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THE PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER

THE PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER
Author: Pdt. Stephen Hosea
Posted on: 2014-06-17 00:15:09

Jesus was a man of prayer. Prayer had become his lifestyle. His prayer life is a good example for us. Prayer was utmost important in his life and ministry. He taught his disciples how to prayer. He also taught them how to persistently pray.

Because Jesus viewed persistent prayer was so essential therefore He taught about persistent prayer in three passages in the Gospels. In Luke 18:1-8 He talked about a widow who persistently came to a judge and pleaded for justice.  As a result she was granted for an avenge by the judge. In Luke 11:5-8, He talked about a man who had a friend who came to visit him at midnight. He had nothing to set before him, so he went to his next door friend to ask 3 three loaves. Because of his shameless persistence, his next door friend would rise and gave him as many as he needed. In Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30 Jesus talk about a Gentile woman who came to Jesus and asked Jesus to save her daughter for demon possession,  as a result she was rewarded by her persistent prayer to Jesus.

Let us learn about persistent prayer of this woman who came to seek Jesus for her daughter who suffered from demon possession.

A.    THE BACKGROUND OF THE EVENT

This event happened in the region of Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were famous cities in the ancient times. They were also important cities in the Old and New Testaments.

In Jesus’ time, Tyre and Sidon were the cities of Phoenicia. Phoenicia was a part of Syria.  “Phoenicia” was the name given to the region of Tyre and Sidon by the Greeks. Both cities are now located in Lebanon.   The Canaanites (the enemies of Israel) lived in these cities at that time.

When Jesus came to the region of Tyre and Sidon, he entered into a house and he did not want anyone to know that he was there. He would like to have some privacy and keep himself from Jewish people especially the Jewish leaders who opposed his teaching (Math 15:1-20). But he could not hide himself in that house. A Canaanite woman found Him and came to Him.

Who was this woman?  She was a Syro-Phoenician by birth. She was a mixture of several races and a true gentile. Therefore Matthew called her a Canaanite and Mark called her a Greek.  Basically she was a heathen and a Gentile woman.  Why did she come to seek Jesus? She came to ask Jesus to cast out the demon from her daughter.

B.    THE PRAYER REQUEST OF THE WOMAN

1.    THE FAITH OF THE WOMAN

How did she come to know Jesus? Where did her faith come from? Mark wrote, “ For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet” (Mark 7:25). Before she came to Jesus she had heard about Jesus.  Who told her about Jesus? Did she know Jesus through her friends, her relatives, or the Jewish people from Israel? We do not know. One thing we know for sure is that her faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17). She heard about Jesus from someone or somewhere.
What did she know about Jesus that made her believe in Him and came to Him? She knew that Jesus was “Son of David and Lord”. She believed that Jesus was merciful and powerful. Jesus could help her daughter. Therefore she came to Jesus and fell at his feet. (Mat 15:25)
The woman’s prayer was out of her faith in Jesus.  James said, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up”. (James 5:15)
Faith is important for prayer. Before we come to request anything to Jesus, we must have faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe who He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Therefore our prayer must be out of our faith so that our prayer can be received by God.
However besides our faith, we must also know that our prayer should be in His will. This relates to the content of our prayer.
2.    THE CONTENT OF PRAYER OF THE WOMAN
What did this Canaanite woman ask for? Did she ask the right thing? Did she asked something according to the will of God?
Mark wrote, “ She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter”(Mark 7:26).  Here, she asked Jesus for healing for her daughter from demon possession. It is very clear that she asked the right thing. Her prayer is not in conflict with the will of God. But it is in accordance to the will of God.  She did not ask thing for satisfying her own pleasure but the healing of her daughter. So she did not ask something with the wrong motives but with the pure motives. As James said: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (Jam 4:3).
This woman strongly believed Jesus could save her daughter. She also knew that she prayed to Jesus on the right thing. Therefore she persistently and consistently kept praying to Jesus without losing her heart. Finally her prayer was rewarded.  As the Apostle John said: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. ( I John 5:14)

Here we see that faith and the will of God work together that produces miracle.  We must have faith in our prayer. We must also pray according to His will.

