Day 9: Silence And Persistence - Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools

Day 9: Silence and Persistence

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And 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. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:1-8

Don’t we all have at least one critical area of our lives in which God, who is present in so many ways, is conspicuously absent and excruciatingly silent?

If God responded to our prayers with a straightforward no, it’d be a bitter pill, but at least we’d know God heard us and in his infinite wisdom and eternal perspective responded in the negative. “No” is disillusioning, but still leaves a foundation for ongoing communication. “No” invites further relationship. But silence? Silence feels like apathy for the sufferer, like God is unmoved and uncaring about what’s going on down here.

Jesus knew this would be a hard pill to swallow, so he told several stories to illustrate what our response should be when we are waiting patiently for God’s response to our prayers but are beginning to grow weary. My favorite is the story of the stubborn widow who pleaded her case relentlessly before the stingy judge.

Normally, the meanings of Jesus’ parables are kept mysterious, but here Luke steals the punch line. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke, like Jesus, knows that persistence can be hard to stomach, so he comes right out and says it: “Jesus painted a picture for you to hold on to like a life raft when you’re drowning in silence and disappointment. Here it comes.”

The promise of the story is found in its most dynamic character—the slimy judge. But Jesus doesn’t compare the unjust judge to God. He distinguishes God from the judge. His point is that “if even a judge this bad will give justice to the persistent, how much more will God see that those persistent in prayer get justice?”

The final word Jesus speaks in the parable doesn’t come in the form of a promise but a challenge. He admits that most people lose steam in the long journey of asking, seeking, and knocking. He promises a good ending, so good in fact that it’ll redeem not just the distorted creation as a whole but every moment of suffering from every individual life—none of it will have been wasted. But Jesus asks us, “When the time for that full and final redemption comes, will I find men and women of faith?”

When we’ve grown impatient with the waiting, lost our stamina for persistence, what keeps us praying? We must recover an understanding of the way God is at work, not just in the final promise, but in all the acts of persistence along the way.

Can we become again a persistently praying kind of people? “Keep on asking and it will be given to you. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). That’s the invitation Jesus offered us. And anyone who takes him up on it and prays this way long enough will eventually find themselves on the doorstep of resilience.

To Practice: Identify a place of pain, silence, or unanswered prayer in your life. Search for the deep question beneath the silence, the question you most deeply want to ask God in light of this painful experience of waiting. When you’ve identified it, ask him, inviting God to reveal His mercy amidst your pain.

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