Persevering in Prayer

"'Continuing instant in prayer'. The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs that never give over the game till they have got their prey. A Christian must not only pray, but hold on in prayer, till he has obtained the heavenly prize. We are daily in want, and therefore we had need be daily praying" (Brooks)

"Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coast of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour". (Matt 15: 21-28)

 

The child of God is a foreigner in a strange land. He or she belongs to a heavenly country and speaks a heavenly language which the sons of the earth cannot understand. The very language of his daily converse, such concepts as "the blood of the Lamb", "a crucified Saviour", "treasure in heaven", "washing of regeneration", "self-denial", "warring against sin", "heart of stone", or "heart of flesh", are as gibberish to the men of this world. They are the ravings of an unenlightened religious fool. He can therefore expect no encouragement nor support from the unregenerate as he journeys on his heavenly pilgrimage. In addition, he will find nothing in this world system that facilitates his progress toward Zion. The entire ebb and flow of this order of things is downhill and away from God and towards evil and darkness. All this goes to prove the point that this world is a complete wilderness to the child of God: a barren, lifeless and hostile place.

Now just as Israel of old was led into a wilderness before they came to possess their earthly inheritance, so too the new Israel of God must also traverse a wilderness before they reach their heavenly inheritance. Just as they were completely dependent on the provision of Jehovah to sustain them, so we too are completely dependent on the provision of our Lord Christ to preserve us in this "wilderness of the peoples".

So then, the question which should suggest itself to the mind which is duly exercised by the thoughts of such things is: "How does one go about obtaining the provision which God has so graciously provided for His covenant people while they are in this wilderness"? The answer is succinct yet full- prayer.

Prayer is the lifeline between heaven and earth for the child of God. It is the pathway through which flows all the spiritual blessings of provision that the Lord has provided for us. Without this lifeline the child of God will be completely unable to maintain his or her testimony as their soul will quickly wither and dry up. He stands as much chance of maintaining his spiritual health as does an undersea diver whose air hose becomes ruptured. The foreign element will soon overwhelm him.

This is beyond dispute to all those who have been taught of God. The formalist and the empty professor can take prayer or leave it. To them it is something they employ whenever the fancy strikes them or something that one does before consuming his dinner. The carnal minded employ prayer as a means to satisfy the corrupt desires of their heart by asking for material riches to heap upon themselves. Not so with the child of God. They have learned by woeful experience and acquaintance with their own heart how essential a thing is prayer. Their desire is to pray in order to live a more fruitful live unto Him who bought them with His own blood. The issue therefore is not the indispensableness of private prayer but rather the proper attitude by which it is to be practiced.

This brings us to the point of the story related by Matthew quoted above. Prayer, in order to be successful, must be both heart felt and persistent. Cold formalism will not suffice if we are to obtain that which the Lord is more than willing to grant us. In addition, we must not cease our petitions until we have obtained that which we seek. Notice the response of the Lord Jesus to the Syrophoenician woman's first request. There is none! How illuminating is this.

There is no doubt that this poor woman was sincere and fervent in her petition to Jesus. It would be hard to imagine a mother not feeling the suffering of her own daughter. In spite of this however, she receives no reply from Jesus. He seemingly ignores her completely! Undaunted by this, she continues to follow after the little band of disciples crying aloud her entreaty. Eventually, the Lord takes notice of her only to apparently dash her hopes of expected help into pieces. Unmoved by this rebuff, she then falls at his feet in worship pleading for mercy. Now to seemingly add insult to injury, the Lord Jesus reproves her and tells her that she is not one of God's covenant people (the term dog was used by the Jews to include all those who had no relationship to God by covenant) and therefore she is not eligible to receive healing for her daughter. Amazingly, she turns the contemptuous term into one more plea, one more reason that she should indeed be granted her request. "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the masters' table". What marvelous temerity is this! This woman refuses to be denied. Finally as if the Lord Jesus can no longer contain His delight with her persistence, He exclaims: "O woman, great is your faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt" and grants her petition.

What is the point of this incident as recorded by the Holy Spirit through Matthew? It is quite simple yet profound. The Lord Christ will test the earnestness of His people's requests. Just how badly do they desire the things they are praying for? Are they willing to continue coming to Him no matter what His apparent response? Do they feel their need of the things which they seek so deeply that they will not be denied them? What do you suppose the woman would have received from Him had she been offended at His initial treatment of her? The answer is obvious- nothing! If she was so easily put off how could it be said that her prayer was heart-felt? Her persistence demonstrated to all how desperately she desired the answer to her entreaty.

Does this not help to explain why so many Christians receive no answer to their prayers? How easily they are put off. How quickly they give up. More often than not, they cannot even remember what it is they have been asking of God an hour after they have gotten off of their knees! Is this the kind of attitude that the Most High will bless? I should think not. The attitude of a child of God in prayer that most blesses his Father is that of Jacob of old when he wrestled with God. His speech showed forth the same attitude as was in this Syrophoenician woman:
"I will not let You go unless You bless me". He too received the answer to his request just as did this Gentile woman.

Christian, how desperate are you to receive the gracious provision that God has provided for you in this wilderness? Do you really feel your need of these heavenly things? Can you live for one moment without them? Must you obtain them or perish? Do you feel your native inability and inadequacy against the wiles of the devil? If not, then do not expect the Lord to heap his riches upon your careless head. He knows full well how little you really value them.

"How then am I to pray so as to obtain these things?" you might say. "How am I to obtain such an attitude"? A man thrown overboard during a violent storm at sea needs no one to teach him how to cry for help. It comes instinctively in recognition of his peril. So too will the child of God find that this earnestness and vehemency of spirit is present in all his petitions as he or she grows in the understanding of how completely helpless and dependent they are on the preserving power of their Lord. Sensing the weakness of their own flesh, its proneness to close with temptation, the malignancy of their spiritual foe, his cunning craftiness, the ease with which they are able to be misled, and the captivating power of the glamour of this world, they will cry mightily to God on high to deliver them. Their prayers will be fired by this deep sense of their own neediness and their persistency will increase all the more as they grasp the fact that their Lord will certainly will take delight in granting them their heart's desire. If you then realize that you are lacking in this earnestness, make this matter your first priority in your immediate prayers. Beseech Him who dwells between the cherubim to grant you the sense of your own sinfulness and weakness. Give Him no rest until He does so.

"Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" says Isaiah the prophet. Christian, how stands your bucket? Does it lay empty and dry? Then no marvel that your soul feels parched and thirsty. How could it be but otherwise? Lower your bucket by faith into the wells of salvation and cease not pulling it up unto you taste the sweetness of the promises of God being granted in response to your petitions. Then trust Him to say to your heart:

"Be it unto you even as you will".

Yours in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Dan

Copyright 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church

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