INTRO: Jesus wants His church to grow. If a church is to grow, it must prepare to grow. This preparation begins with prayer. Persistent prayer is the foundation of all Christian growth.
The Scriptures bear testimony that persistent prayer always has been of utmost importance to God’s people (1 Samuel 15:11; Isaiah 62:6-7; Acts 1). So must it be in our churches today.
Church growth expert, George Barna found that prayer was the foundational ministry of rapidly growing churches in America. He wrote: “The call to prayer [in these churches] was the battle cry of the congregation: it rallied the troops. These people understood the power of prayer. They actively and consistently included prayer in their services, in their events, their meetings and their personal ministries.” Barna also said in Little Rock at a church growth conference that, “culture reinvents itself every 5 to 8 years, while the church reinvents itself ever 35 to 40 years. Therefore the church is at least 75 to 80 years behind culture all the time.”
Prayer is indisputably one of the greatest—and most under utilized—wea-pons we have at our disposal. Jesus knew this. That’s why He told His disciples about a certain widow who persisted in prayer. We learn from this story three essential elements of persistent prayer.
I. PERSISTENT PRAYER IS PERSISTENT.
Verse 3 states that “a widow...kept coming.” This story has two primary characters, the widow and the judge. The judge was heartless, fearing neither God nor man. A poor widow came to the judge seeking justice. She had no clout, no powerful lawyer, and no money to grease the wheels of justice. She seemed completely helpless against her adversary. She could not count on a fair ruling from this unjust judge. The only weapon at her disposal was persistence.
God wants us to persist in prayer. The band of Jesus’ followers praying in the upper room at Pentecost kept praying until God’s power came. The widow would not have gotten justice if she had not persisted. We must persist in prayer.
ILLUS: A man distributed tracts for many years on a street corner. Finally, seeing no visible results, he gave up. When he returned to the same spot two years later, he saw another individual handing out Gospel leaflets as he had done. Striking up a conversation, he discovered that the man had become a Christian through a salvation tract given him on that corner about two years before. The convert added, “Many times I’ve come back here to find that earnest worker and thank him, but he never returned. I decided he must have died, and so I’ve taken his place!” The first man suddenly realized that his work had not been in vain. Much encouraged he went back to giving out tracts the very next day.
II. PERSISTENT PRAYER IS INSISTENT.
Verse 3 also says that the widow kept coming to him with this plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” This scene was different than the orderly courtroom of today. It was unruly and noisy, with a mass of people pushing and shoving. Everyone tried to outshout the others to get the judge’s attention. The widow was so insistent and persistent that the judge granted her plea.