George Muller is well known as the father of faith in modern church history. He had a strong faith in his prayer and he was very persistent in prayer. He began praying for 5 unsaved friends. After 5 years, one came to Christ. After 10 more-years, 2 more were converted. Once Muller said in Chicago,” I have prayed for 2 men by name everyday for 35 years;  on land and sea, sick or well, I  shall continue pray for them until they are saved or died.” After 35 years, the fourth one was saved. He prayed almost 52 years, and fifth one was saved just after his death.

When you know you are praying in the will of God, do not stop. The answer will come. You may or may not see it but it will come.
C.    THE OBSTACLES OF PERSISTENT PRAYERS 
Persistent prayer does not go smoothly. Persistent prayer may face some obstacles. The obstacles may be a test of our persistence and endurance to our prayers until we receive the answers.
When this woman kept asking Jesus for the healing of her daughter, she faced some obstacles.  She did not smoothly get what she asked for. Jesus allowed her go through some obstacles in order to let her faith to become greater.
Here are the obstacles of the woman:
1.     Her nationality was against her
She was a Gentile and Jesus was a Jew. Jews and Gentiles were hostile against each other. They hated each other. They did not relate to each other as friends.  But she knew even Jesus was a Jew, but He was compassionate, merciful, caring and loving. Therefore she did not hesitate to break the barrier to seek help from Jesus.

2.    The disciples were against her
The disciples simply had no compassion and care for the woman and her daughter. They felt to be bothered by this heathen woman. So they asked Jesus to send her away because the woman was a nuisance for them. They wanted to get rid of her as quickly as possible. But she did not lose heart, she kept asking to Jesus.

Some Christians are very upset when they see a fellow believer prays with a real burden.  One night, in a special service, a woman wept and cried out to God for her children’s salvation. Some were disturbed by her cries. Some criticized her. In fact, this is not the response of Christian love and care. Others tried to calm her down. Some did not know what was happening. We ought to care for our brothers and sisters who are under a heavy burden and who cry out to God.

3.    For a time it looked as though even Jesus was against her
a. When she asked for help Jesus did not even answer her.  
When the woman came to Jesus and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”  But He answered her not a word (Mat 15:22-23). It seems that Jesus did not listen to her prayer. It seems that Jesus did not care for her. But she did not quit to plea to Jesus.
Often times when we cry out to Jesus for our urgent and special needs such as choosing a school, a mate, a career, facing severe disease and accidence, we feel that Jesus does not response to our prayer. We feel disappointed and discouraged, then we want to quit to pray.
Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, once wrote: “I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful. I asked her if she was all right. She said, ‘No, I’m struggling.’ She said, ‘My mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason I’m crying is because I came this close to giving up on her. At the 5-year mark I said, “Who needs this? God isn’t listening.” At the 10-year mark I said, “Why am I wasting my breath?” At the 15-year mark I said, “This is absurd.” At the 19-year mark I said, “I’m just a fool.” But I just kept trying, kept praying. Even with weak faith I kept praying. Then she gave her life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again.” This is a good example for us that teaches us to keep persistence in our prayer to God.
b. When Jesus did speak, he did not speak to her but to the disciples. 
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am not sent to the lost sheep of Gentiles but to the lost of Israel.” It seems that Jesus told her that His mission was only for His people (the Jewish people) but not for the Gentiles.   It seems that Jesus tried to exclude the woman completely. In fact, Jesus just wanted to test her faith.
In this kind of situation, most of us might give up right away. But this woman more intensely kept asking Him. She fell down and cried out strongly, “Lord help me”.
c. At this point, Jesus spoke again, this time to her.
“But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:27-28)
Here “Children” mean “the people of Israel”.  “Dogs” mean “the gentiles”. There are 2 kinds of dogs: 1). Pet dogs and 2) Wild dogs. Jesus spoke about feeding the children (Israel) first and not feeding and throwing their food to “the little dogs” (pet puppies). Unlike the proud Jews, Jesus did not call the Gentiles “dirty scavenger dogs” that ran on the streets and ate the garbage. Basically, to call a person “a dog” was a contemptuous insult.
What Jesus said to this woman sounds very hash and insulting. But remember, Jesus was not a bigot and a racist. He was compassionate and loving. He was testing the faith of this woman.  When you hear this kind of statement, you might get angry and mad. But this woman persisted in her prayer.
The woman knew the special place of the children (the people Israel) in God’s plan but she did not intent to seize it. All she wanted were just a few crumbs of blessing from the table of His people.  As a result of her persistent prayer prevail, and Jesus fulfilled her need.  Finally she passed the last test.
All of these obstacles could not stop her from pressing on with her request to Jesus.   On the contrary, the obstacles make her faith to be stronger and more persistent to keep asking Him.  She got what she asked for.
D.    THE REWARD OF PERSISTENT PRAYER

