We seem to be losing the idea of saving for something we need or desire. Today, its all about how quickly you can acquire it, and who’s going to be the quickest to provide you with the money. The idea of saving up for something, of persevering with what you have until you can afford something better, seems to be gone. We live in a world that tells us our immediate desires can be satisfied now, why wait. But you know, when we had to save up for something, when we had to wait, the day we managed to have the ability to acquire it was a special day, a day we celebrated.
Such an impatience seems to have crept into our spiritual life as well. We don’t know what it is like to persevere, to endure, to wait on the Lord. We expect the Lord to act in our time and space, to respond when we ask him to, to fulfil our every need when and wherever we desire it. We get angry, disillusioned, disappointed, and frustrated with God when he doesn’t respond in our time or as we want him to. It is even the case that some people lose faith over this and walk away from the loving grace of our heavenly Father.
The problem, however, is not God’s it is us. We don’t know what it is like to persist in prayer. That’s why Luke records the story of the persistent widow. Day after day she comes to the judge who neither fears God or respects his fellow citizens. She knows this, and yet she continues until he relents and gives her the justice she is asking for. If an arrogant and self-consumed judge gives justice, surely God will answer the prayers of his people. In Hebrews the writer reminds us that because of Jesus we can freely and confidently approach the throne of grace, where we will find mercy and help in time of need (Heb 4:16). We don’t have a distant and remote God, but one who invites us into his presence to chat with him about the things going on in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
We fool ourselves if we think, however, that God answers on our terms. Your heavenly Father already knows what you need, he’s just waiting for you to catch up. When we persist in prayer, we are allowing the Spirit to gradually align us to see God’s intent for our lives. In Mt 7:7ff Jesus invites us to ask, to seek, to knock, and God will give, you will find, and the door will be opened. If we sinners know how to give good gifts, then why should we expect anything less from our Father.
I know of stories of people praying for their unchristian spouse, or friends, day after day, month after month, year after year. When this person suddenly shows an interest in the faith, asks to join them at church, or wants to know more about “this bible guy call Jesus”, I have been stunned by their surprise. I ask them, didn’t you tell me you were persistent in prayer? And hasn’t God now begun to answer that prayer? Why are you surprised? When they ask why ow, my response is always, God has done this at a time when both of you are ready to join him, perhaps your prayer was as much about changing you as it was changing them.
Persistent prayer is a wonderful thing. It happens when God continually nudges you with a specific person, or need, or situation. It happens when you remain faithful and continue to place others before God. God always acts, but He does it in his time and when his purposes are fulfilled. Our challenge is to persist in the full knowledge that our hope in prayer is never unanswered.