Sometimes it seems as if God is not hearing my prayers. I question if the things I want do not matter to Him, or if they do, is He not going to grant them not tell me the reason? The first of these happened with two of His disciples who looked for prominence in God’s kingdom . . .
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:20–23)
In this case, Jesus did explain the ‘why’ of His denial; it was not up to Him to make that decision for in the providence and sovereignty of His Father, the choice had already been made.
I’ve also asked for things that do not fit with the will of God. Knowing that God does not want what I want isn’t always the end of my I-want (I’m stubborn), but at least I know why He says ‘no’ to my request.
In two of Jesus’ parables, the persons in the story were denied an answer to their request when it was first made, but because they persisted, they got what they were asking.
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Luke 11:5–9)
In this parable, Jesus is teaching them to pray. Just prior to this parable, He told them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” then He goes on to with this story to stress the importance of persistence. However, the word that is translated “impudence” also means “lacking understanding of what is proper, insolence, without concern for one’s own dignity.”
This brings to mind the decorum at a prayer meeting. How many of us pray without concern for what is proper? How many times do I violate my own dignity in a persistent effort to communicate with God? Privately maybe, but publicly, I’m not sure if ever.
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (Luke 18:1–7)
In this parable, the Bible explains the purpose of the story before Jesus tells it: don’t give up. He isn’t saying God can be worn down by persistence, but that He wants those who pray to keep at it. I’m to continually bring to Him matters of justice and other things that concern His great heart.
Persistence actually is a matter of faith. If I give up, it says that I don’t believe His promises to hear and answer. Persistence says I believe Him . . . even if He is silent or seems not interested. He is here and He hears. Therefore, I must persist — until He answers or tells me to stop praying.