Praying with Persistence

Greg Laurie

Have you ever prayed wholeheartedly for something that you believed was the will of God, and received nothing in response but an apparent icy silence from heaven? Perhaps you were praying for the salvation of a loved one. Maybe it was a prayer asking God to send revival in your church, community, or nation.

In Matthew 15, we read of a mother who would not give up asking Jesus to heal her daughter. It is a story that gives hope to all mothers who care about the well-being of their children. It serves as a reminder to us that often, those things we think are barriers are, in reality, bridges.

As the story begins, it appears that Jesus was initially putting this woman off, as though He just didn't have time for a non-Jew who was coming to Him for help. But another dynamic was at work. He was not trying to destroy her faith. He was trying to develop it. He was not trying to make the situation more difficult. He was trying to draw her faith out. He knew she would overcome any barriers in her path. He knew her faith was strong. He wanted to commend her.

We are told that she was a Canaanite of the Syro-Phoenician race, which meant that she was a worshiper of pagan deities. It would also appear that she had become disillusioned with these false gods, because she came seeking Jesus, the true God. She had an accurate assessment of her own spiritual condition when she came, not demanding anything from the Lord, but instead crying for mercy.

This mother, like any good mother, cared desperately about the condition of her daughter, who had come under the power of demon spirits. How she ended up this way, we don't know. We might assume that her mother’s pagan involvement up to that point perhaps had affected her daughter. Maybe there were many little idols and gods in the home, and these had opened up a doorway to demonic power in this girl's life.

This is a reminder that we do have a direct influence on our children. We see it in our society as crimes and sins are passed from generation to generation. It is only the power of God that can break that cycle of sin.

This mother came to Jesus with her heartfelt need, casting herself on His mercy. His reaction might lead us to believe that He was heartless and uncaring. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Jesus tested the faith of this woman by setting up a series of barriers. Sometimes the hardest response to accept is no response at all, which is what this woman initially received from Jesus.

It is hard when we don't hear from God. It is hard when the Lord does not give us a "yes" or a "no," but a "wait" instead. We think, "What is going on? Is God paying attention? Is God concerned? Has He forgotten about me?" Jesus was trying to draw this woman out. What appeared to be a brush-off was actually an invitation for her to step in, be persistent, and not let go.

When the door was shut in this mother's face, she just kept knocking on it. This woman would not be discouraged. This shows us the kind of faith we need. When we are praying for something that we believe is the will of God, we should not give up. If at first you don't succeed, keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.

Maybe you, like this woman, know what it's like to have a child who is under the devil's influence. He or she has rejected your influence, at least for now. Don't give up, and don't feel like God has abandoned you or failed you. Keep praying. Your children can escape your presence, but they cannot escape your prayers.

As you pray, make it your goal to find out the will of God and pray accordingly. Prayer is not getting your will in heaven. It is getting God's will on earth. As I look back, I am glad that God did not say "yes" to every prayer I have prayed.

What do you really want today? Salvation for your child? Your husband? Your friend? Then don't give up. Remember, what may appear as indifference on the part of God actually may be a barrier He wants you to overcome by persistent faith.

Reproduced by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA, 92514.

Greg Laurie pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship (one of America’s largest churches) in Riverside, California. He has authored several books including the Gold Medallion Award winner, The Upside-Down Church, as well as Losers and Winners, Saints and Sinners and The Best Is Yet to Come. You can find his study notes in the New Believer’s Bible and The Seeker’s Bible.

Host of the Knowing God with Greg Laurie television program and the nationally syndicated radio program A New Beginning, Laurie is also the founder and featured speaker for Harvest Crusades—contemporary, large-scale evangelistic outreaches, which local churches organize nationally and internationally. Laurie has also appeared on CNN’sLarry King Live, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, and MSNBC, sharing how the Bible is relevant for people today.

Whether speaking or writing, God has gifted Pastor Laurie with the ability to apply biblical principles to current events in a way that is relevant and easily understood by people of all ages, from all walks of life. The trademark of a Greg Laurie sermon, book, or broadcast is his contemporary, yet straightforward style and format. He resides in Southern California with his wife, Cathe.

Originally published July 13, 2007.

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