Tuesday, April 7, 2020

PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER





Church-goers become discouraged and might even leave their church because they have grown tired of waiting for the Lord to answer their prayers. I would guess that we all have unanswered prayers, whether about our health, our family, temptations, or other emotional issues. This is why Jesus taught His disciples to not become discouraged:

·       And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1 ESV)

Jesus recognized that perhaps all of us have long-standing yearnings that seem to have gone unanswered. In this parable, He asks us to apply a little reason. There was an unrighteous judge who didn’t care at all about justice or the needs of a poor woman, who continued to come before him asking for justice against her tormentor. The judge finally relented and gave her the justice she sought. Jesus reasoned that if our persistence gets results from the unrighteous, how much so from the God who loves us and intends to give us the world, making us co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17).

He concluded with a perplexing note:

·       “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily...” (Luke 18:7-8)

“Speedily?” Sometimes, God’s people have to wait many years for what has been promised, like Abraham who had to wait 25 years for Isaac, the child of the Promise. Some of things he had been promised, he would not even receive in His lifetime, like the Promised Land and his divine Seed, who would be a blessing to all the nations. Also, His own Apostles would not see the establishment of His Promised Kingdom in their lifetime.

How then do we understand “speedily?” Here is an example that might be illuminating. Habakkuk had complained to God about the injustice in his nation of Judah. However, he did not like God’s answer. Judah’s destruction by the Babylonians would have to precede Judah’s deliverance:

·       “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

God revealed to His prophet that the promise of the deliverance of Israel “will not delay.” However, its coming will “seem slow” to the Israelites. While the Promise will unfold on schedule, it is not according to our schedule. Our prayers might be answered promptly, but sometimes they will only come long after His people have succumbed to disappointment. Abraham had despaired of God’s Promise of a child by his wife Sarah. Instead, Abraham hastened to impregnate his servant woman Hagar (Genesis 16) to have an heir by her.

Sometimes, perhaps a “speedy” answer to our prayers is an answer that comes at its own “appointed time.” Peter also referred to this differing perspective. What seems to be God’s “slowness,” is “not slow” at all. Instead, what seems slow to us might represent God’s patience:

·       The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

From God’s perspective, He is “not slow” but right on time. Meanwhile, in the midst of what seems to us as God’s silence, we wonder why we are being afflicted with Job-like infirmities and a variety of painful rejections. However, I’ve come to see these as God’s grace and love for me. He has determined that we will inherit His precious Promises only through patience (Hebrews 6:12). Meanwhile, we have to be prepared to hold fast to these promises even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Romans 8:28):

·       For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

It took me a long time to come to this understanding. Meanwhile, I was tormented by jealousy, seeing others blessed while I suffered. It had been hard for me to understand why God had been withholding from me any form of recognition. It was hard to believe that God really loved me, and so I had no defense against the tormenting doubts. However, over the years I have seen how “success” and notoriety had destroyed many of those who had achieved them. I also came to see that I too am not immune to these temptations.

What defenses does the unbeliever have as he sees his body and hope dissolving away? What does he believe in, once he sees that he can no longer trust in himself? Only the termination of his painful life!

In our case, the Bible cries out, “wait,” as King David had learned to do:

·       I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:13-14)





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