Yesterday we delved into Jesus’ loving instruction not to pray with “vain repetitions.” We studied His words explaining that people who don’t know the Father pray that way. How then, does His tender admonition fit with the Scripture above from Luke? What is the difference between vain repetitions… and pressing on in prayer “always”, refusing to give up?
In the parable that follows in Luke’s passage, Jesus paints a contrast between the unjust judge, and our Daddy. This is His point: If even a worldly authority figure who cares nothing about people will eventually respond to persistence, how much more will our loving Daddy reward us when we persevere in prayer? How much more responsive will our Abba be, who has already given everything for us?
Clearly, Jesus is encouraging us to engage passionately with Heaven… and sometimes over a protracted amount of time. His exact description: “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7). If He had been describing a quick answer to prayer here, “not giving up” would not have been a necessary component in the equation.
So does Jesus want our prayers to be repetitious after all? Does it not feel like sometimes we are asking God for the same thing repeatedly? Do these prayers not count as “vain repetitions?”
Here’s the crucially important distinction. It boils down to the question Jesus asks at the end of the parable: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). The difference is faith. Individuals who don’t really know the heart of the Father approach prayer as the need to convince Him to move on their behalf. They may pray with fervent vigor, imploring God, begging Him, making promises, if only He will answer… but there is very little real faith involved.
The prophets of Baal are a perfect illustration of this prayer method, in 1 Kings 18. Of course, they weren’t praying to God. However, the way they were trying to get an answer from Baal, sadly, has some parallels to the prayers of some who are actually addressing God. They called and called upon Baal for hours. They put frenetic energy into their supplications, trying to make themselves heard. They even hurt themselves trying to get his attention.
Obviously they saw him as a distant, capricious deity who would be glad to see them suffering. They believed they had to manipulate him into answering their petitions. His heart was not towards them, and they knew it.
In direct contrast, we have the example of Elijah. He knew, with a deep, passionate conviction, that God was listening. He knew it so well that he commanded twelve large jars of water to soak the offering and altar before asking the Lord for His fire to consume it all.
This is how we are to pray, dear one. Daddy’s kids who do know His heart approach prayer as the opportunity to confidently express our needs to Him. He longs for us to engage Him in the full confidence that He takes great pleasure in answering our prayers. Yes, there may be a prolonged spiritual battle before His answer manifests in the physical realm (see Daniel 10:12-14 for a detailed example of this). But even when that is the case, Daddy’s heart is absolutely overflowing with love for us every minute of the long wait.
All of us will go through those seasons of long perseverance, waiting on Him for an answer. During those times, prayer is not for the purpose of talking Him into acting on our behalf. Rather, it’s our opportunity to receive new strength each day as we continue to push forward, trusting His beautiful heart. It’s our opportunity to receive fresh revelation that He is the Just Judge, the Righteous Judge, who delights to right the wrongs that have happened to us. It’s our opportunity to once more cast our cares on Him, to deposit our soul’s burdens into His enormous, powerful, capable, tender hands.
If you are currently in one of those seasons, Daddy wants to reassure your heart. He knows every one of your needs. He cares deeply about all of them. He has already heard your prayers, before you even uttered them. He is preemptively at work on your behalf in invisible places. More is transpiring than you could ever imagine, where you can’t see it. Trust. Nestle. Persevere. Confidently expect His answer. Above all, dear child… never, ever give up. Always pray.
Is there a particular phrase you like to repeat to God often, expressing your faith or devotion? What is it?