Ephesians 6:18; Persistence in prayer because of faith in its effectiveness.
Wednesday July 27, 2022
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
Alert – awake, watching.
Perseverance – persistence.
Our minds need to be alert when we are praying and we also need to be aware of the needs of others, not neglecting our support of them in prayer, just as Paul asks for prayer for himself.
and pray on my behalf
Our look at the word “perseverance” led us to our Lord’s teaching about prayer in Luk 11 and 18. In Luk 11 Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and then illustrates our need for persistence by an illustration of a man in need of bread from his neighbor in the middle of the night. He is persistent after being told to go away. Jesus then told us to ask, seek, and knock which are not three different methods of prayer but all three together speaking of the persistent pursuit or search for something.
In Luk 18 we have the parable of the widow he pesters a negligent judge for legal protection. I return to this so we don’t miss out on the next parable that is connected to it.
We’ve read the passage two classes in a row, but since it is about persistence, it seems fitting to read it again.
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. 3 "And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' 4 "And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out.' " 6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
As in all instruction, persistence in prayer is for our benefit.
God doesn’t need reminders. He is not reluctant and so needs to be goaded. Repeated prayer is for our benefit.
So often, what we need is a change of attitude or a different perspective, or a greater faith. Seeing things differently means learning lessons or adhering to truths that we haven’t before. I wonder how many times in my own life that God sent those truths or lessons to me and I didn’t see them or notice them. God’s answers do not always come in the form that we expected or hoped they would. They came through a sermon that wasn’t entitled “Joe’s problem,” or a reading or an event or maybe even thoughts projected right to me from Him, and for whatever reason, I missed them. As one writer puts it: “Angels are at our gates, but because their wings are folded and we have not traced their descent from heaven, we do not notice them nor invite them to abide with us. We lose thus a thousand of God’s gifts, not recognizing that the very thing we need is brought within our reach.”
That’s one example of a need for consistent and persistent prayer. I imagine that if we all brainstormed, we would come up with many reasons.
The context helps us again.
And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.
Then He tells them a parable about a slave doing what he ought to do. We are to do just as the slave, what we are called to do, and if we do, still know that we are unworthy slaves, which, when the Lord Jesus Christ is your Master, is the greatest thing to be ever. And, even in that position, there is the danger of becoming arrogant since there are so many slaves who are not doing what they should. Therefore, the Lord tells us:
"So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"
We need to be praying for ourselves and others to see:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know …
We don’t have to wonder why we should pray again and again for the same things, the same people, for ourselves, when at the least we realize that we are in constant need of changing, growing, adapting, learning, and that we can so easily miss the answers. We need to do what the good slave should do and trust our Father for the outcomes.
All dispensations have their difficulty. The age of the church is the age just after the victory of Christ, which has caused the enemy to change tactics and perhaps feel the need of greater urgency to attempt to destroy truth and the people who have it or want it.
In an age of deception and testing and difficulty, prayer is the very essence of life.
We either pray or we faint (grow weary).
There is a special temptation to faint in prayer before the coming of the Son of Man when He will make all things right (Millennium). Wrongs are so slowly righted; wisdom, justice, and righteousness make such little way upon earth; misery and wickedness renew themselves with vigor so unabated, that the most sanguine are often tempted to refer all of this to the indifference of God who reigns above all authority and power.
Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness, and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.
"Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."
We need to persist despite what our eyes see. We pray by faith and not by sight. Many conclude that prayer doesn’t work. Sometimes they are praying for things that are not the will of God. Other times they are impatient with God’s answer, as if we need evidence and confirmation of the answers. The result of the parable is to encourage us not to lose heart but to keep praying.
Who among us thinks that God doesn’t regard us? Jesus teaches these parables so that we will know that no matter what sight says, God will give what we seek.
Jesus could have had the widow in the parable go home and weep, or He could have made it a teaching on unjust judges so that she laments for someone who fears God, but instead He has her make up her mind that she is going to have justice, and she is going to ask until she gets it. She is singular in purpose and clarity. As is said, a small insect can madden the hugest beast of the forest. Never did a child grow up not knowing this.
We must stress, before we leave this parable, that even if it looks like God has no more readiness to help you than this judge, that it seems that God will never raise a finger to help you, keep praying. It only seems like He is delaying long, for He has purposes and plans that none of us can understand; for us and others and the world. And while we wait, doesn’t He reassure us that the resolution of the case demands delay, and that His timing is perfect? While we wait, doesn’t He remind us again and again that He is for us and not against us, that all things work together for good to those who love Him, that He loves us? – these messages are like daily notes come to our doorstep to reassure us that in time the case will be decided in our favor.
And, if the unrighteous judge will give in, though we don’t understand all the reasons for God’s delay, how much more will the righteous God give us what we ask. If we ask for a fish will He give us a snake?
Of course, we can deceive ourselves from the fact that at bottom our prayers are dictated by self-love, or some provision for the flesh, petty ambition, or to gratify some earthly passion, to which God would ever have to say, “No.” Perhaps our desires would have done more harm than good.