As I walked through the church parking lot that Sunday, I stepped on what I thought was just a wet spot. Nope. Black ice. I had a couple of unexpected bumbling steps, when a simple phrase came to mind: “to him who is able to keep you from stumbling.”
I walked into the room, looked around, and tried to hide my growing sense of intimidation. The room was full of men (the only woman I saw was the receptionist), fake plants and cubicles abounded, and ESPNs 1 through whatever-number-we’re-up-to were on every TV hung in the room, offering a brief respite to those lured by fate or necessity into this room.
I knew who I came to see. I entered this car dealership to research trading in my car, and while I remembered this room from the last time I bought a car, I forgot the atmosphere that tries to pretend it isn’t about to crush your soul.
After a quick test drive and a quote on my trade-in, the negotiations began. They went far longer than I intended for them to go. I wanted to give up several times over the four or so hours I sat in the dealership. A friend was my car advisor—I texted and called him several times to ask, “Is this really a good deal? Should I leave?”
The process of buying a car is painful. I didn’t want the salesman’s approval, but I also didn’t want to appear unkind. I tried to be direct and firm but with a Christian gentleness. I tried not to play the car sales game, but somehow that made the game much harder to stop.
During what felt like weeks (but was really just a very long afternoon), the salesman looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know what a good deal you’re getting?” I tried to play it cool, but I figured he was still playing games when I wanted to quit. Hours later, I left the dealership with a new car, hoping to avoid buying another car for as long as I could. As I drove away, I thought of a recent phrase someone repurposed as a joke: “Nevertheless, she persisted,” but applied to everyday things.
Someone who persisted
I’m not naturally persistent. I’ll push very hard for a while, but without results I tend to give up and move to something easier. But my car buying experience reminded me of Luke 18:1-8, which begins, “(Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
In this parable, Jesus tells a parable about a widow who was dealing with injustice. The only way she saw to get justice was to make herself an unwanted fixture in the judge’s life until he was willing to notice her. It worked. The judge, who didn’t care about God or people, was annoyed to the point that he gave her justice just to make her go away.
Jesus explains that the point of the parable is that if an unrighteous judge can be pressured to do the right thing by the persistence of one woman, how much more will our kind God respond to the cries of his children whom he loves? Jesus’ words at the end of verse 8 tie our prayers and our faith together, showing that faith gives us persistence to keep praying even when we don’t see what God is doing. Persistent prayers demonstrate faith that God will intervene in our lives.
Persistent prayer fuels faith
I recently read Answers to Prayer by George Müller, and was again floored by his example of persistent prayer. During a period of extreme need for himself and hundreds of British orphans, Müller wrote in his journal, “Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us” (22). Here’s a man whose regular, persistent prayer fueled his faith that God would provide, even when it seemed impossible.
I’m learning that God delights in persistent prayer. He doesn’t tire of hearing me pray the same old things, but he delights in me and desires for me to seek him in prayer. He beckons me to come to him boldly because not only does he know me and my needs, he knows that what’s best for me is being close to him. Persistent prayer doesn’t make God more likely to hear me, but it makes me more dependent on my “kind Father” who withholds nothing good from me (Psalm 84:11).
The kind of dependence on God we see in George Müller’s life can only be cultivated through persistent prayer to a loving, attentive Father. It takes a lot of spending time in Scripture, being intentional about talking to God, and trudging on when it’s hard or it feels fruitless. This is where I’m working most on my relationship with God, and I pray that God will make me an enduring and persistent pray-er.
Note: If this is you too, be encouraged! It’s possible to grow in your relationship with God through prayer. A few resources that have helped (are helping) me:
— Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller (currently reading)
— Answers to Prayer by George Müller
— A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller