Have you ever had someone nag you into action? The person coaxes, wheedles, cajoles, begs, nags, pleads, and whines until you finally give in and do what he or she wants you to do.
This is one motivation for a person doing what another person asks him to do. But if the person being nagged eventually honors the request of the other because of the nagging, how much more will God, our loving Father, honor our requests. This is the attitude we must always remember when we pray to God.
The problem we face in prayer is that prayers, from our perspective, often don’t get answered. Think about the implications of this statement for a moment. “My prayer is not getting answered.” There are only a few possible ways to explain this state of affairs. It may be that God is deaf and just can’t hear your request. It may be that God hears but doesn’t care, and it may be that God both hears and cares but doesn’t have the ability to do anything about it. All three of these are logical possibilities, and all three are wrong from everything we know about our God who hears, loves, and is all-powerful.
Oh yes, there is one other possibility. I really hate to bring it up, but as Sherlock Holmes once said “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The other possibility is that God indeed hears and answers our prayers, but that He does so in a way that we aren’t willing or able to receive.
God is a loving Father who often says “No,” not because He is an ogre but precisely because He desires what is best for you. Even as an imperfect human father I know that there are times when I must say “No” to my children so that they are kept from danger and from hurting themselves or others; so that they don’t become proud or ungrateful; and so that they do become patient and thankful for what they receive.
Even when we acknowledge this, God’s apparent delay in answering our prayers can be mysteriously discouraging. But the whole point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:1-8 is that we should learn to pray and not lose heart. It appears that two of the chief things God desires for His children to learn through prayer are faith and patience.
We learn faith through prayer because we trust the Giver of all good things, and not just for His gifts. We know that like children we don’t always know what is best for us, and so when God gives us something different than what we asked for or doesn’t give us what we ask for, we trust Him that His reasons are good. It brings to life the daily prayer: “Thy will be done (and not mine) on earth as it is in heaven.” Apparently, Jesus thought that perseverance in prayer had a lot to do with faith as well because at the end of the passage, in v. 8, He says “Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Without tying this verse back to the point about prayer, it’s one of the sayings of Jesus that don’t seem to make sense.
We also learn patience through prayer. The goal of this parable was that we “might not lose heart” in prayer, because that is just what happens when we think that our prayers are not being answered. Verse 7 is a little obscure but seems to mean that God is patient or longsuffering (that’s the literal translation of the word in Greek) with us. That certainly puts things in a different light! If anyone had a right to be impatient, it’s God, not us. And yet He suffers long with us; He is patient with us in our prayers and life.
The real goal of prayer, then, is not just to get things from God but also to unite us with God – His love and His will. He is what we are really seeking in prayer, and He is the greatest thing we need. He just happens to come so often through His gifts.
If we ask for God to give Himself to us, as well as His gifts, we will never be disappointed in prayer, and we will not lose heart in our prayers.
So go ahead and ask God for the desires of your heart. But do not lose heart by putting your will above God’s. And above all else, seek God first in your prayers, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Point for Meditation:
1. What has your attitude been toward your petitionary prayers? Is the implied attitude toward God faulty in any way?
2. Is there something you believe you ought to be praying for but have stopped praying for it out of discouragement? Maybe it’s time to begin praying for it again.
3. When you pray today, pay attention to how much your prayers are a matter of your will and how much a desire to find and follow the will of the Father.
Resolution/Prayer: Lord, give me courage to continue in prayer, even when I do not receive what I ask for. Teach me to pray according to Your will, and help me to seek You in prayer above all things. When I pray today, give me an increase of faith and patience that I may not lose heart.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day