A Case-Study of Persistence
Jesus’ response to her second cry for help includes a reiteration of his mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He even likens her status as a Gentile to the status of the small, pet dogs who long to be fed from the table (Matt 15:26).
The woman, however, is not deterred. She claims a place in the household, but it is a not a position of privilege or even the position of an insider. She accepts the status of a family’s dog by claiming that even the dog enjoys crumbs from the table.
Her statement is striking. She places hope in what others have discarded. This Son of David has so much power that there is enough power for the house of Israel and more than enough left over for her. She is not trying to thwart his mission. She just wants a crumb, recognizing that even a crumb is powerful enough to defeat the demon that has possessed her daughter.
Jesus praises her faith. This woman seems to understand what the members of the household of Israel have yet to grasp .Jesus is not just hope for Israel, but hope for the world.
In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry said, “She demonstrated spiritual quickness and sagacity” recognizing that which seems to be against us can be used for our benefit. Sagacity is one of those great descriptive words that we don’t use very often in our speech. It comes from the root word sage as in a wise sage or teacher. She sought Jesus- the one with the power and authority to meet her needs. All too often we turn to futile sources to meet our deepest needs. She continued her sagacious pursuit by calling Jesus the “Son of David,” which reveals knowledge of the promises concerning the Jewish messiah. Then, she referred to Jesus as Lord, acknowledging that He was worthy of praise. Don’t miss the lesson that she praised Jesus in the midst of her pain. The psalmist proclaimed that God is enthroned or inhabits the praises of His children.
A second characteristic that contributes to her deliverance is her humility. We should never confuse humility with weakness. This mother is a courageous warrior fighting for her child, but she humbly submits to the Lord of the universe. Pride would have been offended by the dog comment. Pride would have returned insult for insult, and pride would have gone away empty. The Bible says, “God rejects the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
A third and perhaps the main characteristic contributing to her blessing was tenacity. With the odds stacked against her, she pushes forward. When she got knocked down by circumstances and criticism, she got back up. When others told her to quit because she was wasting Jesus’ time, she continued to ask. Elijah prayed seven times before he saw the first small cloud. Jesus prayed the same prayer three times in the garden of Gethsemane, and this amazing woman asks three times for help. The primary purpose of this story is to inspire us not to give up just because the hill is difficult to climb. Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking.
Persevering in Prayer
Although even in this lifetime we may not understand the reasons why God delays to answer our cries of agony, we can know for certain that He never delays to answer because He does not care for us or because He is unable to do what we need. He is able to do far more than we can ask or even think, even if it seems impossible to us. Because He is omniscient, God knows even the needs that we do not bring to Him in prayer. Because He is omnipresent, He can deal with your needs in Flagstaff at the same moment that He is dealing with some needy saint in Bangladesh. Because He is omnipotent, He has plenty of power to go around. Meeting your need won’t drain His supply
God doesn’t usually explain in advance why He is delaying the answers to our requests. But we need to cling to the fact that His delays are always for our good, even if we don’t understand the reasons why.
But what does Jesus mean when He says that justice will come speedily? Here we are almost 2,000 years later, and Jesus has not returned to rescue His needy people. We all know stories of faithful saints who have prayed for something all their lives, but their prayers went unanswered. What does speedily mean?
We must understand it from God’s timetable, not ours. With the Lord, a thousand years are like a day or as a watch in the night (2 Pet. 3:8; Psa 90:4). He told Noah that there would be a flood, but 100 years went by without a drop of rain while Noah endured his mocking neighbors. He promised Abraham a son, but he watched Sarah go through menopause and 25 years elapsed before Isaac was born. He promised Joseph in his teenage years through his dreams that his father and brothers would bow down to him, but he spent his twenties in an Egyptian dungeon. He promised to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, but 400 long years went by before He raised up Moses, and that only after Moses spent 40 years in the desert after his failure. He promised to send His Messiah, but His people had to wait 400 years after the last prophet before, in the fullness of time, God sent His Son (Gal. 4:4). Speedily by God’s calendar is not speedily by ours! One answer to the problem of delayed answers to our prayers is to get a proper view of God.
Sometimes He is waiting, like a patient farmer, until the fruits of godliness, faith, and humility in our hearts is ripe before He grants the answers (Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer [Spire Books], pp. 88-89). Jesus says that when He returns, He will be looking for faith on the earth, but the implication is that it will be a scarce commodity (the Greek expects a negative answer). While the world may scoff because God seemingly neglects His saints, surely we ought to cling to Him in faith!
