Recently, I wrote a blog on how we can always pray and not give up.
Last time I spoke about how this parable gives us every reason to be confident when praying to God.
This time I want to look at what we should believe when God still doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, in the here and now by looking at Jesus’ parable of ‘the persistent widow’ in Luke 18 vv 1-8:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
4 ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’
6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 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? 8 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?’
Jesus says in v6-8 that God will answer prayers quickly. However, our experience of prayer being answered (or not answered!) seems to say this simply isn't the case. So, how do we respond to these words? Does Jesus actually mean something else?
Firstly, we should realise that God is different to us. And time, for him, is not the same as it is for humans. What might seem slow to us is part of God’s plan for our whole lives.
“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. (2 Peter 3 v 8)
He knows what we need in the future and he only wants our good. This will have a big impact on how God answers our prayers in the here and now.
Secondly, we often only ask about the ‘what’ in a prayer. E.g. I might pray that God would give me courage to say something to my boss about them doing something morally wrong. Getting courage is the ‘what’ in this prayer.
God is concerned about ‘what’ I’ve prayed for. But he’s also concerned about ‘how’ and ‘when’ the prayer will be answered. And, when we ask for the ‘what’ we often have a clear idea about the ‘how’ and the ‘when’, even if we don’t say it!
So, to continue with the example above, I’d like that courage to be given to me instantly and as if ‘by magic’. However, instead, God might put me in situations where I have to be courageous in ever increasing ways. Therefore, I learn through small steps and the courage that I’ve prayed for becomes a part of me rather than a ‘one-off’ in a certain situation.
Now, this will also take some time (as opposed to it being instant, which is perhaps what I wanted when I was praying) but will I not be a much more rounded and effective Christian in the long-run if I am courageous always and not just once?
Thirdly, there could also be other things God wants to give me when I pray. When we pray, we often only ask for one or two things from God. He’s working on giving us 10 or 20 things simultaneously.
In becoming courageous through small steps, I may learn to be courageous in other situations. For example, in my friendships. So, instead of just wanting my friends to like me, I’ll be more ready to love them completely and even tell them hard truths if I need to - kindly, of course! I may also learn to encourage others in similar situations and help them to see when they need to be bold.
God will not miss an opportunity to make us more like Jesus but that does not mean everything will happen instantly. It may also be that God does give an answer to pray quickly, but it takes years for that thing to become clear.
I hope that the above can help you to get on with praying. God longs for us to come to him with what is on our hearts and minds. He wants to answer. He does answer. Let that encourage you and spur you on.
Jamie Mason - GCW Pastoral Assistant