Yesterday we received disappointing news that one of these requests will not be answered the way we had hoped. The promotion my husband believed was only a couple of months away will not become a possibility for at least another year, and even then he doesn't know what the pay will be or if he will be one of two people selected for the position. We felt crushed. My first thoughts were, what is God doing? Doesn't He see that we can't pay our bills? How will we continue to afford medical treatment (especially since all my treatment options are so expensive)? Why can't we just have one prayer answered the way we hoped?!
Most (obviously not all) requests eventually are removed from prayer lists: Prayer for safety while traveling - either the person arrives safely or by God's providence they don't. Prayer for wisdom about applying for a new job - the person uses the wisdom God gives (if they seek Him) to apply or not. Prayer for a sick child (i.e. stomach virus, cold, etc) - by God's grace they usually get better in time. Even cancer - eventually the person goes into remission, or sadly they die.
Few people remain on the prayer list for years and years like those with chronic illness. Despite prayers for healing, or improved quality of life, or even just less pain, those with chronic illness usually continue to suffer to some degree. We often tire of praying for the same requests over and over though, don't we? I do. Let's be honest, in most areas of life, we like to see progression. We like to see the pounds come off, the house get cleaner, the children get smarter, the bank account get larger, and prayers get answered (the way we want), and when we don't we often give up.
But we should never give up praying, and believe me last night (and today even) I didn't feel like praying one word. When I feel like giving up, I am reminded of the parable Jesus told his disciples about a persistent widow.
"And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:1-8We have to be careful not to take this verse out of context. When you want to understand the context of a passage in the Bible, always read what comes before and after the passage. In this case Luke 17:20-37 and Luke 18:8 make clear this passage is set in the context of the last days and the second coming of Jesus. I read a wonderful sermon by Pastor John Piper on this passage that really helped me better understand the point Jesus was trying to make with the parable about the persistent widow.
I think it is tempting to read Luke 18:1-8 and make it say what we want - that if we pray hard enough God will give us exactly what we want. That's not what Jesus is saying at all. In fact it's quite obvious from the fist verse that life will not be easy and all our prayers be answered in a way that makes us happy, otherwise, what would we have to lose heart about? Rather Jesus' concern is that our faith in Him, not the things of this world, would endure till He comes again.
Unlike the judge who didn't fear God, God is ALWAYS just (Deuteronomy 32:4), not only when we bug Him to death. And if this judge, who is a sinful man, can show justice to a woman he doesn't even know, how much more will God care for His children, or chosen elect, who cry out to Him continually? If God has taken care of our biggest need - salvation - surely we can trust Him with lesser "needs" and desires (Romans 8:31-39). After all scripture tells us, "Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalm 34:10).
So, even though you don't get the answers you want and life continues to be hard, don't give up praying (I'm preaching this to myself today!). Don't lose heart. Keep fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) in prayer. God is listening, He cares, and -I don't think I can say this enough- He is ALWAYS working for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
"If the answer to every prayer came immediately, how would we ever become acquainted with the Lord Himself? The gifts of the Lord would occupy our attention so much that we would overlook the Lord Himself." Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender