Thursday, October 16, 2014

Men Ought Always to Pray

Life of Christ 136

          One of the beauties of spending an entire year focusing on the life of Christ is that we are able to trace what is important to Him by seeing what He emphasizes again and again. Clearly, prayer is one of those things. In today's story (Luke 18.1-8), told to His Apostles just days away from the crucifixion while they are traveling through the a remote region of Israel, He has a particular teaching in mind in respect to prayer, namely, importunity. 'And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint' (Luke 18.1).
          A widow, without the benefit of a husband to guide or protect her, is being taken of advantage of by some nefarious fellow. She appeals to the law to help her. The judge she draws is not honest, and refuses to do so since no benefit comes his way by taking her side. She, of course, cannot afford to bribe him, and she has no way to physically intimidate him either. She settles for the only possible remaining option: she nags him to death. She pesters him at all hours. She shows up everywhere he is and loudly demands redress. Finally, just to restore his own peace and quiet, he rules in her favor so that she will just go away.
          Though God is anything but unjust, in this story He is the unjust judge who is moved to action by a plea that refuses to be denied. In this, we see Jesus emphasizing a truth that is repeated from one end of the Scripture to the other.
          We find this well illustrated in Jacob's life. He wrestles with the Lord all night. 'I will not let thee go except thou bless me' (Genesis 32.26). Thus it was that he 'prevailed' (Genesis 32.28). We see it again in Abraham's life, as he pled for the mercy of God on behalf of the righteous mingled with the wicked in the den of Sodom's horror (Genesis 18).
          We see it, in the New Testament, already emphasized by Jesus Christ. 'Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth' (Luke 11.8). (see Life of Christ 109) We see it as well in the actions of the Caananite woman who refused to accept 'no' for an answer when her daughter was in great need of healing (Matthew 15). (See Life of Christ 78)
          One of the clearest pictures of this is Daniel, one of the great prayer warriors of the Bible. With all the powers of hell arrayed against God to prevent the arrival of the answer, Daniel besieges Heaven for a response for 21 straight days until the answer finally arrives (Daniel 10).
          Not only are there repeated examples of this in the Word of God there are also repeated instructions admonishing us on to importunity. 'Continuing instant in prayer' (Romans 12.12). 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance' (Ephesians 6.18). 'Continue in prayer' (Colossians 4.2). 'Pray without ceasing' (I Thessalonians 5.17).
          Importunate prayer is prevailing prayer. Just ask Jacob. Importunate prayer prevails even over unwillingness. Just ask the unjust judge. Importunate prayer prevails even when wickedness is present. Just as Abraham and Lot. Importunate prayer prevails even when friendship will not. Just ask the friend at midnight. Importunate prayer prevails even when you are not worthy to be heard. Just as the Caananite woman. Importunate prayer prevails even when Satan attempts to hinder. Just ask Daniel. 
Importunate prayer, like John Paul Jones, holds on until the victory comes, though the wreck of our ship sinks into the water around us. God is looking for someone who will pray like John Paul Jones fought. He is looking for someone who will pray as long as it takes to get the answer. He is looking for someone who has proven that he can be trusted with a great answer to a great prayer. He is looking for someone who will have a great spirit of gratitude after a long season of prayer. He is looking for someone who will spend copious amounts of time with Him. He is looking for someone who refuses to let Him go.
Have you ever prayed until the answer came?

If your answer to that question is not 'yes' then you have yet to learn the truth of importunate prayer. It is not complicated, though it can be hard indeed. Just pray. And keep on praying. 'Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?' (Luke 18.7).

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