Don’t Give Up
How should you pray when you are worn out, discouraged, and weary of the battle? You could pray, “Lord, give me patience.” That would be good. But a better way to pray is to ask God to increase your love and to renew your confidence in his ultimate triumph.
You can pray about the surface issue, but you will pray better if your prayer touches the root of the problem. Underneath all your struggles with patience and perseverance, you will find a faith that is losing heart and a love that is growing cold.
Maybe you’ve been praying for an unbelieving loved one for years and nothing has happened. You’re getting discouraged. You can say to the Lord, “Help me to persevere in prayer.” But a better way to pray would be to ask God to increase your faith in His ability to change this person and to increase your love for this person with whom you are probably now feeling very impatient.
Maybe you are battling again with the same old sin. You are discouraged by your many failures, and you are tired of the battle. Ask the Lord to increase your faith in His power to overcome this evil in your life. Ask God to help you love Him more than you love the sin that besets you.
God is the One who makes faith and love grow, so ask Him to do it specifically in relation to your battle. God will use the hardest things in your life to make you like Christ.
Jesus endured what he suffered by exercising faith. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he trusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). That’s faith! Jesus was surrounded by darkness, but He put his faith in the ultimate triumph of God!
Jesus also endured through love. How could he stay on that cross? People were shouting for Him to come down. What made Him stay there? “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for His friends” (John 15:13).
Christ persevered through faith and He endured through love. When others see you enduring great trials because your faith is growing and your love is increasing, they will also see a reflection of Jesus Christ in you.
Continue steadfastly in prayer. Please don’t give up the diligence that you showed during prayer week. There is so much power to be had in persevering prayer. Don’t forget the “impudent friend” of Luke 11:8 and don’t forget the parable Jesus told to the effect that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1–8). Perseverance is the great test of genuineness in the Christian life. I praise God that some of you have persevered in prayer 60, 70, or 80 years! O, let us be a praying church, and let 1982 be saturated with prayers to the Lord of the harvest. Won’t it be great to say in the end, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)?
Be watchful in your prayers. This means, be alert! Be mentally awake! Paul probably learned this from the story of what happened in Gethsemane. Jesus asked the disciples to pray, but found them sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:37–38). We must be on the watch as we pray — on the watch against a wandering mind, against vain repetitions, against trite and meaningless expressions, against limited, selfish desires. And we should also watch for what is good. We should especially be alert to God’s guidance of our prayers in Scripture. It is God who works in us to will our prayers, but we always experience this divine enablement as our own resolve and decision.
We are to be thankful in all our prayers. The stories I have heard of what God is doing in so many of your lives through renewed prayer are amazing. They have really stirred me up to press on in prayer with thanksgiving. Keep telling me and sharing with others these good things. God will make this a harvest year if we press on in prayer with the joy of thankfulness.
When Should We Stop Praying for Something?
Isn’t it significant (I think it is) that in the Bible we have the statement “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2), but we don’t have the statement “You pray too much or too long”? We don’t have a statement that says, “You have things I did not want to give you because you kept on asking me when it was time to quit.” We don’t have anything like that.
In fact, all the emphasis in the New Testament is in the other direction. Keep on praying, don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Ask, seek, knock (Matthew 7:7). Wake up your friend at midnight if you must (Luke 11:5–13). Go back to the city judge until he gives you justice even though he just wants you off his back (Luke 18:1–8). I mean, those are amazing, horrible pictures of God. And the point is that he loves when we keep on coming and badgering him for something we want very badly according to his revealed will.
Chapter 26 Questions
- Share a time when you persevered in prayer before it was answered. How did you encourage yourself to continue to pray ?
- Read Matt 15:21-28. Discuss what this story showed about persevering in prayer.
- Pages 197-199: “ Our sovereign God has purposed to sometimes require persevering prayer as the means to accomplish His will “. Discuss this statement and the five bullet points why God has chosen to work through persevering prayer .
- Pages 200-201: Discuss the three truths of when we should persevere in prayer. What insights did you receive ?
- When you desire God more than you desire the answer to your prayers.
- When you are standing on the Word of God
- When you are willing to wait on God’s timing for the answer.