1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
We live in an instantaneous culture. Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com. We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.
Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father. Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” That should sober us up and give us pause.
This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer. In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive. In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this. First, it is an imperative command. We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion. Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do. A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”. This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”
George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved. It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them. The last was saved just after George died. Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!
We can pray for anything that we want. God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else. But even in that, James tells us something interesting:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God. We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh). When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.
Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer. What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”
15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”
18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”
20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.
There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them! We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.
When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires. After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice. He desires relationship with us. He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us. The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price. He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].
So, let’s ask the question: In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us. You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You. Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name. Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory. Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay. This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen