Persistence in Prayer

“O LORD my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me.” — Psalm 30:2 ESV

I am struck by the beauty and simplicity of Psalm 30. Is there a more complete prayer in such few words than here in verse two? This verse sums up the entirety of our stories. As David prays these words, he calls on God by name as he cries out, addressing the depth of our brokenness. And in the same breath, healing. For we have a great God who saves, who gives us the chance to live again. What a gift from God is prayer! 

Jesus focuses a significant portion of his ministry teaching about the ministry of prayer.  In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel According to Luke we read, Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 ESV). Jesus states the purpose of this parable very clearly from the beginning: Pray and do not lose heart.

To illustrate His point, Jesus tells a parable about a corrupt judge. In a culture and place where honor holds incredible importance, we read of a judge who neither fears God nor people. This detail is important because the two standard appeals in the court of law at this time and place were to plead “for the sake of God” or “for my sake.” People cannot make a true appeal for justice before this judge, for he does not respect God or people. He does not care.

And so while the parable begins with little hope, it quickly loses all hope, for we find a widow standing before the unjust judge. This woman appears to be advocating for herself, which speaks volumes. Again, it is important to note that in this time and place, women did not go to court alone. Men would go for them. When this widow appears, we know she is utterly and desperately alone because there is no cousin, son, father, brother, uncle or nephew to speak for her, to plead her case. In a shame- and-honor culture, we read of a man who feels no shame and of a woman who symbolizes one of the most vulnerable people in the culture. It appears all hope is lost.

Jesus then tells us that this wise woman does the only thing she can do. She will not stop. She will not give up. She continues to plead her case as long as there is breath in her body. The judge finally throws up his hands in the air and cries, “enough!”

While a bit of humor, irony and sarcasm are employed to tell this serious parable, Jesus turns the tables quickly. Using a rabbinic principle to interpret the parable, Jesus moves from the light to the heavy. He shows that if such persistence pays off in the middle of corruption, injustice, and earthly matters, how much more will it pay off when we kneel before our Father in heaven.

If this judge just “gave in,” can you imagine what Yahweh’s response will be if we are persistent in prayer? As we think of all who have pleaded with God — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and others — and are overwhelmed by the world’s events, it would be easy for us to lose heart. But Jesus calls us to pray without ceasing, to continually be lifting up those who are marginalized, oppressed, the lost and the least before Him. We are to combat fear with hope, for the same God who brought freedom to those He called out of Egypt, His own children, will bring an end to injustice, making all things new again. And not just the things we see before our eyes in our world today. It would be easy to stop there. But rather, as we read the context for what Jesus is teaching, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom would come. The deafening response to thousands of years of prayer — “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you” — for Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to pray in the garden on our behalf again. He pleads with the just Judge and gives His life for ours, so that we may be truly free. The debt is paid. The empty tomb declares victory!

We truly know that weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We can be secure for we will never be shaken. Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Always pray. Do not lose heart.

 

For additional resources on the topic of prayer, including Pastor Hales’ Bible study resource, please visit:  Prayer – The Fuel for Mission.

 

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