A have an older teenage friend with whom I chat on instant messenger fairly often. He asks great questions! One that he’s asked a few different ways in recent months has to do with unanswered prayers, especially prayers for healing. We’ve gotten lots talked through about the subject, and he’s considering that perhaps the prayers aren’t unanswered, they just seem that way to us. We’re on our way to “answered differently than we expected” and “not answered yet.”
Another friend mentioned to me the other day that I’d been the been the subject of conversation in his small group – the small group has stood with us in prayer over these months Tim has suffered. What was the topic? What to do when it seems like God is not answering your prayers.
When a theme repeats like that, I take it as a divine hint. That got me thinking about this passage from Luke 18:
1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And 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 about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I 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?”
The woman in this passage made the judge pay attention by being persistent in bringing her cause to his attention. She was the proverbial squeaky wheel and her case was addressed. Jesus reminds us at the end of these few verses that the purpose of this parable, as Luke points out in the beginning, is to teach us to always pray and not give up. Be persistent. Persevere.
The last sentences hold the concept I’m wrestling with, 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? God will mete out justice quickly for those who are persistent in bringing their need before him. There is an inherent conflict there I can’t get my mind around yet. Persistence, met quickly?
My daughter can be incredibly persistent. Right now, she really wants to go shopping for school supplies. She wants to get notebooks and folders, which she will need, but it isn’t urgent. Yet, every day she mentions it several times in whatever manner she can get it into the conversation. She sat with the ads from the Sunday paper and circled the items she needed. She instant messaged me about going to the store. She sits next to me tapping my arm and talking about which store has what so we can ‘make a plan.’ Incessantly.
That is persistence, and like the judge in the parable, I want to take her to get her school supplies as soon as possible so she’ll stop! But you know what? As soon as that need is met, she will find another. Guaranteed. Persistent people don’t stop being persistent, especially not after being encouraged by results!
But is that how God chooses to answer us? Because he doesn’t want to be tapped on the arm, IMd, and talked to about it anymore? I don’t think so. I believe it is more that he wants us to be persistent in bringing the whole case to him and that it is caring, not annoyance, out of which he grants our justice. I noticed, you see, that it doesn’t say “request” or “desire.” It says God grants us justice, quickly. I don’t think “what I want” and “justice” are necessarily the same thing. But I need to think some more about what this means about prayers being answered.
If you have insight into this, I’d love to open a conversation here.
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