Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’
“He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice – otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black and blue from her pounding’.”
Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think that God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18:1-8, The Message)
It’s hard to keep on praying for the same things without seeming to get any answer. It’s hard to keep praying in times of prolonged discouragement.
When that happens, I need to remember that I’m a child of God. Children have no trouble at all in being persistent. They keep on asking and asking and asking. They only reluctantly give up when they’re strongly rebuked or threatened with loss unless they stop.
God my Father will not rebuke or punish me for praying. God will not scold me for asking Him to make me more like Jesus. God will not berate me for asking for the salvation of others. God will not frown on my prayers for the protection of my family. God will not be annoyed by my requests for wisdom.
The times when I feel least like praying are the times I most need to pray persistently. It’s not God’s will that I should feel useless or hopeless – that’s Satan’s territory. I need to keep in mind that persistent widow who got what she needed to carry on because she didn’t give up asking.
Another kind of persistence was required in the following instance:
All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously. . . . Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. . . . Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel – he thought he was dreaming. . . .
Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice – Peter’s voice! – she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.
But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away. Finally they opened up and saw him – and went wild! (Acts 12:5, 7, 9, 12-16 The Message)
The church had no earthly reason to hope for Peter’s deliverance; Herod had already murdered James and was about to do the same to Peter. But they prayed persistently and Peter was miraculously delivered, shrugging off shackles, walking past every guard Herod had posted.
God’s response to their prayers was so astonishing they didn’t believe it at first. They had an expectation of what answered prayer in this case might look like, and this didn’t fit. They rejected Rhoda’s first-hand report and ridiculed her into the bargain. It was only when she persisted in what she knew to be the truth that they opened the door to see for themselves.
Lord, may I never underestimate the answer You may give to my prayers, and never dismiss reports of miracles from sources who have experienced them. Help me to persist in witnessing to Your incredible love, whatever the response from others.