Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Praying Like Jesus: Persisting In Prayer

Hebrews 5:7 "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety." 

The reasoning behind this study is simple: in praying like Jesus our consistency and effectiveness in prayer will increase. Thus far we have considered the following eight traits of Jesus' prayer-life: priority & power; fellowship of prayer; prayer in our decisions; praying for one's enemies; thankfulness; encouraging others to pray; praying for unbelievers and praising God. Today's post features a vital trait that must not merely accompany prayer but be regarded as the essence of prayer itself - namely persistence. 

Roughly 30% of Jesus teaching ministry included parables. A parable is quite literally taking a known idea, experience or story and "throwing it alongside" an otherwise unknown or familiar spiritual concept. On one occasion we see Jesus so emphasizing the need to persevere in prayer that He dedicates an entire parable to that theme. Luke records the parable of the "Unjust Judge" in Luke 18:1-8 "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ 6 And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'

What is amazing about all of the traits of Jesus' prayer-life that we have studied up to this point is that we could possess them all, and yet not pray-like Jesus for reason of simply giving up in prayer. Certainly it is difficult to judge which characteristic is most crucial when it comes to prayer. Anyone of the traits is important. However the theme of "persistent prayer", or what older Bible translations term "importune prayer" gets us close to distinguishing Jesus-like prayer  from powerless rote-like prayer. The key to persisting in prayer, according to this parable, is to plead upon the character and ability of God to bring about answers to our prayer. If you and I believe that God hears prayer (Matthew 7:7-11) and if we believe He is able to do far beyond all that we can think and imagine (Ephesians 3:20) then our ability to persevere will be heightened. It is fair to say that to the degree you believe God is willing and able, so will be the amount you persist in prayer. This is why we read Jesus saying in Luke 21:36 "But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Point of Application: Prayer, like life itself, is not a sprint but a marathon. Faith trains us to base our confidence on what we can't see, rather than on what we can see. May we not give up and become prayerless. As Adrian Rogers once said: "God's delays are not God's denials." May you and I persist in our prayers and keep on keeping on until God answers our requests.

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