This past week I received a computer-generated robocall that the caller ID identified as being from “CENTURYLINK”. Because it showed an area code of “702” I was suspicious. When I answered, I was surprised that their phone system assumed that it had gotten an answering machine. The message informed me to call the number back and that they could save me hundreds of dollars on my phone bill by changing my options.
When I searched the phone number online, I found numerous complaints from those receiving calls from the number. In fact, other bogus marketers had used the same number previously. The company has no relationship with Centurylink and intentionally misrepresents itself hoping to make a sale to unsuspecting consumers.
The complaints reported that the company would continue to call even after having requested them to no longer call. Others spoke that they would receive numerous calls a day — something I also experienced. It would seem that they hoped that their persistency would wear down the consumer to get them to agree to purchase their products just to stop the calls.
How do you respond to persistent requests? Does it wear you down until you eventually yield? Maybe it is a child in the grocery store wanting some candy or teenager wanting to stay out past their curfew. The persistent whining can wear us down until we grant the request in order to have peace! This negative response is one that we are likely familiar with, but Jesus uses this negative example to teach a positive lesson about prayer and our relationship with the Father.
In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow. Luke opens by telling us the purpose of the parable, “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1) The story is about a judge who “neither feared God nor cared about people” and a widow who came to him repeatedly saying, “Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.”
The judge ignores the woman, but her persistency wears on him until he finally declares, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:4-5) At this point, we may wonder what this has to do with prayer. Fortunately, Jesus answers our question by saying, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:6-8)
The point is clear. If the unjust judge will yield to the widow’s persistent requests, how much more will our just and loving Father hear and receive our prayers. Yet, while we can follow the logic, we may still struggle to believe that God hears our prayers. Why? Partly because we just don’t know if God really cares about us.
The child who is confident of their parent’s love has little reason to persistently ask for something because they know that they will receive all they need. Jesus asks, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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 good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)
We pray because we know that God loves us as a child and we know that because he loves us he longs to hear our prayers. We don’t pray to wear him down by our words but to converse with the Father as Jesus says. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
How then should we pray? Like a child seeking something from a parent who loves them. Not with a whine in our voice but full of hope and expectation, trusting that the answer you receive is exactly what you needed.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.