The Necessity of Prayer :: 06 & 07
Welcome back to part 6 (and 7, really) in my series on E.M. Bounds’ book about “The Necessity of Prayer.”
This time, we’ll be looking at the topic “Prayer and Importunity”
Importunity basically means ‘overly persistent.’ Irritatingly persistent might also be a good way to describe it.
In these two chapters, we look at a number of examples in scripture, describing importunate prayer or conduct, and how that kind of persistence paid dividends in the end. Abraham asking God to spare Gomorrah, over and over again. Jacob wrestling through the night, refusing to let go until he’d been blessed. Moses prayed for 40 days to stay the hand of God against the Israelites. Elijah prayed seven times for the rains to come. Jesus himself in the garden of Gethsemane,prayed the same prayer three separate times.
Nowhere, however is it made as clear to us as with the “Parable of the Importunate Widow”. This is the story where the widow brings her case to the judge again and again, and each time he turns her away. Until, at some point, he realizes that the only way to be rid of her is to give her what she asks for, and he commits himself to avenging her.
Jesus is telling it to us plainly. Come to me. Come again. And come again and again and again. Why, do you suppose this is so? In Bound’s words :
“He teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, he delays the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence, when the answer is delayed. But the man of prayer hand on and on. The Lord recognizes and honors his faith, and gives him a rich and abundant answer to his faith-evidencing, importunate prayer.“
The key to all of this, then, is to recognize that when you pray, you should anticipate a delay. That your faith may be tested (and, as a curious consequence, strengthened!) by delay and what can only be perceived as failure. But the correct response is to redouble your efforts, to become even more fervent in your petitions, and to not give up praying until your prayers have prevailed.
Am I the only one that is bothered by this notion? It seems so….disrespectful…of God. Doesn’t he have better things to do than to listen to me belly-ache about my needs and problems? God seems to allow us to sway him. When Israel had created for themselves the Golden Calf, God was in a terrible anger over it, and was set to destroy them wholly. Moses set himself to pray for His hand to be stayed. God said to him, “Leave me alone!” But Moses would not, and because Moses refused to give up until his prayers had prevailed, Israel was delivered.
It seems that God gives us an ear whenever we choose to take it. Even when He may have set his will on a particular course, perhaps our prayers actually can influence Him in some way?