When our prayers appear to go unanswered, and God seems distant, indifferent, or deaf, we can wonder if there’s any use in praying at all. At times like this, the experience of the woman in today’s gospel can be very helpful to us.
As we heard, she pleaded with Jesus on behalf of her sick daughter. At first, Jesus gave her no response at all. Next, Jesus’ friends asked him to send her away. And then, after she had literally fallen on her knees and begged for help, Jesus quoted a popular saying which likened her people to dogs.
Jesus was intentionally testing her faith, and she passed the test. Others might have given up, and walked away in bitterness and disappointment. But not this woman! She continued to persist, her prayer was answered, and her daughter was healed.
Her witness demonstrates the importance of persistence in prayer. Persistence is essential, for several reasons. For starters, persistence teaches us patience and honors the fact that God acts in freedom, and isn’t a spigot of grace that we can turn on and off as we wish. In addition, persistence shows to God that some need is close to our hearts, and not just a casual request. Persistence can also make clear to us that God’s agenda, and God’s timetable, are sometimes very different than ours. Sometimes God says “Yes!” Sometimes God says “No.” And sometimes God says “Not yet.”
In short, nothing should discourage us from persisting in prayer. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “God never gets tired of giving; so let us never get tired of asking.”
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/080311.shtml