Jeremiah 10:23 reveals why humanity is the way it is and why prayer is important. The prophet does not mention prayer here, but what he says has much to do with prayer's great value to mankind. The verse states the universal problem of mankind. By nature, the right way to live is not within us. Our nature must change. The purpose of prayer is to give us yet another, greater opportunity—an exceedingly important tool—to harmonize with the way God lives. God lives the only way that works, producing abundant life, endless peace, and supreme achievement for all.
This overall reason includes synchronizing with God's will in any present-day situation as He forms us into His image. Prayer's purpose is not to force or cajole God to go along with our narrow and shortsighted idea of what we think is going on. God has determined our destiny in life, and He will not give us anything that is outside that purpose. We can work things out for ourselves and choose to believe He granted our request, but that is not the same thing. Instead of granting our request, He simply allows us to do our thing. In addition, our working things out for ourselves holds us back to some degree, probably making our course toward God's ultimate aim for us more painful.
Because God knows the end from the beginning does not mean that He has figured out and predetermined every event of a person's life. In using our free moral agency, we are quite resourceful in presenting God with challenges to keep us on track toward our destiny to be in His Kingdom. God's concern is for events in life involving moral, spiritual, and ethical choices. Whether one chooses a red or blue car makes no difference morally, but whether we choose to buy a car when other family needs are more pressing is another situation altogether. This choice may shape character and therefore destiny.
Some of us are tough nuts to crack! Some are quite stiff-necked, opinionated, and self-willed. Sometimes this occurs because of ignorance or cultural influences. Far too often, the cause of our poor moral and ethical choices is pride and self-righteousness—to the point that some will actually choose the Lake of Fire! Others, though their inferior works burn because of their poor choices, God will mercifully spare them (I Corinthians 3:15).
So, why pray? If God knows the end from the beginning, if prayer does not include informing Him of something He does not already know, changing His mind, or dictating a "gimmie" list to Him, why pray at all? Prayer's major purpose is to give us an additional, effective way to draw near to and harmonize with the Spirit having the only nature equipped to live eternally in peace and oneness. Do we want to do this? All of our lifetimes we have been subject to the spirit of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Our personal experiences, reinforced by the history of life on earth under him, should be witness enough that there is a better way. Are we willing to make the effort to find it and live it? As Jeremiah says, "[T]he way of man is not in himself," that is, not in his nature. We must have access to God and His nature if we will ever live the right way, the way He lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jeremiah 10:23: