Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. I have what I would label commitment issues. No, I don’t have problems committing myself to people. What I have problems with is committing myself to pray for the same thing, over and over again. Especially, when that prayer is not answered. I love it when I pray something and bam, God answers me right away. Like immediately. So cool! But more often than not, that’s not how it happens and I spend years struggling with the same old prayer. Truthfully, I give up. And then I feel bad so I come back to it and pray about it again. Halfheartedly of course. The cycle goes on and on. I come up with reasons to convince myself that I really should keep pursuing this issue, because more often than not, it’s an important one. But it is so very, very hard. I’m sure that I cannot be the only one who struggles with this and with that in mind I want to share with you something the Lord revealed to me several years ago. I remind myself of it when I need that little kick in the pants not to give up on my prayers.
In Matthew 15 there is this cute little story of a woman who did not give up on her prayers and the reason we know about her, is because of something that she said to Jesus that was quite memorable. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase that I’m talking about in Matthew 15:27:
“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table”.
Now being a dog lover, this verse really sparked my interest so one day I decided to pursue it and examine what really took place during this story. Jesus was in the far north, in the territory of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile country. He meets a Canaanite woman who begs that he please heal her demon possessed daughter. His response to the woman was to ignore her. It says “but he answered her not a word”. Been there, done that. Prayed and got nothing! I’m sure we all have. And that’s where most of us stop. This woman did not.
The story goes on to tell us that she cried out so often and for so long, that his disciples grew weary of her and asked Jesus to send her away. I’m guessing that they tried to tell her first, but she was having none of it. Jesus answered His disciples with the following:
“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
He was telling them in effect, I didn’t come to save or heal the Gentiles. Right now I’m here for the house of Israel. She’s the wrong nationality. Wow. No doubt she overheard Him because what she did next is very telling. She fell at His feet and worshipped Him and called Him Lord! But He turned to her and told her the following:
“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”.
Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds vaguely insulting to me. It would have been easy for her to walk away at this point and be offended. But she persisted, because she really wanted her daughter to be healed. Like really badly. Have you ever had a child so sick that nothing would stop you from crying out for help? That’s the kind of persistence we are seeing here. But notice something. Jesus is now talking to her! Yup, that’s right, He is talking to her! And boy does she ever take advantage of that because she answered Him with that famous phrase that I shared above. She impressed Jesus because He says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire”. She got her answer, her daughter was healed.
When I think about this story I think about the number of times that I have prayed and been ignored by God. Or if I shared my prayer with others, been told that since I haven’t received an answer, it must not be God’s will. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances in my prayer request, and I knew it probably wasn’t the right time, it was the wrong season, it wasn’t in His will. You get the drift. It is so easy to give up! Maybe we have heard No! or even worse, silence, so many times, that we have stopped praying altogether. Maybe, just maybe, giving up is exactly the opposite reaction that God wants from us.
Humor me for a moment and ponder on the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus tells the story of a woman who had gone to court and wanted justice for her situation, but the unjust judge didn’t care about her. Yet, because she was persistent and didn’t give up, he gave her what she wanted, just to get rid of her. The Lord then tells His disciples that God, who is a just Judge will avenge his children if they ask him by crying out to him day and night. He then asks them this question:
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
So what I’m understanding here is that faith requires persistence. It requires me to cry out day and night and never give up until He answers my prayer.
I’ve got another story for you that might help you really embrace this truth. In John 2:1-11 Jesus is attending a wedding with His mother and disciples. This is before He starts His actual ministry. He goes to the wedding and on the third day His Mom comes to Him and tells Him they’ve run out of wine. In those days weddings would go on for about a week, so you can imagine the fiasco of running out of wine on the third day of your party. His response is actually kind of funny because He looks at her and says:
“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
You know I can’t help but wonder how many times we’ve asked God for something and He thinks to Himself, what on earth does this have to do with me? Hey, I thought it was funny. I mean, shouldn’t the host of this wedding party have planned better? Whose fault was this anyway? Certainly not God’s! But seriously, Mary disregards His answer and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. There was no question in her mind that He would help her. Perhaps we could learn from that attitude. Even when we mess up, even when we are at fault, Jesus is willing and able to help us. Mary also got her answer that day and what an answer it was. He turned water into wine and it was such excellent wine, that Scripture tells us it manifested or revealed His glory!
So I want to encourage you with these words. If there is something that you have prayed for, something that you have asked for over and over and over, don’t give up. It doesn’t matter what other’s tell you, it doesn’t matter whether God is silent or says no. Don’t listen to any of it. Keep on asking. Worship Him in the midst of your wait. Nothing moves the heart of our God more than our worship when we are waiting on Him and are struggling to trust Him. Be like these three women of great faith and persevere until you get your answer.