“Will God not do right by his chosen, the ones crying out to him day and night? Will he be long in helping them? I say to you that he will do the right for them quickly. Even so, will the Son of Man, having come, then find faith on earth?”
“Hurry up and wait!” are notorious words for the traveler waiting to get checked in at the airport, or a husband waiting on his wife to get dressed for an important dinner with the boss. These are also words to be pondered in our prayer life.
Sometimes events we pray for happen at breakneck speed, but as I have observed in my life that is rare. Others seem to take an eternity. God seems to answer some prayers now, and other prayers he answers “in the future.” Many times, the prayers we want answered now involve some kind of growth, conditions, or preparations that simply requires our patient waiting and continued prayers.
Jesus taught in this parable in Luke that God answers those prayers with which we keep pestering God, but in his own wisdom, and in his own time. If we object to his means or his timing, can we really think of it as a request in faith? It requires at least a mustard seed of faith that God will answer our prayer, and God’s timing is always the best. Faith requires that we always pray and never give up trusting that God will answer in God’s time. God is truly in charge.
Jesus teaches us about persistence and patience in our prayer life with this parable about a widow who kept coming to the judge with a complaint that required justice. And she did not give up, even though it seemed the judge would never relent to give her justice. She kept coming, day in and day out, and finally she wore down the judge and he gave her the justice she sought.
In college during the late fifties I prayed to God to send me to the mission field. I thought that would be in a foreign land. I applied to the Mission Board, but it did not happen. I kept praying about where God wanted me to serve while I prepared to teach, and after teaching for five years in public and private schools I got two graduate degrees and spent another 25 years teaching in two universities. All those years I continued to pray for discernment of how God wanted me to serve. Somehow it never dawned on me that I was serving in a place of preparation. I continued to believe that there was another place of service other than higher education where God was preparing me for the next step. At the age of 49, I felt God calling me into ordained ministry, something that wasn’t possible at the beginning of my discernment prayer journey. I applied to seminary and with the Bishop of the denomination in which I was a member.
There was still a year of waiting. After which the Bishop turned me down for entering holy orders. Even though I had been accepted by the seminary, and began a Master of Divinity program I was still at a quandary of where God wanted me to serve. It was then that I was introduced to the Lutheran Church, ELCA, and within a period of six months was accepted as a candidate for ministry. Looking back on those 25 years of prayer preparation and teaching before entering the process to become a pastor I can see the journey that God required of me was needed for serving as a pastor. The mission field was in Texas, not a foreign land.
I learned that constant prayer requires faith in a loving God who listens and patiently answers our prayers at the right time. The content of my prayer petitions over the years grew to reflect the quality of a growing faith. In the beginning the content was probably self-serving, but it grew over the years to listening more intently to God. God answered time and time again, “Wait,” and I came to trust that waiting was God’s answer to my prayer. I am now retired after 25 years of serving as a pastor in two congregations, but God keeps revealing that pastoral work is not tied to the paid office of a congregational pastor. It is tied to persistent and faithful prayer for new revelations and new relationships for service.
How has your prayer life grown in the face of adversity? How persistent are you in prayer? Are you willing to patiently wait for God to act in God’s time?
Is your prayer life centered on God’s will, and will you pray constantly for his will? Will you trust God for an unknown future?
Reflect on these questions. Make the same petition every day. After a week or a month, are you willing to continue with that petition, or do you feel like giving up? Be totally honest with yourself! If you feel like giving up, don’t despair. Instead, thank God for the opportunity to pray and move onto the next area in your life and place it in God’s hands.
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.