When we think about persistence, we can not help but think of the story of the persistent widow (see Luke 18:1-8). It is a parable about how God desires our persistence when it comes to prayer. We typically interpret this parable in light of a specific request. The idea is that if we keep asking God to answer our prayer, he will eventually “give in.” But what if we thought about this parable in a more general way? What if we thought about it not in terms of a specific request but in terms of the discipline of prayer.
Yesterday was a bucket list type of day for me. I was able to play a round of golf at Winged Foot Golf Club. Winged Foot is an extremely exclusive golf club with members such as Donald Trump. It has hosted several US Opens, and this is the first time I have ever been able to play a course that has hosted a U.S. Open. So it was very exciting for me as a golfer.
I’ve played golf for most of my life. I was good enough to play in college. At one point in time, I played practically every single day. It didn’t matter if it was raining or even snowing. The only thing that kept me off the course was if the course was closed. And sometimes even that did not stop me. I was persistent, and I was intent on improving my game.
Today, it’s a different story. The game of golf is not nearly as important in my life. I have my family. I have a church to lead. God has a greater calling on my life. The result is my golf game has suffered. I am not nearly as good as I once was.
Golf is a game that requires consistency. If you don’t play regularly and often your game will suffer. And maybe that’s the lesson Jesus teaches us when it comes to persistence in prayer. Is prayer something we pick up each day or is it something we do every so often? If it is something we do every so often, we are not going to have the same expectations of doing it every day.
The reality is that many of us are not persistent when it comes to prayer. We turn to prayer when we have a big enough need to bring before God. But many days will often go by when we don’t pick it up. Maybe one of the reasons Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer is so we are practiced when we need to make the big ask.
Think about prayer in terms of three categories: Probable, Improbable, and Impossible.
It is likely the sun will come up tomorrow. It is likely I will have something to eat for lunch. It is likely I will wake up in the morning. These are all things that are probable. At the same time, these are not things to take for granted. We easily do. But to put these things before God as a matter of prayer will start to build our faith. This is where consistency with prayer begins.
As we start to exercise our faith with asking God for the probable, we ask him for the improbable. Stretch the limits of what you believe is likely. It might be a promotion at work. It might be a financial blessing. It might be an unlikely relationship. Then see what God does. This is where you take your game to the next level. But you can’t take it to the next level without laying the foundation at the first level.
At last we come to the impossible. The impossible is not the starting point. If you ask for the impossible but have never asked God for the probable and the improbable, you are not going to be asking out of faith. You will be asking out of doubt. Prayer will be viewed as a last resort rather than a powerful weapon of the Spirit. It is consistently seeing God come through with the probable and the possible that gives us the audacity to approach him for the impossible.
I still had enough game in me to handle Winged Foot yesterday. But if I had come out without many years of practice, I would have been overwhelmed with the challenge of playing a championship caliber course. My hope for you is that you pray at a championship caliber level without being overwhelmed. It starts today with consistently asking God for the small things to build your faith to ask him for bigger things.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you agree that faith in the little things builds faith for the big things? Why or why not?
- Why is consistency important for prayer?
- Write down a list of probable, improbable, and impossible prayers for God to answer. Where is your level of faith? Probable? Improbable? Impossible?
- Share your comments?