Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, "There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: 'My rights are being violated. Protect me!'
"He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, 'I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won't quit badgering me, I'd better do something and see that she gets justice otherwise I'm going to end up beaten black and blue by her pounding.'"
Then the Master said, "Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won't step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won't he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?" (Luke 18:1-8 MSG)
We dont know what caused her distress, but this widow needed justice and she went looking for it with no weapon but persistence. Going to the judges home, she knocked on the unsympathetic mans door repeatedly until he finally gave her what she was seeking.
Is God telling us hell only answer our prayers if we wear him down? No!
Hes reminding us that if a heartless judge can be reached, we can certainly count on our Father who loves us to help us.
People ask, "Why arent my prayers answered sooner? Why keep trying?"
Sometimes, we ask for a small blessing and get no answer but find out later that God denied us because he wanted to give us something bigger.
I read about a missionary who prayed for eight years for one conversion. None occurred but he kept on praying. One day the whole tribe made their decision together and 12,000 were baptized.
Any time there is a delay, you can be sure that two things are going on your faith is being tested by God and contested by Satan. Satan wants to discourage you, but God is testing your faith because he knows that faith is a muscle. Waiting develops the muscle.
I read about another missionary named Reese House. While in England, God called him to go to Africa, but he first had to find money for train tickets to London and then money for passage to Africa.
But one day God asked, "What would you do if you had the money?" Reese said, "I'd go to London and then get on a ship to Africa."
God asked, "Am I the source of all your needs?"
So Reese and his wife announced to their church, "We're heading to Africa." They only had enough money to get about 50 miles down the road, but they bought train tickets anyway and went as far as they could. Fifty miles later, they found themselves sitting in the train station, feeling foolish.
But God spoke again to Reese. "If you had the money, what would you do?"
"I'd buy a ticket."
God said, "Get in line." He got in line behind about 18 people and stood there as the line kept getting smaller. Reese had no money and he kept thinking, "Boy, am I going to look dumb when I get up to that ticket desk!"
When there were only two people ahead of him, Reese said, "Lord! I look stupid here!"
And just then, the man in front of Reese turned around and said, "Ive changed my mind. I'm not going. Here! You can have my money."
Would it surprise you to hear that it was enough money to get Reese to Africa?
God's timing is perfect. It always is and it always will be! So next time you feel discouraged about a prayer request, dont give up look up!
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Adapted from Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for pastors and church leaders, available at Pastors.com.