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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Prayer that Does Not Quit


 Prayer that Does Not Quit
 
The Bible tells us that when we wait a long time for our prayers to be answered we should not become discouraged.  We should not give up but keep on waiting and praying and believing for God to answer.  God hears us the first time we ask. But perhaps our faith is developed more during those times when we must wait for the answer.  Our timing isn’t always God’s timing. And sometimes we are called to wait for a very long time!
 
God loves to answer our prayers and give us good things.  Scripture says: “Ask and it will be given to you: Seek, and you will find: Knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)  Our prayers are very important because we need to ask in order to receive. Many of our prayers are answered quickly.  But some are not. 
 
Jesus tells a parable meant to encourage us to keep on praying and waiting for God’s answer. His parable is about the widow who wouldn’t quit asking.  (Luke 18:1-6) Jesus begins his story by telling of a judge who didn’t fear God or respect people.  And of a widow who needed protection from an enemy who was harming her. This widow with the problem came to the difficult judge asking for help.  But the judge refused to hear her case.  Jesus continues his story saying that the widow did not’ lose heart when the judge didn’t answer her.  She just kept coming back to the judge asking again and again for him to help her. Tiring him out with her pleas and bothering him with her begging. Finally, the judge was so worn down by this persistent widow that he gave her what she asked for – just to get her off his back.
 
 Jesus’ story teaches us not to give up when our prayers are not answered quickly. To keep on asking and believing. Jesus’ point is that if an unjust judge can be worn down, how much more will a just and loving God do for us when we keep coming to Him with our requests? Jesus said: “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off?  I tell you He will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8)
 
Another story in the Bible tells of how God values a person who follows after Him and won’t give up or take “no” for an answer. This mysterious story takes place at night in the wilderness.  Jacob will meet his brother, Esau the next day and he is afraid of his brother.  Esau had threatened to kill Joseph years before and now Esau is coming to see Jacob with an army of fighting men.  Jacob leaves his large family and his flocks of sheep and goats and goes off alone to be with God.  This is how the story is told in Scripture.
 
“Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him all night until daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said to Jacob, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’.  But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’.  The man asked Jacob, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob’, he answered.
 
Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but your name will be Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.’  Jacob said, ’Please tell me your name.’ The man replied, ’Why do you ask me my name?’  The he blessed Jacob there.”.  (Genesis 32:24-29) 
 
The name “Israel” means “He who struggles with God.”  This was to be Jacob’s new name.  God was very pleased with Jacob because he held on and wouldn’t give up. And the Lord will be pleased with us if we hold on and refuse to stop believing. Jacob wrestled with the angel of God all night and he would not let him go until he would give him a blessing.  Sometimes we must be like Jacob and fight all through our earthly night, holding on to the Lord and telling Him, “I will not let you go until You bless me.”
 
We are told in Hosea 12:4 that when Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he wept and asked for a blessing and prayed. These were his weapons. Jacob had many faults and weaknesses, but God seemed to be pleased with him perhaps because he held on to God and would not let Him go. Scripture says that Jacob was “A Prince of God”.  And he was also one of the Patriarchs of Israel.
 
We don’t believe that Jacob wrestled in his own strength but in the strength given to him from God.  We cannot prevail with God without the strength He gives us to prevail.  Prayer requires a commitment. But it is work in the Spirit that accomplishes great things here on earth. And sometimes we, like Jacob, may also need to struggle with God for the blessings He wants to give us.  And God does want to bless us and answer our prayers. 
 
We sometimes think that we won’t have serious troubles in our lives if God is there blessing us.  But God blessed Jacob and he still had his share of troubles. Shortly after that night when he struggled with the Angel of God and received God’s blessing, Jacobs’ wife, Rachel, died in childbirth, breaking his heart.  His favorite son, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his own brothers, (Jacob’s other children) and for many years poor Jacob mourned and grieved believing that his son Joseph was dead.  Jacobs other sons lied to their father and covered up the fact that they had sold their brother Joseph into slavery.
 
Several of Jacob’s sons ran through a neighboring village killing all of the men and stealing their women and animals.  Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, had sex with Jacob’s concubine.  You get the picture that Jacob, a man blessed by God, had troubles in his family life.
God’s blessing to Jacob did not keep him from normal human problems. But God can even take the bad things that come into our lives and work them out for good.  Years after Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph was sold into slavery, a terrible famine occurred all over the land.
 
By then, Joseph was no longer a slave but he had become a ruler in Egypt and he was able to save his father, Jacob and all of his brothers and their families from starvation during this famine by bringing them to Egypt and feeding them from the stockpiles of food that he had stored for Egypt.  Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery.  He told his brothers that the evil that they had done to him was turned around for good by God.  Since his brothers sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt, with God’s help, Joseph was able many years later to become a ruler in Egypt and to be in a position to save his whole family from starvation during the famine.     
 
I believe that Jacob’s blessing was spiritual. God made a covenant or a promise to be with Jacob (Israel) and with his children (the Israelites) as long as they tried to obey His laws. If they worshipped other gods or seriously broke God’s commands then God did not promise to bless them.  God promises to be with us and bless us if we believe in Christ as Savior and try to follow His laws.  
 
Scripture says: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4) If we delight ourselves in the Lord then we will desire what He wants.  So when we pray according to His will we can know that He will answer that prayer.  We have His Word.
 
Even if the answer takes longer to come than we may hope. We can still have peace while we are waiting because we know that the answer is on the way. And we can picture our answer and thank God that it is ours, even though we can’t see it yet. And keep on believing and keep on thanking God.  Until that day when our miracle arrives and our faith finally becomes sight!im

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