What did this woman get from Jesus?  After the woman had passed the test and had overcome the obstacles in her plea to Jesus, Jesus healed her daughter and praised or commended her. She was rewarded with healing for her daughter and praise from Jesus.

Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour (Mat 15:28).

In Mark 7:29-30, He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”  And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
Then Jesus told the woman to go home and promised to her that she would get what she desired. She had come home and saw her daughter was healed from that very hour and from a distance.
Great faith is faith that takes God at His Word and will not let go until God meets the need. Great faith can lay hold of even the slightest encouragement and turn it into a fulfilled promise. Her faith was tested and her faith was great, and her prayer was answered.  What lesson do you learn from this woman? It was her persistence that made her prayer prevail.
In conclusion, Jesus taught that we should “always pray and not give up” (Luk 18:1). We should not give up, not because God is hard of hearing; not because God needs to be pestered into answering our requests; not because God doesn’t want to answer us; but, because God wants us grow in prayer.
ILLUSTRATION: PRAYER AND PRESIDENT LINCOLN 
A clergyman from New York, during a call on President Lincoln at the White House, said: “I have not come to ask any favors of you, Mr. President; I have only come to say that the loyal people of the North are sustaining you and will continue to do so. We are giving you all that we have, the lives of our sons as well as our confidence and our prayers. You must know that no boy’s father or mother ever kneels in prayer these days without asking God to give you strength and wisdom.”

His eyes brimming with tears, Mr. Lincoln replied: “But for those prayers, I should have faltered and perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother you know to keep on praying, and I will keep on fighting, for I know God is on our side.”

As the clergyman started to leave the room, Mr. Lincoln held him by the hands and said: “I suppose I may consider this as sort of a pastoral call?”

“Yes,” replied the clergyman.

“Out in our country,” replied Lincoln, “when a parson makes a pastoral call, it was always the custom for the folks to ask him to lead in prayer, and I should like to ask you to pray with me today. Pray that I may have the strength and the wisdom.”

The two men knelt side by side, and the clergyman offered the most fervent plea to Almighty God that ever fell from his lips. As they arose, the President clasped his visitor’s hand and remarked in a satisfied sort of way: “I feel better.”
Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to Zaire, told the following story. “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded. ‘Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’ That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ‘If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent a doll!’ And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and 5 months earlier He had led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles.”
While very ill, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, “Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.” After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness. He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord’s servants, many of whom were facing persecution. As Knox prayed, his spirit went Home to be with the Lord. The man of whom Queen Mary had said, “I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,” ministered through prayer until the moment of his death.

Statistics and Research

Research at San Francisco General Hospital has revealed that victims of heart attack, heart failure and other cardiac problems who were remembered in prayers fared better than those who were not. Cardiologist Randy Byrd assigned 192 patients to the “prayed-for” group and 201 patients to the “not-prayed-for” group. All patients were in the coronary intensive care unit. Patients, doctors and nurses did not know which group patients were in. Prayer group members were scattered around the nation and given only the first names, diagnoses and prognoses of patients. The researcher said that the results were dramatic. The prayed-for group had significantly fewer complications than the unremembered group. And fewer members of the former died. The latter group was five times more likely to develop infections requiring antibiotics, and three times more likely to develop a lung condition, leading to heart failure. These findings were published in the American Heart Association. (Adopted From Chicago Sun-Time)

 

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