Why Keep On Praying? Unraveling the Mysteries Luke 18:1-8
Why keep on praying?
One day a father had two agenda items for his sunny afternoon:
rake and parent his toddler–two things which don’t always go together.
So Dad was in the backyard with a rake and the toddler who watching the rake move-ments kept saying, I do! I do! I DO! Then when Dad would pile the leaves in the wheel-barrow the child kept on, I go! I go! I GO! So how to have a meaningful afternoon with an eager toddler in a yard full of leaves? Good thing Dad was off from work that day!
So here’s what Dad did. He got the baby rake out of the garage and the child’s red wagon. Dad said, You help daddy with your rake and wagon! Yeah, I help. Me big help! Actually the little rake was usually moving leaves away from Dad’s pile back into the cleanly swept yard. Then instead of filling the wheelbarrow Dad filled the little red wagon and set Jr. on top for a ride to the firepit. Wheee! Mom took a picture to remem-ber the afternoon’s work/fun because it was great, though it took twice as long to get done. Why would that be great? Because a relationship was deepened and a task accomplished. This is precisely why we keep on praying—because even though we get in God’s way, God wants to deepen our relationship while accomplishing the mission.
What pauses our prayer button? At beginning and end Jesus seems to repeat the same answer: Jesus told them a parable…and not to lose heart…when the Son of Man comes, will he find on earth? In short we could say, faith. The child secure in the father’s love kept after the rake and the ride because he trusts daddy.
Sometimes our theology, particularly reformed theology, gets in the way. God doesn’t want my help. God will do what God will do whether I pray or not. Such hyper Calvinism is like the father who says, No you don’t DO, you go inside with Mom!
Yancey points out that keepin’ on prayer requires a certain type of faith.
Like Yancey, I struggle with mountain moving faith, but I can surely stay engaged.
The faith that keeps prayer moving may be like the cable that moves the cable cars in San Francisco. No forward propulsion engine but just a cable underneath the street. Faith is that which locks on to the cable and keeps on holding to move the cars up San Fran’s hills. The Spirit’s power is that cable. Without persistent prayer we fall back.
So why persevere in prayer? Because God wants to accomplish God’s mission with us so that we feel the joy of being a BIG HELP! In other words, in St. Augustine’s words: a person prays “that he himself might be constructed, not that God may be instructed.” You and I need more than anything else to be constructed in this way.
If we persevere in prayer what happens? Yancey tells the story of a tourist watch a devoted Jew rocking back and forth at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem. The tourist asks What do you pray for? For righteousness, peace in Jerusalem, health… The tourist replies are these prayers effective? The Jew deadpans, It’s like talking to a wall.
Yet something does happen. Take the contemporary style service that we’re experiencing and the forum following this service. We wouldn’t be at this point without persistent prayer. In 2004 I was a firm proponent of our current service format. Then the church set as one of its three priorities for the next 5 years to grow in evangelism. I took that as a call from God to keep praying about how God might want us to reach out. As I prayed I begin to think of some requests from NBRC members for a contemporary service. As I prayed I began to investigate the worship services of growing churches around us. And I came to the conclusion that some change was necessary. Is this the right one? Your prayer will help answer that but my prayer changed my view on things.
Or let’s take a social issue. In 1953 the East German communist government crushed a protest for freedom. In 1989 Christians meeting in the church where Bach played organ began a series of candlelight prayer marches. Soon 10,000, 30,000, 50,000, then a half million joined these candlelight prayer marches. One night there were one million marching in Berlin until finally the Berlin wall splintered in pieces like I hold.
So, why not experiment this week with the persistent prayer that changes things? Pick an issue and pray it over and over until you change or it changes, Amen.