Be Persistent in Prayer

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ 6And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

I came to faith properly through the Alpha course – and when I say properly, it was the first time I understood what being a Christian was all about; the first time I ‘got’ that Jesus’ death opened up a direct line of communication with God and enabled me to have a relationship with Him. It was revelationary and for the first time I understood what it meant when we ended prayers with ‘through your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ. I had never tied up that Jesus dying created a direct line to God. And that is exactly what prayer is – our direct line to God. I still find prayer difficult. What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to remember all those people I want to pray for, is it really OK to ask for something just for me, or should I be asking for others? It can all get a bit confusing and create obstacles where they don’t need to exist. But it’s actually really simple, whatever is on our mind we offer to God including those things we want for ourselves as well as others.

Have you ever noticed how persistent young children are? They nag you. They bother you. They are pushy. They are persistent.  Partners can also be demanding and persistent. Wives ‘requesting for the umpteenth time’ that the leaky tap in the bathroom be fixed, husbands taking control of the remote control the instant they get home. And have you noticed that you only really nag the people who are closest to you. You don’t nag your neighbours or friends because it’s only people who are the closest to you that would tolerate you being so pushy and persistent.

In today’s reading Jesus is telling us to be just as pushy with God. Be close enough to him that we feel comfortable nagging him in prayer. Ask for the things we want over and over again, until he is tired of hearing the sound of our voice.

But we should also be mindful of the five-year old child in us too. How often as parents have our children nagged for something so much but we have had to say No! It’s too expensive and we can’t afford it, it’s dangerous and could hurt you, it’s not the sort of thing I want for you, it could encourage you to behave badly. Or that dreaded ‘we’ll see’. How often have you used that one?

And the most joyous of all the responses to any demand is always: “Yes, of course you can!” Instant gratification the best feeling of all. That is exactly how God hears us, hears our prayers. He will listen to our requests; he will weigh them up and he will tell us his response.

God will decide whether something is good for us or not, if it’s not he will say ‘no’. He might think ‘perhaps but not just yet and make us wait until the time is right or he could say ‘yes of course you can’. But we still have to show how much we want something, we still have to nag with the persistence of a five year old child, and say “Father, please”. We can do that without fear of making a nuisance of ourselves, without fear of upsetting him, without fear of no response at all as long as we walk alongside him in the same way that we walk alongside our parents, our partners and our children, with the familiarity that comes from a close and loving family relationship and the knowledge that no matter what we ask for God, our father, will always give us the response that is best for us. Amen.

Annie Houghton, Ordinand