Jesus tells two separate parables that illustrate the theme of today’s passage: One about a pushy neighbor (Luke 11:5-8) and one about a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8.) I don’t usually do this, but since I just happened to read this great section from Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home immediately after I read this bit in Matthew about all these people being so persistent in their quest for healing, I decided to add it in here. Usually when the same topic comes up repeatedly over a couple of days, God’s trying to tell me something. Also, I typed this whole lesson out, then lost it. I guess I needed to review it one more time. The section is called “Persistence that Wins” in the chapter on Intercessory Prayer.
“When we begin praying for others, we soon discover that it is easy to become discouraged at the results, which seem frustratingly slow and uneven. This is because we are entering the strange mix of divine influence and human autonomy. God never compels, and so the divine influence always allows a way of escape. No one is ever forced into a robot style of obedience.
…God’s way is higher than our way. His way is like the rain and the snow that gently fall to the earth, disappearing into the ground as they nourish it. When the time is right, up springs new life. No manipulation, no control; perfect freedom, perfect liberty. This is God’s way (Isa. 55:8-11).
This process is a hard one for us to accept, and we can easily become disheartened by it. I think Jesus understood this, and, as a result, he gave more than one teaching on our need for persistence. …That we would “pray always and not…lose heart” (Luke 18:1). These parables have been a special grace to me, for how quickly I lose heart. Perhaps you know what I mean. We pray once or twice and , when nothing seems to move, we go on to other matters, or sulk in self-pity, or even give up on prayer altogether…. Supplication means to ask with earnestness, with intensity, with perseverance. It is a declaration that we are deadly serious about this prayer business. We are going to keep at it and not give up. John Calvin writes, “We must repeat the same supplications not twice or three times only, but as often as we have need, a hundred and a thousand times…We must never be weary in waiting for God’s help.”
…Do you, do I exhibit this patient determination in our prayers for others? How easily we fall short! In the levitical legal code the fire on the altar was to be kept burning perpetually; it was never to go out (Lev. 6:13). As God builds stamina and grit into our spirituality, we today must learn to burn the eternal flame of prayer on the altar of devotion.”
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program…
- V18 – Wow! This guy had confidence that Jesus had complete power over life and death.
- V20 – Twelve years is a long time!
◊ Is there a person or situation I have given up on, because it hasn’t changed in so long, that I could bring back to God in prayer? Continue to ask, continue to seek, continue knocking persistently.
- V21 – She was confident that even touching His clothes would heal her.
◊ I don’t yet have this kind of complete confidence in Jesus’ power and willingness to heal – even raise someone from the dead – but I would like to. Jesus, I do believe. Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)
- V22 – “Your faith has made you well.” It wasn’t that the hem of his robe was necessarily “magical.”
- V25 – By human standards, it was too late for this girl.
◊ How confident am I that God’s timing is the right timing, even when it seems too late? (If you have a little extra time, read through Daniel 2-6 and think about the three times!!! God rescued Daniel and his friends when it was technically “too late.”)
- V27 – Jesus made the blind guys follow Him all the way home. Talk about persistence! They followed Him right into His house!
- And speaking of persistence, the friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus at the beginning of the chapter (9:2) actually dug a hole out and lowered him down through the roof of someone’s home because the crowd was so thick! Matthew happens to leave out this fascinating detail (we can give the guy a break, he was probably your typical boring accountant, what with being a tax collector and all) but since we’re talking about persistence and faith, I thought I’d mention it.
- V29 – Again, their faith is playing a major role in what happens to them. (V22, 9:2, 8:13).
◊ Jesus, don’t let my lack of faith get in the way of what You are able to do in and through me. Give me more faith. Give me confidence in the power of Your name.
- V32 – It’s interesting that demon-oppression brought muteness to this man. It reminds me to ask myself:
◊ Has there been a time when I held my tongue even though I knew I should speak up.
- V34 – Their jealousy makes them say stupid things. They remind me of a group of middle-school girls right now.
- V35 – Teaching (upside-down kingdom reality), proclaiming the gospel fo the kingdom (it’s open to everyone and it’s free), and healing (God cares about your whole self; here’s a taste of what the kingdom will be like).
- V36 – Compassion for the crowds is a hard thing to muster because there’s a lot of neediness in a crowd. They were harassed (by the Romans and Pharisees) and helpless (justice wasn’t readily available to them).
◊ Who is harassed and helpless in my neighborhood and how can I show them compassion by standing up for them or at least standing with them? Jesus, fill my heart with compassion for these people. Give me patience and strength to be with them in their need.
- V37 – Lots of people are ready to respond to God, but there aren’t a lot of people available to bring them the good news of the kingdom and meet their needs.
- V38 – Pray earnestly – coming from Jesus, this feels heavy and important.
◊ Father in heaven, work in the hearts of the people in this city, in this neighborhood. Prepare their hearts to respond to You when You call them. And work in the hearts of Your people in this city. Clean out our ears and eyes so that we can clearly see those who are ready to know You and clearly hear what You want us to say to them. Give us courage and confidence in Your healing power, both spiritually and physically. Send us out and give us success. Help us to make more disciples who are ready to join us in the harvest so that more and more people can hear the good news of Your kingdom and experience Your healing power in their own lives.
Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:
- Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
- What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
- Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
- What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
- What do these verses move me to pray for myself?