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Bible Commentary Index
Necessity of Prayer Index
VII. PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY (Continued)
"Two-thirds of the praying we do, is
for that which would give us the greatest possible pleasure to receive. It
is a sort of spiritual self-indulgence in which we engage, and as a
consequence is the exact opposite of self-discipline. God knows all this,
and keeps His children asking. In process of time -- His time -- our
petitions take on another aspect, and we, another spiritual approach. God
keeps us praying until, in His wisdom, He deigns to answer. And no matter
how long it may be before He speaks, it is, even then, far earlier than we
have a right to expect or hope to deserve." -- ANON.
THE tenor of Christ's teachings, is to declare that men
are to pray earnestly -- to pray with an earnestness that cannot be denied.
Heaven has harkening ears only for the whole-hearted, and the
deeply-earnest. Energy, courage, and persistent perseverance must back the
prayers which heaven respects, and God hears. All these qualities of soul,
so essential to effectual praying, are brought out in the parable of the man
who went to his friend for bread, at midnight. This man entered on his
errand with confidence. Friendship promised him success. His plea was
pressing: of a truth, he could not go back empty-handed. The flat refusal
chagrined and surprised him. Here even friendship failed! But there was
something to be tried yet -- stern resolution, set, fixed determination. He
would stay and press his demand until the door was opened, and the request
granted. This he proceeded to do, and by dint of importunity secured what
ordinary solicitation had failed to obtain.
The success of this man, achieved in the face of a flat
denial, was used by the Saviour to illustrate the necessity for insistence
in supplicating the throne of heavenly grace. When the answer is not
immediately given, the praying Christian must gather courage at each delay,
and advance in urgency till the answer comes which is assured, if he have
but the faith to press his petition with vigorous faith.
Laxity, faint-heartedness, impatience, timidity will be
fatal to our prayers. Awaiting the onset of our importunity and insistence,
is the Father's heart, the Father's hand, the Father's infinite power, the
Father's infinite willingness to hear and give to His children.
Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the
heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the spiritual
man into the exercise of prayer. Isaiah lamented that no one stirred
himself, to take hold of God. Much praying was done in Isaiah's time, but it
was too easy, indifferent and complacent. There were no mighty movements of
souls toward God. There was no array of sanctified energies bent on reaching
and grappling with God, to draw from Him the treasures of His grace.
Forceless prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win
marked results, or to gain complete victories. We must win God, ere we can
win our plea.
Isaiah looked forward with hopeful eyes to the day when
religion would flourish, when there would be times of real praying. When
those times came, the watchmen would not abate their vigilance, but cry day
and night, and those, who were the Lord's remembrancers, would give Him no
rest. Their urgent, persistent efforts would keep all spiritual interests
engaged, and make increasing drafts on God's exhaustless treasures.
Importunate praying never faints nor grows weary; it is
never discouraged; it never yields to cowardice, but is buoyed up and
sustained by a hope that knows no despair, and a faith which will not let
go. Importunate praying has patience to wait and strength to continue. It
never prepares itself to quit praying, and declines to rise from its knees
until an answer is received.
The familiar, yet heartening words of that great
missionary, Adoniram Judson, is the testimony of a man who was importunate
at prayer. He says:
"I was never deeply interested in
any object, never prayed sincerely and earnestly for it, but that it came at
some time, no matter how distant the day. Somehow, in some shape, probably
the last I would have devised, it came."
"Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." These are the ringing challenges of
our Lord in regard to prayer, and His intimation that true praying must
stay, and advance in effort and urgency, till the prayer is answered, and
the blessing sought, received.
In the three words ask, seek, knock, in the order in
which He places them, Jesus urges the necessity of importunity in prayer.
Asking, seeking, knocking, are ascending rounds in the ladder of successful
prayer. No principle is more definitely enforced by Christ than that
prevailing prayer must have in it the quality which waits and perseveres,
the courage that never surrenders, the patience which never grows tired, the
resolution that never wavers.
