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10 | When you pray, bring the pain, pray with intensity

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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this episode, I am discussing one of the ways Jesus recommends to get answered prayer. Jesus says we need to bring the pain, and pray with intensity.

When we adopted our son from Guatemala, we did it privately working through a missionary and evangelical orphanage.

However, things were quite different when we adopted our daughter from Peru where we went through government agencies in both Canada and the Peru.

And unlike our son, we did not have a choice in what child we received.

Because it was totally out of our hands, I spent most of my lunch breaks asking God to intervene so that we would get the child that God wanted for us.

I remember it being a very intense time of prayer. It was emotional and I was praying incessantly and aggressively that God would intervene, if needed.

I also remember the day, my wife and I got a call from Peru telling us that they had chosen a girl for us and the paper work was done. My wife and I were elated and we immediately purchased our tickets because they wanted us in Peru within three weeks.

But part of the adoption process included securing a Canadian visa for our daughter. Officials from the Canadian Embassy in Lima went to the orphanage to complete our daughter’s visa application.

But something very strange happened. The privately run orphanage would not allow the Canadian officials to see our daughter and wouldn’t even let them enter the orphanage.

The embassy officials called us the next day warning us that we should probably reconsider the adoption because they believed the orphanage officials were covering up something up.

The government agency in Peru also agreed something was fishy and recommended we pull out. What it was or not, we never found out.

Since I had spent hours praying God would intervene in this whole process, I believed that this  was exactly what God was doing.

My wife and I agreed to pull out of the adoption.

But then I explained to the Peruvian officials that we had already booked our non-refundable plane tickets and would lose everything.

At that point the Peruvian officials said they would check to see if any other children in the system were ready for adoption. The next day we got a call from Peru telling us that there was only one other child in their system that was ready for adoption, a two and a half-year old girl.

She was living in an orphanage in the far southern end of Peru. They named the orphanage and town and asked if we were interested.

Believing God was in this we immediately said yes.

But during our discussion with them, they asked several more times to make sure we were still fine going to that orphanage. It seemed odd at the time that they kept bringing it up, but each time we assured them, yes, we wanted to adopt her.

Our Peruvian adoption was back on.

Then a few days later we found out why they had kept asking us if we were sure when we were given an article published in Macleans magazine, a major national magazine in Canada, entitled the Adoption from Hell.

The story involved another Canadian couple who were trying a few years earlier to adopt twin boys from Peru. They were down in Peru and starting to work through the judicial system when the adoption started dragging on.

Both the judge and the prosecutor were demanding payoffs, again and again, to complete the adoption. It was a devastating time for this couple. Because of the corruption, the wife ended up spending two years in Peru because once she had bonded with the two boys, she wouldn’t leave them.

Aside from the emotional hell they went through, it was financial hell as well. Their business in Canada went bankrupt and they lost their home. Though they eventually received their boys, it was the adoption from hell.

Because of this, the Peruvian government decided to stop adopting from that orphanage. But as they looked through their system, they could find only one child approved for adoption, a girl living in the very orphanage where the adoption from hell took place.

But because of our unique situation, they decided to give that orphanage another try. Even after finding this out, my wife and I decided to press ahead, though we were far less confident of success.

Looking back we could have wondered if we had made the right decision about who to adopt, but two things happened that confirmed God was guiding our steps.

First, by the time we arrived the corrupt judge that caused all the problems for the previous couple had been replaced by a born again Christian that I talked about in an earlier episode.

Secondly, when my wife flew out of Peru with our daughter, the Peruvian agency said our adoption was the fastest adoption that they had done to that point.

God was in this adoption.

Curiously, a corrupt judge was the source of one of Jesus’ major parables on prayer that presented a radically different perspective on prayer than many of us have.

Found in Luke 18:1-8, it involved a man who had taken advantage of a widow who had then gone to court seeking justice.

Jesus said that the judge overseeing the case did not fear God or respect man (v 2).

Reading between the lines, this judge was corrupt. Justice was being sold to the highest bidder in that town.

With the widow unable to purchase the justice she needed, the judge kept pushing her off.

But this widow refused to take no for an answer and she kept coming back to the courts seeking help.

Jesus said:

“For a while he [the judge] was unwilling.”

