Persisting in Prayer

I've talked with quite a few people lately questioning alongside me about two things that really cannot fully exist without the other. Hope, and persistence in prayer.

It's easy to offer words that sounds good and well-meaning until you're on the other side of them and they feel hollow. Hope can be one of those words. It costs little for the encourager to offer the disappointed the mission of staying hopeful, but after you experience hopelessness in a situation you likely respond differently to the ache of unmet expectations.

Persistence in prayer is the same thing. We don't pray for many reasons. We feel that we don't deserve the things we pray for, or that we do deserve them and we're scared God won't give them to us. In essence, we're willing to risk little in prayer. We'll pray until we get discouraged and maybe a little past that. But sometimes weeks, months, years of our prayers- even the ones that do line up with God's heart as displayed in the Bible- don't change our circumstances into the realities we desire. And we give up. We assume it's not the Lord's will. Being hopeful hurts. And persisting in prayer is risk. We become vulnerable as we offer more of our longings to Him.

And if what's going to happen is going to happen regardless, why would we pray? If God is not man that he should change his mind, then are we wasting our time turning our aches over in our mind asking him to do something with them? We feel that our desires our too strong, and that if after so much time laboring in prayer God answers our prayer with a no, then it will hurt too much.

But if we are truly laboring in prayer, we probably already are hurt too much. We're probably terrified of loss, of loneliness, of death. Terrified to lose the life we imagined for ourselves and gripped with the pain that leads us to persistence in prayers. That threatens our hope. If we're honest, our desires our too weak. We can't control the things we want to- even ourselves. We can't attain the persons we want to be. We can't fully save the people we want to save. We can't persist in most things in life, and even the things we want most we fail at.

Because we won't fully attain the person that God created us to become in this life, and he alone can save the people we love. We hate that we actually have control over little, and that us trying hard doesn't always mean we get what we want. God always wants us and, if we're honest, we almost never want him. And sometimes we don't care that we don't want him, because we've been hurt. The people we prayed for him to heal have died, the relationships we prayed would be restored have divided. The people that wandered haven't come back and we live as silhouettes of our expectations.


"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" -Luke 18:1

Jesus follows this verse with a story of a persistent widow. She was likely poor, definitely vulnerable, lonely, without anyone to advocate for her. She had nothing to offer as she approached the unrighteous judge to give her justice over her adversary that was wronging her. The judge- not caring about her in the least- denied her request. She used the only tool she had to receive her justice- her will. In persistence she went back to the judge asking again and again for him to right the wrong. Finally, he responded that he would- not because he feared people or God but because he didn't want her to attack him. The point is- if the unrighteous judge can answer prayers how much more can God?

"And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” -Luke 18:6-8

When you zoom out, there is nothing to lose in hopeful persistence of prayer. When we ask in faith, we open up communication. We draw near to God. And surely that is what our hearts most long for- even if our longings manifest themselves in other ways. Our truest desire is for the world to operate as it was meant to- for there to be no sickness, or hurt, or death, or rejection, or conflict. To be fully known and fully loved. To have meaning and purpose. We ache for the world where the children of the light will one day live- where God fills each of these holes completely. Where his love is felt in fullness. And since he walked among us on earth and felt each of these separations on the cross, he knows. He knows our hurts are deep and real, and he wants us to voice them to him.

Persistence doesn't guarantee God will answer our prayers the way we want. But if we haphazardly pray and then give up, will we not miss it when he does answer? And if his response is no, do we not want to see the tapestry he's woven in that space?

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