying too.

Praying desperately.

Praying for his son’s life.

Offering to exchange places with his son, if such a thing were possible.

Those were the prayers of Jeremiah, praying for HIS people- the Jewish people, fighting for their lives, suffering the punishment of God, being led away into exile by a conquering army.

Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.

Those were not ordinary prayers.

They were supplications.

Supplication- that’s the word that our oldest English translations use, and it’s the word that the most accurate modern translations use.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.

Our own translation is a bit older, written for an international audience, and the word supplication- well, it’s an old fashioned word. Outside of church, few people have heard it.

Because really, we don’t beg anymore. It’s so, undignified.

We ask for things.

We make requests.

We petition.

We negotiate.

And we expect reasonable replies.

Polite replies, even when they are rejections.

Because this is the modern world.

But there it is- beg, on behalf of all people, especially kings and others in high places.

So let’s begin here: No prayer is a reasonable request. Every prayer is a hand up from a drowning man.

Every prayer is a statement that says, “I am not the one in charge of how things turn out.”

Every prayer says, “I need some help.”

But some prayers are more than that: some prayers are Hail Mary’s.

Some prayers proclaim that our fate is in the balance.

Some prayers throw ourselves at God’s mercy.

And that’s the way it ought to be,

Because that’s where we really are-

At God’s mercy.

So, you don’t make reasonable requests in those situations.

You do what you have to do,

Without reservation.

The thing is, our instructions don’t say to offer supplications for us.

Nope, they are to be supplications for all people, especially kings.

The thing is, kings were people who had power.

Not anymore, but back in the day- back in the day,

Kings had the power of life and death.

They were the final judge.

They held thumbs up or thumbs down.

They didn’t NEED mercy-

They were people who sometimes, if they were in the mood, GAVE mercy.

When you went before a king, back in the day,

You supplicated.


Why make supplications for them?

Because they, too, are under God’s thumb.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

Listen closely- and carefully:

In Jeremiah’s day, the whole nation suffered, and nobody blamed it on anybody but the nation.

If one citizen was guilty, they all were.

But the king- well, the king stood for the nation.

If the king was unrighteous, so was the nation.

But when pressed, almost anybody would admit- our real king is God.

And kings are expected to bring about shalom- the peace and well-being of their people.

So when the people were suffering, they had a right to question God-

God, we are at your mercy- but where is shalom?

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Read the prayers of the Old Testament-

They are prayers of confusion and repentance

And they are prayers of anger and blame.

And however the people prayed, God took it.

But here’s the flip side of that-

If people prayed angry prayers at God, that meant they were giving their anger over to God, and leaving it there.

And if they begged something from God,

It meant that they trusted that God, and God alone, could fix it.

And if they supplicated on behalf of their King,

That meant that they believed that God really did have sovereignty over kings-

No matter how world events may have LOOKED at the time.

So here we are, urged to make supplications for everybody.

We get that- supplications for cancer patients.

Supplications for struggling mothers and troubled kids.

Supplications for young adults living a risky life.

Su0pplications for homeless.

Supplications for drug addicts.

Supplications for soldiers.

Supplications for all kinds of folk who live in great need of mercy.

And we get that. Yes, they need mercy.

But we’re not so eager to offer supplications for presidents and senators and governors because, well, they make their own trouble, and they get to make real decisions.

We tend to love them or hate them, and it’s mostly hate.

But truth be told, if we’re Christians, and we get pressed, we are supposed to admit that those folk don’t really have the real power.

Only God does.

So if God has the power, then we need to pray for them.

Because if God doesn’t mold them and nudge them and blow a spirit of wisdom into them,

Well then,

There may be hell to pay

And guess who will pay?


And we are at God’s mercy.

So it does matter- it matters greatly- who wins elections.

But no matter who wins, our testimony is that God is the one in charge

And our further testimony is that we are all at God’s mercy.

And our ultimate testimony is that God loves mercy.

So let our practice be to offer supplications

Because there is a balm in Gilead

And it rises to our prayers.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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