Heidi Howerton: Hello everyone. Welcome to our podcast today. Heidi Howerton is here…
Jani: …and Jani Ortlund.
Heidi: We’re so glad to have you joining us.
Jani: We pray that these podcasts on prayer have been restorative to your souls. Oh my goodness, Heidi and I have enjoyed doing them, haven’t we?
Heidi: Yes, they’ve been restorative to my soul, Jani, but also really challenging me, which is good. I think we need the Lord to press into us and challenge us to grow.
Jani: There is a restorative power in God challenging us, isn’t it? It’s renewing to our hearts. “Oh! There’s something new here!” I want to go for that challenge!
Heidi: And to hear his voice more as a father, saying, “Come, come!” versus as a rebuke. But I love when he says, “Come Heidi, you can grow in this area. Come to me a little bit more.” It’s been really helpful to me, Jani, so thank you.
Jani: Oh, thank you for doing this with me. Now. In our last episode, we were looking at Isaiah 62:6-7, and I’m going to read those again for us right now. They say this, Isaiah 62 :6-7, “On your walls, O Jerusalem I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” Well, we’ve been seeningthat prayer is divinely appointed. It’s prophetic, it’s persistent, it’s strenuous, it’s almost rude. There’s another passage that we want to look at this morning as well, alongside of Isaiah 62. It’s in Luke chapter 18. It’s about a woman who is kind of pushy. Heidi, will you read it for us?
Heidi: Yes. “And he told them the parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man, and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though, I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”‘ And the Lord said, ”Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'”
Jani: Hmm. Thank you, Heidi. Let’s just make a couple comments about this and see how that passage relates to praying almost rudely or with a push. First of all, we can see that that widow has a legitimate need. She has a valid request, and she pesters that judge with that request until she wears him down. It’s kind of an interesting picture there, isn’t it? We heard in Luke 18:2 that this is an earthly judge. He neither feared God nor respected man. He was worldly. He was kind of cynical. In verse 7 of this passage, we see that our God, our Judge, is a righteous judge. He is eager, he’s sincere, he’s loving, he’s just, he’s fair, he’s kind, he’s slow to anger, he’s compassionate, he’s tender. Hmm. What a difference between our judge to whom we bring our legitimate needs and an earthly judge.
Jani: In this passage, there is a persistent rudeness by this widow, a slightly stubbornness in her, and I want to relate that to a slightly stubborn kind of praying, a righteous impudence that God hears. I think that this passage invites us to pray prayers that PUSH and by that I just take each letter of the word push and talk about prayers. I want to Pray Until Something Happens. Prayers that PUSH!
Jani: One of God’s strategies with us in our walk of faith is to keep us waiting, not because we’re asking the wrong thing, but to deepen our faith in his ways, to help us to trust his timing. God in his infinite wisdom and glory may want me to wait for a while. Heidi, have you ever had to pray over something for a long time and wait for it?
Heidi: I think of so many different things. Jani. One of the first stories that pops into my mind as I hear you say that is just the waiting every year for my cancer scans. Well, you know, they have some lymph nodes that they’re watching. They’re not concerned about them, but will those just be lymph nodes? Will those stay the same size? It’s a continual waiting, a continual asking God for his protection over that. Or I think of we’re trying to decide to have another baby and we don’t feel like we have a clear, like our hearts have a clear decision on that and so it’s waiting. It’s asking God, “Lord, what do you have for us?” Or I think of the tree farm, Jani, you know that we prayed for three years. We felt the call that we really wanted to own a farm, but I didn’t know if that was in God’s will for us and I have that written down in my journal and I felt so silly asking God for that every day. “Oh, Lord, bless us with the farm” and three years later, in his provision, he not only gave us a farm, but he put a Christmas tree farm on our hearts and he blessed us in that the owners that had this house before us were getting it ready to start a Christmas tree farm. How kind the Lord was in our waiting and that he didn’t look at me and laugh because I was asking for a farm.
Jani: Mm. Those are such good examples. I’m sure our listeners can think of times in their life when they’ve had to wait on God in consistent, persistent, eager prayer. I know I have in my own life. And God gives us examples in the Bible as well. I mean, think of Abraham. He waited 24 years for Isaac. Or Joseph—think of his years as a slave and a prisoner—years! Or Hannah. 1 Samuel 1:6 says, “So it went on year after year.” She waited years for her womb to be opened. Or King David. He spent years as an exile and then seven years outside of Jerusalem before his kingdom was established. I mean, think back seven years in your own life even. That’s a long time to wait, much less 24 years.
Jani: I like this story, too, in John 11, of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It says that Jesus, “when he heard that Lazarus was ill stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” That’s kind of crazy in my mind, but Jesus said he did it for their sake. “I was glad that I was not there so that you may believe.” He had a purpose in waiting. Jesus loves us in his delays. He is waiting until the moment he knows is best. Psalm 13:1 says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I think every Christian has prayed that at some point in his or her life.
Jani: We see in our passage back in Isaiah 62 that prayer is also patient. If God isn’t answering my prayer, I don’t want to let my disappointments darken my view of God. I want to challenge that disappointment. Maybe it’s even sometimes deeper than disappointment. Sometimes it, oh, borders on despair. You see when God isn’t answering my prayer, the real question is about me, not God. I need to learn to doubt myself, not God. God is loving me by not making me the center of my life, but by making him the center. Isaiah 62:7 puts it this way. We’re talking about prayer here—that watchman mentality. “All the day and all the night they shall never be silent.” We’re to “take no rest and give him no rest until”—that little word—”until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”
Jani: Patience calls for perseverance in prayer. Isaiah is telling us, let’s go after God until his church reigns supreme. That’s the Jerusalem being spoken about in verse 7—makes it a praise in the whole earth. If God is delaying, it cannot be because he doesn’t care or can’t hear or is too busy to answer. The bedrock of any active purposeful prayer is one’s faith in God. Oh, let’s not quit praying.
