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?
It is sometimes taught that Jesus is here encouraging what is called prevailing prayer, which is often another way of describing an attempt to belabor God, to give him no peace, to picket the throne of heaven until we get the request we want. This is not Biblical.
Some years ago an article appeared in the newspaper concerning a man who announced that he was troubled about moral conditions in this country, and had determined to fast and pray until God sent a great awakening, a sweeping revival to correct the moral degeneracy of the day. He announced that he would keep on even until death, if necessary, expecting God to move. The papers carried the story day after day. His strength began to fail and he grew weaker and weaker and finally was confined to his bed. Bulletins were issued each day following his condition. He was evidently a man of unusual determination, for most of us we would have quit after the third day and settled for a good steak, but this man did not. He went on with his fast until he died. The funeral was widely covered and many lauded his persistence.
Was that really prayer? No, it was not! It was an attempt to blackmail God. This man was holding his own life as a pistol to the head of God and demanding all his money! He was insisting that God move on his terms and according to his time schedule. That is not prayer.
Jesus says God is not an unrighteous God demanding that we wheedle and struggle and persuade him to move. He is not grudging. No, prayer is forever the cry of a beloved child to his father, and frequently it is the cry of a lost child who does not know his way, who is lost in dark woods, with noises in the bush, strange, frightening noises. The child may cry out to be led to an open road or to be home safe in bed or at least to see a light in the distance so he can know his way, and that prayer, that particular prayer is not always answered that way, for God is a Father and, as Jesus said in another place, he knows already what we have need of before we pray.
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Paul reminds us that we do not know what we have need of, we do not know what to pray for, but God knows. The Father knows, and because he is a father he knows if it is not yet time to answer in that particular way, or if it is even the best thing to do, or sometimes even the possible thing within the circumstance. No, while it is true that specific answer may indeed be long delayed, still there is no delay at all in God answering our prayer. This is what Jesus is saying, that when we cry out there is immediately an answer, without delay. Speedily God rushes to the help, to the succor, of his child. The answer is the squeeze of a Father’s hand on ours, the quiet comfort of a Father’s voice, the reassurance of a Father’s presence even though the woods are still dark and the noises are louder still. There is an immediate answering reassurance that the Father is with us and in his own time and way, will lead us to the house and put us safely in bed or bring us to the light again.
Father, these words of Jesus have made me aware of the lack of faith in my life. I cry out to you now in my weakness and my failure to exercise faith and say, O Father, teach me to pray. Teach me to depend continually upon you, to pour out to you every aspect of my life without reservation and listening to you about all things.
How significant to us is the astounding relationship of God as our Everlasting Father? Are we learning to value prayer as communication with Him, or is prayer no more to us than an emergency S.O.S.?