“Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and the LORD changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them?” Jeremiah 26:19
Entreat – What does it mean to entreat someone? Even in English we have a difficult time expressing this thought succinctly. Certainly the concept involves a gesture of respect, an act of petition, a plea for assistance and a hope for benevolence. But this does not exhaust the extension of the idea in the Bible. In fact, this word is the beginning of a special idiom (chilah phanim) that we translate “entreat the favor of.” It is literally “make gentle the face.” In other words, this phrase introduces an act that attempts to make God smile. That’s why you find it used in particularly stressful circumstances when it is very important that the prayers of men cause God to change His mind.
There’s something else that’s interesting about this phrase. It is not part of the specialized religious language of the Hebrews. It is not found in the temple language or the language that surrounds the sacrificial system of worship. It is a phrase that it used by common people, not by the priests. Making God smile is part of the prayer language of the non-professionals. It is the kind of thing that you and I do.
Just think about that. Why do you suppose the religious aristocracy of Israel doesn’t use this phrase but the laity does? Do you think it might be because this kind of action is like the action of a child before a father? You wouldn’t expect to perform an act of humbling petition in front of a stranger, would you? No, it is far more intimate than that! To come before God with prayers that hope to make Him smile is to assume a deeply personal and intense bond. It’s far more than asking for a favor. It emphasizes an inner expectation that God wants to listen and help. But it also has desperation in its mood. I entreat God when I am up against it, when I have reached my last resource. Did you notice that the verse suggests that attempting to make God smile is associated with the fear of the Lord? Of course it is! To fear the Lord is to honor Him as the ultimate authority and supreme ruler of my life. More than that, He is my loving benefactor. I seek His face because I know it is good for me to do so.
Have you prayed like this, detaching yourself from the religious rituals, the expected, sanctified vocabulary you hear in church, and opened your heart to the desperation of your soul? Have you come before your Father expecting to see Him smile? Have you asked God to change His mind on your behalf because your heart is breaking? Or are your prayer just to passive too be noticed?