One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (NLT)
We rightly think this parable urges us to be persistent in prayer. True enough, but beware the wrong sort of persistence! We have no need to tell God over and over again the details of our life situations. Doing so results in our focussing our hearts and minds on those situations so that they become objects of continuing anxiety.
How many of us have prayed about a worry and found ourselves worried more than ever? Prayer which endlessly airs our anxieties is worry speech with an ‘amen’ on the end of it. Rather than committing something to God we have gone round in anxious circles.
This doesn’t mean we ignore our life situations. Rather, we trust God understands them and we have no need to spell them out each time we pray. Maybe we do need to get things off our chest to God, but not every time we pray. God can understand our sighs and silences and has no need for us to verbally describe what we are going through.
So persistence in prayer can sometimes take the form of repeatedly naming a child or a family member or friend before God who knows what is behind those names. Or we simply state in a sentence or two our daily concerns and believe God can sift through them. In this way, prayer can be a release from burdens, not an expression of them.
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