The phrase “for a while” implies a considerable amount of time, weeks for certain, perhaps even months. But this woman would not give up. She continued pestering that judge demanding the justice she deserved.

This is the first key lesson for the intercessor, the prayer battle may extend for many weeks, even months, requiring repeated days of intercession on the same issue.

We must continue praying even if things don’t seem to be going our way.

But there is more to this story than just persistence. There was one more reason this judge finally relented and gave this widow the justice she deserved.

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 word “bother” is actually a compound Greek word that should more accurately be translated “bringing pain.” The second part of this word “kopos” is from a Greek word that means to cut and includes the idea of “reducing a person’s strength.”

But it’s the second Greek word hypopiaze translated “wears me out” that gives a fuller understanding what is happening here. It is should be translated “battered” and in its marginal notes the NASV adds the footnote “literally, hit me under the eye.”

Jesus was comparing intercession to a fight.

This was not referring to a sanctioned boxing match governed by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, it referred to an all out brawl typical of the boxing matches of the day where they fought until one person was pounded into submission. The men battled until the one gave up or could not continue fighting.

Though there may be no knock out blows in a fight, the constant battering — the body blows, shots to the head, the blackened and swollen eyes — depletes a boxer’s strength until he is weakened and can no longer continue.

So using this woman as an example, Jesus was describing a prayer warrior in her truest form. The woman was unrelenting, persistent, landing blow after blow demanding justice from this corrupt judge. .

We are not sure what she was saying but I suspect the widow may have had a few choice words to say about the type of justice being dispensed in that town.

The judge may have been corrupt but the woman’s words were getting under his skin. His job was to protect the innocent and clearly this widow was demanding the judge simply do his job. Her words pounded away at the judge’s spirit until he threw in the towel, conceding the fight.

I remember as I was praying that God would overrule in this adoption, it was an intense time of prayer. At times as I walked the streets near my office, my fists were clenched as I battled for God’s will to be done.

Now as Jesus wraps up this teaching, He clearly separates our Heavenly Father from the corruption of that judge:

“Now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry [the Greek word boao] to Him day and night, and will he delay long over them.” (v 7 NASV)

Though God is not like this judge, He wants us to throw our prayer punches, make our jabs, scoring hits anyway we can.

Respectfully of course — but never giving up.

While the corrupt judge sold justice to the highest bidder, God will bring justice to any who cry out for help. While corrupted judges delay justice as a subtle hint for a bribe, God wants to answer quickly.

But there is more to this. We have to look at the type of prayer God will listen to.

Jesus used the Greek word “boao” which is translated cry in this verse. This word is full of emotion. It speaks of anger and frustration and means to cry out and to make a complaint.

We can see this emotion in other verses that use “boao.”

Luke uses the word in Acts 17:5-6, to describe the anger of the Jews of Thessalonica who took to the streets protesting the Gospel being preached by Paul and Silas. Luke says this mob charged through the narrow alley-ways “shouting” (boao) that Paul and Silas who had upset the world needed to be jailed or at the very least kicked out-of-town.

It was a borderline riot.

It would have involved agitators wearing black masks urging the crowd forward.

People would be yelling and screaming demanding change. Some would have been chanting and others violently shaking their fists in the air. The throbbing mob would have wound through the streets frightening women and children.

They would not take “NO” for an answer. The Bible says their “boao” stirred the city. This is the “boao” — riot prayers — that God responds too.

These accounts were not talking about lay me down to sleep type of prayers uttered at our bedside, but were speaking of desperate, intense, emotion-filled intercession.

In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul exhorted Timothy to “stir up” or “kindle afresh” the gift God put in him through the laying on of the hands. Though Timothy received a spiritual gift, Paul said Timothy was responsible for activating it through an act of his own will.

Similarly, I believe we can stir up our emotions in prayer. I am not suggesting, he who prays the loudest wins, but I believe we can purposefully increase our prayer’s intensity by an act of our will. 

Concentration and intensity are important ingredients in prayer.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord’s prayer was so intense that Christ’s sweat looked like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). This is “boao” in its purest form.

The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ prayer in the garden this way:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries [boao] and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

So in closing the key to successful prayer is when you pray, bring the pain, pray with intensity.


  • Credit feature image: Thomas Hawk/Flickr/Creative Commons

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