In the Gospel reading from Thursday, the Lord teaches the need to persist in prayer.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matt 7:7-8).
Seeking and knocking indicate persistence. While we might look for something briefly and then give up if we don’t find it, seeking implies an ongoing, perhaps lengthy search. Similarly, we don’t usually knock by softly tapping a door just once and then leaving if there’s no answer; we rap sharply a few times, and if no one comes forth we’ll usually try a few more times.
So, the Lord uses images of repetition for prayer. Indeed, the very word “repetition” comes from Latin roots denoting vigorous, repeated asking (re (again) + petere (to ask, beseech, or even to attack, go at, or strive for)).
Repetition, by its nature, is often vigorous and even pestering. Jesus teaches this concept in the parable about the persistent widow:
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray at all times and not lose heart: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected men. And there was a widow in that town who kept appealing to him, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God or respect men, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice. Then she will stop wearing me out with her perpetual requests.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to the words of the unjust judge. Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He continue to defer their help? I tell you, He will promptly carry out justice on their behalf. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
This is a funny parable! In effect, though, Jesus says that we should pray and not lose heart, that we should call out to God day and night. He is teaching us to pray in such a way that we wear the Father out!
Here’s another passage in which Jesus teaches persistence:
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you goes to his friend at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And the one inside answers, ‘Do not bother me. My door is already shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up to provide for him because of his friendship, yet because of the man’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs (Luke 11:5-8).
There are other examples, such as the Syrophoenician woman who kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter despite being ignored and even rebuked (Matt 15:20-24), and the blind man at Jericho who kept crying out to Jesus despite being told by the crowd to be quiet (Luke 18:39).
Ponder well this teaching and learn to persist in prayer. Pray to God in such a way as to wear Him out. Yes, pester God a bit. The Lord himself teaches us this. God is neither deaf nor grouchy, but for reasons of His own He wants us to be persistent in our prayers. There may come a time when we are able to discern that His answer to our request is no, but until that is clear, keep knocking, keep seeking; rinse and repeat. Wear God out!
Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Jesus Teaches on the Need to Persist in Prayer and Wear God Out
2 Replies to “Jesus Teaches on the Need to Persist in Prayer and Wear God Out”
I am quite convinced that one of the reasons God wants us to persist in prayer is that he wants to train us in right desire. He wants our hearts to be filled with desire for the right things and he wants us to be filled with that desire strongly – even passionately. He wants us to be passionate for the things of his Kingdom.
The parable of the widow and the judge brings to mind Josef’s Peiper’s “The Four Cardinal Virtues.” The parable is usually preached from the pulpit in the manner described above, from the perspective of the widow, with persistence in prayer as the moral to the story. But what about the perspective of the judge? Justice is the only virtue that does not require an inner disposition. One must cultivate the virtues of fortitude, temperance, and prudence, but justice relies only on the external act of the one performing it. An unjust person can act justly, even as a “just” person can act unjustly. The judge in the parable does not undergo an internal conversion. He does not become “just” himself. He wants to be done with the woman. He judges rightly in her case, even though he does not fear God nor man. Justice depends on the external act, not the internal disposition.
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