In the parable preceding that of the Friend at Midnight,
a most significant and instructive lesson in this respect is outlined.
Indomitable courage, ceaseless pertinacity, fixity of purpose, chief among
the qualities included in Christ's estimate of the highest and most
successful form of praying.
Importunity is made up of intensity, perseverance,
patience and persistence. The seeming delay in answering prayer is the
ground and the demand of importunity. In the first recorded instance of a
miracle being wrought upon one who was blind, as given by Matthew, we have
an illustration of the way in which our Lord appeared not to hearken at once
to those who sought Him. But the two blind men continue their crying, and
follow Him with their continual petition, saying, "Thou Son of David, have
mercy on us." But He answered them not, and passed into the house. Yet the
needy ones followed Him, and, finally, gained their eyesight and their plea.
The case of blind Bartimaeus is a notable one in many
ways. Especially is it remarkable for the show of persistence which this
blind man exhibited in appealing to our Lord. If it be -- as it seems --
that his first crying was done as Jesus entered into Jericho, and that he
continued it until Jesus came out of the place, it is all the stronger an
illustration of the necessity of importunate prayer and the success which
comes to those who stake their all on Christ, and give Him no peace until He
grants them their hearts' desire.
Mark puts the whole incident graphically before us. At
first, Jesus seems not to hear. The crowd rebukes the noisy clamour of
Bartimaeus. Despite the seeming unconcern of our Lord, however, and despite
the rebuke of an impatient and quick-tempered crowd, the blind beggar still
cries, and increases the loudness of his cry, until Jesus is impressed and
moved. Finally, the crowd, as well as Jesus, hearken to the beggar's plea
and declare in favour of his cause. He gains his case. His importunity
avails even in the face of apparent neglect on the part of Jesus, and
despite opposition and rebuke from the surrounding populace. His persistence
won where half-hearted indifference would surely have failed.
Faith has its province, in connection with prayer, and,
of course, has its inseparable association with importunity. But the latter
quality drives the prayer to the believing point. A persistent spirit
brings a man to the place where faith takes hold, claims and appropriates
The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly
set forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and re-stated today. We
are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease, spiritual indolence,
religious slothfulness, all operate against this type of petitioning. Our
praying, however, needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never
tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never
We have need, too, to give thought to that mysterious
fact of prayer -- the certainty that there will be delays, denials, and
seeming failures, in connection with its exercise. We are to prepare for
these, to brook them, and cease not in our urgent praying. Like a brave
soldier, who, as the conflict grows sterner, exhibits a superior courage
than in the earlier stages of the battle; so does the praying Christian,
when delay and denial face him, increase his earnest asking, and ceases not
until prayer prevail. Moses furnishes an illustrious example of importunity
in prayer. Instead of allowing his nearness to God and his intimacy with Him
to dispense with the necessity for importunity, he regards them as the
better fitting him for its exercise. When Israel set up the golden calf, the
wrath of God waxed fierce against them, and Jehovah, bent on executing
justice, said to Moses when divulging what He purposed doing, "Let Me
alone!" But Moses would not let Him alone. He threw himself down
before the Lord in an agony of intercession in behalf of the sinning
Israelites, and for forty days and nights, fasted and prayed. What a season
of importunate prayer was that!
Jehovah was wroth with Aaron, also, who had acted as
leader in this idolatrous business of the golden calf. But Moses prayed for
Aaron as well as for the Israelites; had he not, both Israel and Aaron had
perished, under the consuming fire of God's wrath.
That long season of pleading before God, left its mighty
impress on Moses. He had been in close relation with God aforetime, but
never did his character attain the greatness that marked it in the days and
years following this long season of importunate intercession.
There can be no question but that importunate prayer
moves God, and heightens human character! If we were more with God in this
great ordinance of intercession, more brightly would our face shine, more
richly endowed would life and service be, with the qualities which earn the
goodwill of humanity, and bring glory to the Name of God.
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Bible Commentary Index
Necessity of Prayer Index