“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
In the parable of the persistent widow Jesus teaches us that prayer is not just a one-off, ticking-a-box matter. Although he encourages us that our heavenly Father will hear our prayer, he also leaves no doubt that we may need to pray repeatedly and persistently until we receive our answer.
If you have been praying for someone or something and are still waiting for God to answer, this is for you. Do not lose heart, do not be discouraged! Persist just as the widow persisted!
Persistence in an age of instant gratification
Persistence is not something that comes easy to us, especially in our day and age when we can virtually purchase anything by the mere tap with our finger.
Even when knowing we do need to make an effort, we prefer to assess first and then decide whether it is worth it. Let me explain it like this: imagine you want to lose weight and therefore join a gym. The gym instructor drafts a plan with certain exercises, a change of diet and most importantly an estimate timeframe when you would see our desired result.
Imagine instead of giving an estimate timeframe, the gym instructor would simply advise that despite regularly and persistently exercising, the weight loss may set in after 5 months or 5 years or 15 years, without any certain timeframe. You would probably look for an alternative, something that promises a more certain outcome (at least I would)!
There is no alternative to persistent prayer
Prayer is different. There is no alternative. And despite regular and persistent prayer, God does not give us an “estimate time of arrival” for his answer.
All we have, all we can hold on to, is (a) God’s promise that he does hear us and (b) his call to pray persistently and not be discouraged.
Why does God not give us instantly what we are asking for? Is He teasing us? Is He reluctant to bless us? No. God wants us to persist in prayer as persistence is essential to receiving His answer.
Persistent prayer = cooperating with God
Daniel 10 gives us an insight into why that is so: Daniel relates how he asked God for clarity in a specific matter and subsequently prayed and fasted. After three weeks, an angel finally delivered the answer.
It was then that Daniel realised that God had answered his prayer the first time he had asked, but it had been held up in the heavenly realm. During Daniel’s three weeks of praying and fasting, a battle was raging in the invisible world between God’s messenger and demonic powers opposing him.
We could say that without him knowing, Daniel’s prayers were moving things in the heavenly realm; they were “fuelling” the angels’ battle.
Maybe Daniel, just like us, would have preferred to have an instant answer. The intensity of his prayer combined with fasting reveals a sense of urgency – he did want an answer asap.
Had Daniel known from the outset that the answer would certainly come, but only three weeks later, would he have prayed with such urgency and intensity? Probably not. I think it was precisely because he did not know, he prayed so intensely. And that then turned the battle in the invisible world in Daniel’s favour.
Maybe a more sluggish approach, an “I have said a prayer and now, God, it’s your call”-kind of prayer, would have prolonged the invisible battle, or aborted it (the angel lacking “fuel”).
God makes Himself dependent on us
It is a great mystery that Almighty God chooses to make Himself dependent on our cooperation – through our prayers.
This dependence goes back to the Garden of Eden, when God gave Adam dominion over the earth. This dominion has been passed down to us, Adam’s descendants. Persistent prayer is one of the means by which we exercise that God-given dominion, and call on His Kingdom to come and His will to be done, on this earth.
The Almighty God can certainly bypass us, but most likely He will not. And Jesus makes it clear that with regards to our needs and requests, God both invites us and waits for us to pray persistently and not lose heart.
I hope this encourages you to take your place again in prayer and remind God again and again of your request and ask him to answer. Don’t ever give up praying, even if you have been praying for a long time. You don’t know what is holding up the answer, but you can know that your prayer does make a difference.