HANG IN THERE WITH PRAYER (part 1)

 

Our second child, Naomi (39) suffers from epileptic seizures. We have prayed twenty-five years for healing. We will continue until we see results. Wish I were this persistent with other needs.

 

Jesus tells us when to quit praying—when we get the answer! Only two stories give us the main point from the get-go: The Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Pharisee and Tax Collector. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).  The disciples had already asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). He gave them a model prayer (The Lord’s Prayer), then encouraged persistent prayer by telling about a desperate midnight host who was given a volley of negative answers but went home with the bread. In the parable about the widow, Jesus is again teaching persistence.

 

Two characters–four short verses:

A widow.  We know nothing about the widow’s character, only about her need for justice. Widows and children are pictures of dependence and need. They are often taken advantage of. Widows have little recourse, no means to leverage a favorable position. Jesus told this parable knowing two things about us: our weakness and our temptation to quit praying and give up.

 

Passionate prayer is fueled by need, and great need means desperation. How badly you want an answer drives persistence. “If it be your will, please heal me” would be at one end of the spectrum. “I will not take ‘no’ for answer” would come at the other end. Jesus shows an overwhelming bias for the latter. The midnight guest received four “no’s” from his friend who had already gone to bed. A Canaanite woman received the same number of negative responses. Neither gave up. Nor did the widow back off because of a disinterested man on the bench.

 

A judge. He “neither feared God nor cared about men” (v. 2). Some people who don’t fear God still like people. Some love God but can’t stand humanity. And some have a problem at both ends, not the person we would want representing us in court.

 

Jesus could have told a story about a judge just like His Father. For the sake of contrast, He told about a judge with two major faults. He was, however, confronted with a persistent widow.  She went to someone who held the authority she lacked. The judge could not have cared less. The only reason he gave in was that she didn’t. Jesus was saying, “Pray like that widow persisted!”

 

Jesus often used contrasts to make His point, two very different sons, two opposite sisters, two contrasting pray-ers (a Pharisee and a tax collector). He is saying that if a persistent widow can get an uncaring judge to support her, persistence with a caring Judge in heaven who loves justice and cares for His chosen ones will work all the more. Jesus affirms that God “will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:8).

 

Jesus is telling us something important about the Father and about ourselves. Sometimes God does not answer our prayers immediately that He intends to answer ultimately. In order to teach us endurance, especially in the last days, He wants us to learn to ask and keep on asking. If He answered every prayer instantly, it would not grow the kind of faith that we need in the end times (part 2 coming).

This entry was posted in Prayer.

4 comments on “HANG IN THERE WITH PRAYER (part 1)

  1. Dale Jacobs says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for the good word Brother. Read about the Canaanite woman in Matt 15:21-26. Jesus said he came for the lost sheep of Israel and then it seems he compares her to being a dog since she is not Jewish. However, her famous reply “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” shows her persistence and even challenges Jesus’ statement. Jesus tells her she has great faith and heals the woman’s daughter. I believe God knows that it is good for us to be challenged to exercise and strength our faith. I pray for complete healing for Naomi. She is healed in The Name Of Jesus from any further seizures!!!

  2. dreck07 says:

    I like Graham Cooke’s definition: “Prayer is the process of finding out what God wants to do and asking Him to do it.” (from “Crafted Prayer”) I am convinced in the need for persistence in this type of prayer. At the other end of the spectrum is the “my will be done” prayer. Jesus never modeled this type, however, he did give us the parables you reference. Let me analyze them.

    Luke 11:8 could easily be interpreted to mean that we should pray “impudently” (impudence is importunity in the KJV). However, in v. 9 we have “Ask and (something) will be given to you; seek and you will find (something); knock and (something) will be opened to you” (the Greek does not have “it” for the first “something” or “the door” for the last.) We are only promised (v.13) that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit (or good gifts in Matthew), not necessarily what we want. So it seems that we are encouraged to pray, but not necessarily for our own will.

    Luke 18:1-8 clearly tells us to keep praying and not lose heart, but the summary (v. 8) is that this is about faith. There appears, at least to me, to be a Biblical distinction between “faith that” and “faith in”. The former may enable us to move mountains (Mk 11:23-4) and do many miracles (Mt 7:22), but it does not get us to heaven (Mt 7:23). Contrarily, “faith in” is the faith that gets us to heaven. The Lutheran formula for this faith is “knowledge, assent and trust” (cf. Melanchthon, “Loci Communes”, Locus 5 or 6?). To believe in God is to know God, actively assent to his Lordship and trust in Him. My understanding is that this is the type of faith that Jesus most wants to find when he returns. “Faith that” is a great thing, but it must be based on “faith in”. If we have “faith in”, then we will surely be persistent in asking for God’s will to be done, but if we are actively assenting to Jesus’ Lordship, we will not be seeking that our own will be done.

    So how do we pray for Naomi? Personally, I find it extremely difficult to pray for loved ones. My will keeps getting in the way of my hearing. I want to truly pray in Jesus’ character ( = name), but the flesh is so weak. Thank God for the gift of tongues!

    I’d really like to have a long discussion or series of discussions on this topic. I’m not convinced I’m getting this right, but my position seems consistent with scripture if not with widespread teaching.
    Soli Deo gloria!

    • I like your pursuit of truth, Steve. That is a good example to me. When Jesus prayed in the garden, it was a prayer of submission: “Thy will be done.” When He was asked to teach on prayer, He taught on persistence (Luke 11). The example of the Canaanite (Matt. 15) teaches the same thing. So this is instructive for me. I say, “How does Jesus teach me to pray?” Answer: He teaches me to go for it, to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking. I know there are other kinds of prayer, but when Jesus specifically taught on how to pray, this is what He gave us. So my inclination is to go for it, with Naomi, with people I know who don’t know the Lord, with pastors who need breakthrough, with our country that needs unity, with people who have terrible marriages. I want o go for it on their behalf!

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