Read Jeremiah 29:7
7 But 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. (NRSV)
We don’t need reminding that we live in times and places that don’t exactly welcome the Christian message with open arms. Even when we speak graciously and act generously we can be misunderstood and maligned. Our reaction may be frustration and even anger, all under the cloak of righteous indignation. We might want to hit back at our critics and win our battles via the media or civil authorities.
The Israelites in Babylonian exile were urged to pray for their captors. In their case they had few other weapons to wield so perhaps prayer might have come more naturally to them. Instead of complaining about their lot, or seething with indignation at their ungodly oppressors they were to pray for their welfare. This was an echo of the original covenant God made with Abraham: the chosen people would bring the light of God to all nations—even those called enemies.
There was also a very pragmatic reason for praying in this way. It would turn out better for them too. Our prayers for our cities, nations, families and workplaces can make them better places to be. There may be slow progress but it sure beats endless complaining. Jeremiah urged the exiles to become visionaries rather than victims. Still good advice today.