I read the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) a couple of weeks ago and I think it captures a beautiful aspect of prayer.
“And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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?” (Luke 18:6)
Many times when I have to wait for God to give me an answer to my prayers, or when my prayers do not get answered at all, I feel dejected. I feel like I have to keep praying to overcome God’s reluctance.
… if even an unjust judge will answer a persistent request, what more a just and loving God?
But this parable tells us otherwise. After all, if even an unjust judge will answer a persistent request, what more a just and loving God?
This is how David Guzik puts it: “We often feel that we must overcome God’s reluctance by our persistence. But this misses the point of the parable entirely. Jesus is not saying that men always ought to pray and not lose heart because God is reluctant, but because He isn’t, and that is our encouragement to prayer.”
After much reflection and reading from numerous sources, I’ve come to a conclusion about why it is difficult to keep praying and why it sometimes takes a long time to see answers to our prayers.
First, persistent prayer is hard work.
Paul describes a man called Epaphras in the book of Colossians as someone who laboured fervently and wrestled in prayer. Many times we fall into the trap of praying rushed or stock prayers. The parable’s encouragement to keep praying no matter what is no small challenge.
Second, we face opposition from the enemy when we pray. Because the enemy recognises the power of prayer, he will do anything he can to keep us from praying continually. If prayer were powerless, it would be easy.
The delays in prayer are not needed to change God’s decision but to change us.
“Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” (Daniel 10:12-14).
This passage tells us Daniel faced demonic opposition as he prayed.
Though God responded to Daniel’s prayer the very moment he made his request known, the angel of God that was sent faced opposition for 21 days. This resulted in a delay between Daniel’s prayers and God’s answer to him.
While God could have easily shoved away any demonic opposition because he is God, I believe the reason He did not do so was so that Daniel would develop into a man of persistent prayer.
The delays in prayer are not needed to change God’s decision but to change us. Guzik also writes, “persistence in prayer brings about a transforming element into our lives, building into us the character of God himself. It is a way that God builds into us a heart that cares about things the same way he does“.
It’s beautiful when we choose to pray persistently regardless of the circumstances. And I believe this discipline of prayer builds our faith in our faithful and unfailing God.
This article was first published on Eugene’s blog and is republished with permission.