A few year’s back, my wife was talking to a woman who told of struggles with her oldest son. He was having problems at school and teachers were constantly asking his mother to come in to deal with behavioral issues.
As they discussed what was happening, the woman shared that the boy was her only child from a previous marriage. Divorced, she had remarried and now she and her new husband had children of their own.
However, the step-father was finding it difficult accepting the oldest son. He found it hard to praise him and easy to criticize. My wife heard the story, saw the need and decided to pray about it.
For the next two and half weeks, this became the focus of her prayers.
When the boy and the step father came to her mind, she would kneel at the chesterfield and pray for the situation. She prayed at least once a day and sometimes two to three times. She persisted in prayer until she felt the Holy Spirit release her from the burden.
When my wife prays, she knows God hears her prayers and she expects the Lord to answer. God does not want us praying any other way. If you do not pray expecting an answer, why bother.
A couple months later, my wife talked to the woman again. My wife said she was expecting to hear a good report and that’s exactly what she heard.
The woman told her about the remarkable changes going on with her oldest son.
She had received a call from the teacher a few days earlier. When the call came in she immediately thought there was a problem. But instead the teacher told her of the remarkable transformation that had taken place. He was working hard and it had reached the point, the teacher no longer worried about him and was free to work with other children.
My wife shared she had been praying for the boy and his step dad. When the woman heard this, she told the story of a significant incident that happened in the relationship between the two.
She said there was a particular event the family had to take two cars too. The dad asked who wanted to go with him. Initially, no one volunteered.
Finally, the oldest boy who was experiencing the rejection said, “Dad, I will go with you.” The youngest boy then piped up he would go as well.
When they reached their destination — she arrived first — the wife saw her youngest son saunter in with a slurpee.
She was sickened by the sight. Her first thought was ‘not again.’ Her husband had bought his birth son a slurpee, but had not bought one for the oldest — as he had done so often in the past.
Her heart broke as she saw her oldest son — with a huge smile on his face — walk in with a slurpee.
Unknown to my wife, she had spent two and a half weeks praying for the step dad to buy his son a slurpee. But God knew what the real issue was and this incident broke the spirit of rejection that enveloped the boy.
Sometimes the answers to prayer can seem to be the simplest thing, but are dealing with huge emotional issues and hurts beneath the surface. This is not to suggest that this situation is fully resolved, but it marked a major turning point for the son and his step dad.
The widow’s battle
It reminds me of a story Jesus shared about prayer. Found in Luke 18:2-8 — it involves a widow who was taken advantage of by an unscrupulous person and went before a judge seeking legal help.
We are told the judge did not fear God and did not respect man (v 2). It was a simple way of saying he was corrupt. Justice was for sale in this town.
The widow apparently didn’t have the means to buy the justice she needed, so the judge put her off. But the woman would not give up and in the end the judge gave her justice, just to get her off his back. The judge said, “yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out (Luke 18:5 NASV).
The Greek word bother which literally means “to give trouble to,” implies that the woman was causing the judge grief. It suggests the judge may have even been in cahoots with the person who took advantage of the widow. The judge was embarrassed by her case. He wanted it to go away, but the widow would not let up. Finally, the judge caved just to get rid of her.
There are a few lessons on prayer we can learn from this widow’s success:
1. She persisted
The woman went before the judge several times, but each time the judge refused to deal with her situation. She had to come back again and again seeking help.
The phrase “for a while” (v 4) that Jesus used to describe the length of her struggle implies a considerable period — days for certain, probably weeks.
Understanding this from a prayer perspective, the widow repeatedly got down on her knees, day after day, calling out for help about the same situation. For the intercessor, the battle may extend over a number of weeks, requiring repeated days of intercession on the same issue.
2. She wouldn’t take no for an answer
God wants intercessors who are unwilling to take NO for an answer. An intercessor need a strong stubborn streak, not in life, but in prayer.
In this account, the judge said “no” several times, but the widow “kept coming to him” for legal protection. After hearing “no” so many times, most of us — including myself — would quit, thinking it was hopeless. Or worse yet, believe it must not be God’s will.
But “NO” was not part of the widow’s vocabulary. This refusal to take “NO” for an answer is vital to successful intercession. God wants a tenacity birthed in your heart about prayer.
Though God is not like this judge, Jesus said the principles that got this woman success are what will bring us answered prayer.
Jesus goes one step further and said persistence prayer and refusal to take no for an answer are a sign of faith.
now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7,8 NASV)