PERSISTENT PRAYER OBSERVATIONS
In Luke 11:1-4, in repsonse to the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus illustrated how to pray by giving two parables on prayer. Luke 11:5-10 Jesus told the parable about a man coming to his friend in the middle of the night; and in Luke 18:1-8 He told a parable about a poor widow and an unjust Judge. Fifteen observations from these two parables wherein Jesus illustrates the importance of Persistent Prayer.
2. The Lord’s Prayer, so often reduced to a mumbled ritual, and incantation—if the Lord’s Prayer takes on a new light—we should pray, as Yancey claims, like a salesman with his foot wedged in the door opening, like a wrestler who has his opponent in a headlock and won’t let go.
3. The teachings of Jesus on prayer implies that if you feel God has nodded off—raise your voice, strive on—like the shameless neighbor in the middle of the night. Keep pounding the door.
4. Jesus knew that some would be tempted to doubt, to disbelieve God, even to see God as a merciless judge. And yet Jesus implies that prayer sets God loose. As we revolt against the world’s disorder in our actions and in our prayers, refusing to resign to evil, we demonstrate that there still remains, “faith here on the earth.”
5. Evil looms on this earth like a great iron gate—“the gates of hell”—in the image of Jesus. And our prayers hit against those gates like hammer strokes. Gates don’t threaten or advance. They just stand there. Our prayers may seem tiny and insignificant as the sound of a hammer against the concrete wall of Berlin. But we have in Jesus promise that the gates of hell will not prevail. They will eventually, surely fall, shattering into pieces—just like the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain.
6. Why must I keep asking, seeking, knocking? There is a reason. God is not trying to play hard to get. Nor is He treating us like puppies, trying to teach us to beg. We need to persist in prayer because it helps us determine that which is really important to us. Remember when you were a kid waiting for Christmas? The closer Christmas got the more you changed your mind about what you really wanted—until finally a pattern began to develop, based upon a few things that kept returning. Jesus teaches us to persist in prayer to help us sort through what really is important to us.
7. What if God gave you everything you asked for in your first prayer every time? We would just grab the goods and run. The fact that we must come to Him repeatedly helps us see that, in the end, it was His fellowship that we really desired all along. Your Father enjoys being with you!
8. God wants us to bring our request boldly and without reservation. By failing to do so I will likely miss out on some delightful surprises. What if the ten lepers by the side of the road had not shouted out to Jesus for healing? What if the Canaanite woman had shyly abandoned the request for her daughter? How many others missed the blessings because they were not persistent?
9. If I stop believing that God listens to my prayer requests—the emphatic point of the two parables that Jesus told—I will likely stop praying, thereby closing off God’s primary mode of relationship with me.
10. Persistent prayer keeps bringing God and me together. As I pour out my soul and spirit to God, I get it off my chest and unload some of my burden to the One who can handle it better; I learn from spending time with God that prayer equips me to discern what God wants on earth as well as my role in His Plan.
11. Persistent prayer changes me by helping me see the world, and my life, through God’s eyes. As the relationship progresses I realize that God has a clearer picture of what I need than I do.
12. Persistent prayer leads us into a new spiritual state for God to deal with. Like Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, and David found themselves wrestling with God so fiercely; the apparent struggle with God was developing in them Godlike qualities that God desired from them all along. The real value of persistent prayer is not so much that we get what we want as that we become the person that we should be.
13. Through prayer, I learn that I cannot “fix” the people I am praying for. I cannot get everything I want in the time frame I want. I must slow down and wait. I have to present my requests to God in a manner that seems at first like surrender. I “give them up” to God (as Yancey writes) and through that act of submission God can at last begin to grow in me the qualities, or fruit from the Spirit that I needed all along: peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
14. Through persistent prayer—while I may seek the gift, I find instead the Giver, and eventually come away with the gift I no longer seek.
15. As Yancey writes: There is no better response to persistent prayer than the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like Peter, we may pray for food and instead get a lesson in racism; like Paul we may pray for healing and get humility; We may pray for release from prison and instead get strength to redeem the time while in prison; Asking, seeking, and knocking does have an effect on God, as Jesus insists, but it also has a lasting effect on the asker-the seeker-the knocker.