Last week I was in as deep a temptation to give up as I have been in my Christian walk of some forty years. I desperately needed to hear from God about a certain matter. Would it be this, or that? I needed to make a decision. Yet prayer was so difficult. God was so silent. It seemed I had no other choice but to give up on God. I won’t go into detail, but let me tell you how it happened that I did not give up.
I went to a prayer meeting, and it hardly got going before one of the brothers spoke of George Mueller and his continual experience of answered prayer. George Mueller proved, demonstrated, over and over again that God answers prayer. Then a sister shared that the Lord had laid on her heart again the same two passages that have been given to us in our prayer gathering over several months. They both involve prayer that does not take no for an answer.
One is the parable Jesus gave with the express purpose of teaching that “men [the word is gender inclusive] ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Lk. 18:1). That is, not give up. It’s the story of the widow who relentlessly pressed an unjust judge to avenge her of her adversary. Although the judge gave God no place in his life, nor sought favour of man, he finally did for her what she wanted just to be rid of her. Jesus then comes to His point.
And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
He then adds this:
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?
So He gave this parable specifically to encourage people to “not faint,” to not give up on God, but keep pressing Him with our prayers and believing He will yet answer in a day when God is silent and faith is severely challenged, tested, because of it.
The other parable is the story of a man with two friends—one in great need, the other with great provision. The friend in great need has come to the man hungry in the middle of the night but the man has nothing to set before him. So he goes to the friend with great provision and, standing outside the door, calls out and wakes him up and asks for what he needs—three loaves. But calling to him from within, this friend puts him off, he is rebuffed—go away, we’re all in bed here, I can’t give you what you need. But the man keeps after him till finally he gets what he wants.
Jesus then brings out that it is this importunity, not their friendship, that got the man the provision he needed.
And I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Lk. 11:8).
Importunity—it means to ask or demand urgently, repeatedly, persistently, relentlessly, tenaciously.
Just prior to this parable the Lord has given his disciples what has been called the Lord’s prayer in response to their request that He teach them to pray. Then with this parable He continues to teach them to pray—to be importunate in prayer. Then after the parable He says this:
And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Ask just once? Seek for a while? Knock once or twice? That’s not what the man with two friends did. He kept on asking, seeking, knocking, till he was given his heart’s desire. And that, actually, is the force of the Greek tense here—present continuous.
Keep on asking, and it shall be given you; keep on seeking, and ye shall find, keep on knocking, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that keeps on asking receives, and he that keeps on seeking finds, and to him that keeps on knocking it shall be opened.
We need to know and believe that our God greatly desires to answer us and give us our longed-for requests, though it seem He is a reluctant God. Not so. We must never take unanswered prayer as God’s answer to prayer. We must be persistent. Importunate. We may not understand why just yet, but this, it seems, is something very important to Him.
At the outset I called it a temptation that I was about ready to call it quits. I chose that word specifically, because another of the brothers in our little prayer gathering brought out how the disciples slept through the greatest opportunity they’d ever had—that of praying with Jesus in Gethsemane in His hour of temptation to evade the cross.
What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation… (Mt. 26:40).
It was when the brother brought this out that I suddenly recognized what I had been going through. It wasn’t just my own thoughts, it was a temptation. I have an Adversary who would love nothing more than to see me pack it in, and persistently advises me to do so. I am so thankful that with the help of brothers and sisters I was able to disappoint him. I was able to recognize the temptation for what it was, and not enter into it. If the Lord Himself had been sitting in the prayer gathering in that living room He could not have spoken to me more clearly than He did through the brothers and sisters who were there. I heard my Father Himself speaking to me. Don’t give up. I hear your prayers. I’m going to answer them.