Persistence In Prayer
"I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity[persistence] he will arise and give him as many as he needeth" (Luke 11:8).
"He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faintÖ. Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:1, 6-8).
Our Lord Jesus thought it of such importance that we should know the need of perseverance and importunity in prayer that He spoke two parables to teach us this. This is proof sufficient that in this aspect of prayer we have at once its greatest difficulty and its highest power. He would have us know that in prayer all will not be easy and smooth; we must expect difficulties which can only be conquered by persistent, determined perseverance.
In the parables our Lord represents the difficulty as existing on the side of the persons to whom the petition was addressed and the importunity as needed to overcome their reluctance to hear. In our prayers to God the difficulty is not on His side but on ours. In connection with the first parable, He tells us that our Father is more willing to give good things to those who ask Him than any earthly father to give his child bread (Luke 11:11-13).
In the second, He assures us that God longs to avenge His elect speedily. The need of urgent prayer cannot be because God must be made willing or disposed to bless. The need lies altogether in ourselves. But because it was not possible to find any earthly illustration of a loving father or a willing friend from whom the needed lesson of importunity could be taught, He takes the unwilling friend and the unjust judge to encourage in us the faith that perseverance can overcome every obstacle.
Root of the Difficulty in Us
The difficulty is not in Godís love or power, but in ourselves and in our own incapacity to receive the blessing. And yet, because there is this difficulty with our lack of spiritual preparedness, there is a difficulty with God too. His wisdom, His righteousness, and His love dare not give us what would do us harm if we received it too soon or too easily. The sin or the consequence of sin that makes it impossible for God to give at once, is a barrier on Godís side as well as ours. To break through this power of sin in ourselves or those for whom we pray, is what makes the striving and the conflict of prayer such a reality.
In all ages men have prayed under a sense that there were difficulties in the heavenly world to overcome. They pleaded with God for the removal of the unknown obstacles. In that persevering supplication they were brought into a state of utter brokenness and helplessness, of entire resignation to Him, of union with His will, and of faith that could take hold of Him. The hindrances in themselves and in heaven were together overcome. As God conquered them, they conquered God. As God prevails over us, we prevail with God.
If we could be brought to see that this apparent difficulty is a divine necessity, and in the very nature of things the source of unspeakable blessing, we should be more ready with gladness of heart to give ourselves to continue in prayer. The difficulty that the call to importunity throws in our way is one of our greatest privileges.
In our natural life, difficulties call out manís powers as nothing else can. What is education, for example, but a daily developing and disciplining of the mind by new difficulties presented to the pupil to overcome? The moment a lesson has become easy, the pupil is moved on to one that is higher and more difficult. It is in the meeting and the mastering of difficulties that our highest attainments are found.
It is the same in our communication with God. If the child of God had only to kneel down and ask and get up and go away, what unspeakable loss to the spiritual life would ensue! It is in the difficulty and delay that calls for persevering prayer that the true blessing and blessedness of the heavenly life will be found. We there learn how little we delight in fellowship with God, and how little we have of living faith in Him. We discover how earthly and unspiritual our heart still is, how little we have of Godís Holy Spirit.
We there are brought to know our own weakness and unworthiness, and to yield to Godís Spirit to pray in us, to take our place in Christ Jesus, and abide in Him as our only plea with the Father. There our own will and strength and goodness are crucified. There we rise in Christ to newness of life, with our whole will dependent on God and set upon His glory. Do let us begin to praise God for the need and the difficulty of importunate prayer as one of His choicest means of grace.
Just think what our Lord Jesus owed to the difficulties in His path. In Gethsemane, it was as if the Father would not hear: He prayed yet more earnestly, until He "was heard" (Heb. 5:7). In the way He opened up for us, He learned obedience by the things He suffered, and so was made perfect. His will was given up to God; His faith in God was proved and strengthened; the prince of this world, with all his temptation, was overcome.
This is the new and living way He consecrated for us. It is in persevering prayer we walk with and are made partakers of His very spirit. Prayer is one form of crucifixion, of our fellowship with Christís cross, of our giving up our flesh to the death. O Christians, shall we not be ashamed of our reluctance to sacrifice the flesh and our own will and the world, as it is seen in our reluctance to pray much? Shall we not learn the lesson which nature and Christ alike teach? The difficulty of importunate prayer is our highest privilege. The difficulties to be overcome in it bring us our richest blessings.
Arranged from The Ministry Of Intercession by Andrew Murray.