Summary: Please forgive me for stating the obvious, but persistent prayer is hard work. It drains us. It is hard, but it is eventually worth the effort.
Prayer Keys - Persistence
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
Have you seen that cartoon with the pelican having a frog for dinner? His dinner is not agreeing with him. In fact, his dinner is violently disagreeing with him. The frog’s head, shoulders, and most of his body are in the pelican’s beak, but his back legs are outside, kicking for all they’re worth. His front legs stick out from both sides of the pelican’s beak. His hands are choking the wide-eyed pelican. (I know. Most frog’s don’t have hands. The one in this cartoon does. The frog’s front legs stick out from both sides of the pelican’s beak and his hands are choking the wide-eyed pelican.)
If I remember correctly, the caption on the cartoon is something like, “Never give up.”
At one time or another, you may have felt like that frog. Life seemed to be swallowing you alive. Screaming didn’t help. Kicking and fighting for all you’re worth is the only thing that seemed to get you through. You may feel like that now. You may wonder if it is worth the struggle.
Never give up.
Lou Gehrig’s nickname in baseball was “Iron Horse.” His 2,130 consecutive games played was a record for 56 years until Cal Ripken, Jr, exceeded it in 1995. He was the first American Leaguer to hit four home runs in a game. He holds the record for career grand slams. His jersey, #4, was the first number retired in American professional sports.
But he was not made of iron, as events late in his career proved. First, doctors x-rayed his hands and discovered seventeen fractures that had healed without Lou stopping to get treatment. His bones were broken, but not his spirit.
His consecutive game streak might have remained a record if not for the second event proving he was flesh and blood, not iron. Eight games into the 1939 season he retired because he contracted the degenerative disease that now bears his name. If not for Lou Gehrig’s disease, who knows how many hundred more games he would have played?
As a youth, a teammate, frustrated with Lou’s mistakes costing the team yet another game, encouraged him to quit. Instead, he determined to make one fewer mistake each game. Eventually, he determined to make no more than one mistake a game. Eventually, he determined to make no more than one mistake a season. He didn’t give up.
The frog’s key to survival and Lou Gehrig’s key to success is this study’s key to prayer: persistence. Never give up.
The parable introduced in Luke 18:1 is of a persistent widow. Widows were among the most powerless of people in Middle Eastern cultures, including the Jewish culture. They needed a husband, a father, a brother, a son, they needed some male to stand up for their rights. No reference to any family helping her may suggest she is alone and powerless. She has been denied justice. She goes to a judge to ask for justice, but he doesn’t want to be bothered and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it.
The first time the judge refuses to listen to her, she comes back a second time. She comes back a third. She hounds him. Apparently, she does not break any laws for which he can have her locked up. Stalking is not against the Mosaic law or the man-made laws added to it. She simply but persistently pursues justice.
Imagine. He goes to work, she is the first person he sees. When he leaves work, she is there waiting for him. He goes out to eat, she follows him. She is waiting for him when he leaves. A friend comes to visit. He is afraid to answer the door because he knows she will be there, beside his friend, asking for justice.
She finally wears him down. He doesn’t care about her. He doesn’t care about justice. He doesn’t care what God or men think. He just wants her to leave him alone.
Widows are among the most powerless of people in this culture. The only power this widow has is the power of persistence.
The persistent widow is often compared with the persistent friend in Luke 11. A traveler arrives at a man’s house late at night. The man has no bread to serve. Honor demands that he feed his weary guest. He goes to a friend’s house to borrow bread. His friend is in bed. His friend’s family is in bed. The door is shut. The friend does not want to get up and disturb the family. He won’t do it for friendship, but he will do it if the first friend keeps on knocking.
The conclusion of that parable is, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus continues teaching that, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”