Persistence In Prayer 3 — Do We Have Faith?
Chan Gin Kai
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8)
Our last two articles studied the persistence of a widow in her quest for justice from an unjust judge. Jesus told this parable to emphasise the need for persistence in prayer.
Jesus concluded his parable with a question, asking “will he find faith on earth” when he comes again?
Faith is not some mysterious magic we invoke to get our prayers answered. Faith is simply trusting in God, His character and His promises.
Many have believed and passed on misconceptions about prayer. These wrong ideas make it harder for us to have faith in God.
Prayers That Move God?
Some have wrongly taught that we need to have prayers that can move God, and I used to believe in the same too. We misunderstood that the number of times we pray, our hunger in fasting, the hours on our knees and our sincere tears will move God to bless us.
This concept is terribly wrong and it warps our faith in God.
If a prayer is not answered, we think it is because we’ve not prayed hard enough. So we try even harder, with louder cries and tears. If a prayer is answered, we take credit for our “powerful prayers” and take away the praise that is due God. We glorify the "Prayer Warrior" instead of the loving Father. We end up putting our faith in our efforts instead of God.
This erroneous mindset also wrongly paints God as hardhearted. Really, do we need our children to cry buckets of tears before we feel moved to love them? Are we claiming that God is more hardhearted than we are? Or are we thinking we can manipulate God with tears?
We only need to look at Jesus to understand God’s compassion. When Jesus saw a widow whose son had died, “his heart went out to her” and he raised her son from the dead (Luke 7:13-15). When Jesus looked at a crowd, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless”, and declared that more workers should be sent out to the harvest field (Matthew 9:36-38). Jesus was concerned that a crowd that had followed him for three days had nothing to eat. So he told his disciples, “I have compassion for these people” and miraculous fed 4,000 of them after (Matthew 15:32-38).
The widow didn’t ask Jesus to resurrect her son, the crowd didn’t ask for more workers, and the other crowd didn’t ask Jesus for food. None of them tried to move Jesus through tearful requests. He saw their situations, his heart was moved and he took the initiative.
God is not stirred by our tearful petitions, He is moved by His innate compassion. He does not answer our prayers because we begged, He hears us because He is good.
Our God is compassionate and He is easily moved. He sees the situations we are in, He feels for us, and He wants to help us.
I am certainly not saying that there’s no need to pray then. I am emphasising the need for us to pray believing in the power of God’s love, not the strength of our efforts. And when we truly believe that God loves us dearly, we will be inspired to pray even more.
We do not need prayers that can move God. We need to pray believing that God is compassionate.
Prayers To Change God’s Mind?
Some have also taught that if we pray sincerely enough, we can change God’s mind. This is another wrong concept that diminishes our faith in God.
They even quote the example of King Hezekiah to support this erroneous mindset.
Hezekiah fell very sick and prayed tearfully for God to heal him. God heard his prayer and lengthened his life by 15 years (Isaiah 38). This is a misuse of scriptures. Firstly, it assumes that God wanted Hezekiah to die and it was Hezekiah’s prayer that changed God’s mind. God may have sent Isaiah to inform Hezekiah that he was going to die, but that doesn’t mean that God wanted him dead. Secondly, we learn that Hezekiah messed up big time right after he recovered. It created severe repercussions to his kingdom and descendants years later (Isaiah 39). Perhaps it was better if Hezekiah had died?
Why do we NEED to change God’s mind? Is it because He is not wise enough and we are so much smarter? Or is it because He hates us and has planned bad things for us? God's mind doesn't need changing.
The real problem is, we WANT to change God’s mind. We want to suit our own desires and bend God to our will. We don’t want a God who loves us according to His wisdom, we want a genie who serves us according to our whims.
A perfect example of fervent and persistent prayer is Jesus at Gethsemane. He prayed with so much anguish that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He prayed the same prayer three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus wrestled in prayer. He didn’t do it to persuade God to change His will, but to convince himself to submit to God’s will. He trusted that God’s plan is better even though it meant a painful and humiliating death. It turned out to be true of course. God raised Jesus in glory, and His plan for our salvation was completed.
God’s plan for us will involve some painful steps sometimes. We have dreams of our own that are different from God’s too. But let’s trust in God’s plan and have the confidence that it will always turn out better for us.
We do not need faith that can change God’s mind, we need faith that God’s plan for us is good.
Read more about ‘Persistence In Prayer’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.