Persistence: “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”
If readers would excuse me, I would like to make a cultural judgement. Persistence is not a very popular activity today. We live in a microwave world, with instant credit, instant replay and instant coffee. We all have cellphones with instant answers to our questions. Log on to your browser, type in a question and you will get an answer. I was recently at a friend’s house and he had just purchased a new instant answer toy, an Alexa. Just ask Alexa a question and she will give you an answer. This “intelligent personal assistant” is voice activated and when you ask “her” a question, she talks back.
This is all well and good, but what happens when we don’t get an instant answer?
What does God expect of us when we pray and we don’t get an answer?
He expects us to persist in our prayer…
That unpopular word…
Bingham Hunter cites two reasons why persisting in prayer is not popular today. One reason is “there isn’t time to do it.” One of the most popular expressions we hear today is “moving on.” We are always moving on or “putting something in the rearview mirror.” It is not desirable to stay in a particular condition for very long. We want to change; the sooner the better.
This sounds bad, but who today can wait for God to get around to responding to a prayer? To trust God to answer a prayer that is repeated over a long period of time, most of us will have to change our orientation to life. Persistent prayer necessitates that we slow down. Repetition of prayer is called for. Patience is needed. Faith that God will act in His time is necessary.
This is a big change for most of us. We love those instant answers.
Secondly, persisting can lead to misunderstanding. Hunter says “persistence [is] … not a method we adopt to convince a reluctant God that we are serious.” The discipline that it takes to persist in prayer can be for our benefit, even though impatient Christians may struggle with praying the same prayer over and over. Yes, learning self-discipline can be a good thing. We can use the time of waiting to examine our motives and that is always good if we do an honest examination. Stopping and thinking about why we do what we do can be very fruitful and can result in mid-course corrections that are very helpful. We can also seek the counsel of other Christians as we wait for an answer. That can grow our faith. If we persist in prayer, we can affirm our complete dependency on God for all aspects of our life. This humbling is good for us and can lead to an increase of faith.
Hunter cites the Canaanite woman who cries out to Jesus in Matthew “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! … Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus declared that this woman had great faith and He granted her request. Peter says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s almighty hand, the He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” [1 Peter, 5:5-7].
To be humble in today’s world is difficult. So many people love to brag and “trash talk” as they espouse the power they have to take powerful action alone. They don’t need God.
Truth be told, we all need God to get things done. We all depend on Him like the Canaanite woman.
Study the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: 7-8: He says that we should keep on asking because God exists. He says that we should keep on seeking because God is all powerful and sovereign. He says that we should keep on knocking because God is wise and good and will give us what we need.
He will give us what we need, when He feels we need it.
It is not a waste of time.
I try to post every other day, but due to travel, I am getting this post written late. My apologies…