Jani: Let’s trust him for everything that concerns us. That child who is wandering. Or that deep grief. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one recently. Keep praying about it. Or your poor health. Keep praying. Maybe you need work and you’ve prayed and prayed and the job hasn’t come. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep praying! Your infertility. Don’t quit. Keep praying. Your loneliness, or your son who has divorced his wife and split his family, or your financial instability. There are so many things. Keep praying!
Jani: Now while the bedrock of your prayer life is your faith, the bedrock of your faith is your Lord—Jesus Christ himself. God is the one who activates your faith. I don’t know about you, Heidi, but I often think it’s my faith activating God. If I pray hard enough…
Heidi: …if I have enough faith,, if I bring it before him enough times, yes, that it’s dependent on me.
Jani: Maybe this prayer isn’t right and therefore God’s not answering. If I could just get it right with enough faith, he would answer. But that’s not right. It’s not my faith that activates God. It’s God who activates my faith, so let’s welcome that. Let God himself encourage you and pour out a watchman mentality over you. Weakness and brokenness attract God. Let’s look to him not to our own faith. I love what he says in Romans 8:26-27. Heidi, you know I’ve been trying to memorize that, but I think I ought to have you read it just in case I’d blow it on my podcast.
Heidi: “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Jani: Isn’t that good? Oh my goodness. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. He comes to those who are weak. The strong don’t need him. So don’t worry if you’re weak in your prayer life. The Spirit comes and intercedes for us according to the will of God. I love that.
Heidi: I love that, too. God loves weak people. It’s okay to be weak and to come to him when we feel so weak and like we don’t have anything left to give.
Jan: Yes, yes. So let’s be people of God who keep praying persistently and patiently until, until he answers. Patience is the display of your love for, and your trust in your heavenly Father to do things right. We can’t always understand the ways of God. He asks us to trust him. Heidi and I have a pastor at our church by the name of John Farmer and he gave us an illustration recently that I just loved.
Heidi: It was so good at church.
Jani: Yes, John and Jakell have a little boy, LJ, and he’s under a year old. John was playing with his son in the morning and describing all the wonderful toys that they have for LJ. He said, they’re that bright, they’re noisy, they’re very engaging, but what does LJ want? He wants the power drill over on the table and when John goes to take the power drill away and put it up where it’s safe, LJ complains and fusses. Now, there’s no way that John could explain to LJ in an understandable way why he can’t have the power drill. Why he can’t tell him, “Yes.” LJ just has to trust his daddy and LJ may fuss and still fight for it, but he just can’t understand what his father is doing. It’s like that with our heavenly Father. We may be reaching for the power drill that could really hurt us. Our Father is watching over us, caring for us. Let’s trust him enough in his care for us to wait patiently. Sure. We pray, we groan. We continue to cry to the only one who can act for us. But sometimes, no matter where we turn, we feel just like Job. We can’t see him anywhere around us. He seems silent and I don’t know about you, Heidi, but sometimes I have to fight down that fear that he might not fulfill this desire I’m praying for. I fret that he won’t come through for me in a way that is meaningful and significant to fulfill that desire I’m praying over. Sometimes I fuss about what life might look like stretching out before us with this unfulfilled longing still beating in my heart. I wonder if it’s a sin to keep longing, to keep praying, to keep crying, to keep groaning.
Jani: The question I think I need to ask myself, Heidi, you need to ask yourself, our listeners need to ask themselves, is this, “How do I live well in that waiting space between asking and receiving?” Well, we live there by continuing to pray and then waiting in patience. Patience is not the same thing as waiting. Waiting is something we have to do. It’s kind of forced upon us. Patience on the other hand is something we offer to God, a patient heart. We wait because we must, we have little choice in the matter. But patience is our gift to our Father while we wait. And we want to pray in patience while we continue to persevere. God calls us to pray while we wait.
Heidi: Jani, what do you think it means to pray in patience? What does that look like in a prayer life?
Jani: What it looks like to me, Heidi—and to you, you chime in on this too—is continuing as it says here in Isaiah 62 to give him no rest. Take no rest myself. Continue to pray over it and give him no rest but not fuss over it. I don’t lose valued sleep. I don’t waste emotional and psychological energy and emotional energy. This, I turn it over to God. God, I am asking you for this again, I’m going to keep asking you for this until you tell me no. I’m going to keep praying, but I’m going to pray with your help, with a patient heart. Give me your Spirit to teach me patience with this request because you’ve told me it’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. I want to pray with patience. So I’m not shaking my fist at God, in a sense saying, “Oh, why won’t you?” I’m saying, “Lord, I still long for this. Please give it to me and I’m gonna try to be patient until you answer.”
Heidi: That’s helpful. Thank you.
Jani: I think these verses that we’ve been looking at as we talk about rude, pushy prayers teach us that the course of history, our own personal history, the history of our family, the history of our neighborhood, our city, even our nation, our world, that history moves forward through prayer. Prayer hastens the day that the Jerusalem will be established and its praise will be in all the earth. Through prayer we see God’s promises arise and fulfilled. So dear listener, Heidi and I want to take our stand and we want to encourage you to take your stand on the walls of your own personal Jerusalem and pray. Pray strong, persistent, patient prayers until God has established his kingdom in your corner of your own Jerusalem. And may he restore your soul as you do.