Persistent prayer proves hard for many Christians. We may labor on our knees for years as we pray for our unbelieving child, an empty womb, our spouse to be converted, the friend battling cancer, depression to no longer have a hold, a sin to lose its grip, or the gift of just one good friend. We pray and continue to pray, ever fighting the temptation to give up. The temptation comes because nothing seems to happen. If we are honest, many times we wonder if our Father in Heaven cares. We bow our heads, utter our prayers, plead with the Father, and it seems to rise no higher than the ceiling. How desperate such times can seem and how distant our Heavenly Father appears to be.
Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows His sheep and this struggle. Luke tells us in chapter 18, verse 1, that Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus lends His agreement to Luke’s interpretation as He concludes the parable of the unrighteous judge by saying, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Be relentless, Jesus is saying. Keep praying. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. If an unrighteous judge will respond to the pleadings of a widow and grant justice, how much more our Heavenly Father?
Jesus is comparing the unrighteous judge to God the Father. But it’s more than a comparison, it is a contrast. A popular method of argument in Jewish tradition was an argument from the lesser to the greater. Jesus is in effect asking, “If someone so unrighteous and uncaring will grant justice after persistent pleading, if someone so low and so vile would respond, how much more God your Father?”
Dear Christian, we have a Father who is just and who cares for us. A Father who doesn’t keep the people under His care at arm’s length. No, He invites us in. Even more, He draws us in, listens, responds, and cares for His children. One of the great benefits of being in Christ is that we are able to draw near to God the Father in prayer time and time again.
Have you watched children interact with their father on Sunday mornings at church? Inevitably, some child will be found sitting on his or her father’s lap. It is quite natural. The father might sit down after one of the hymns, their son or daughter crawls over the pew, maybe over their brother or sister poking them in the eye, and promptly sits on their father’s lap. They draw near. They know this lap is reserved for them. A stranger has no right to that lap. How odd it would be to see another child in the congregation climb onto a foreign father’s lap. But a son or a daughter can approach with boldness to sit in the lap of their loving father. It speaks of intimacy and belonging. Christians possess intimacy, enjoy that sense of belonging, possess unfettered access, and exercise this very privilege as children of their Heavenly Father.
Let us remind ourselves readily that we live in communion with a Father who loves to draw near to us in love, and loves for us to draw near to Him in love. Our pleadings, whispers, and cries in prayer never fall on deaf ears. In fact, they are received in love.
Many of us struggle to maintain persistence in prayer because we tend to think of the Father as harsh, hard, and severe. His love seems fleeting and His apparent lack of response to our prayers seems to confirm this suspicion. But don’t we know that He is the fountain of love? His love is always directed towards us.
I have never heard someone say, “I know God the Father loves me, but the Son of God, Christ, I am not so sure about?” No one says that. And no one says something similar about the Spirit. But that many tend to doubt the Father’s love is a reality that hampers prayer. Such a view of God the Father echoes the old lie told by the Devil to Adam and Eve in the garden—a lie meant to cause confusion, harden our hearts, and lead us to think that the Father is severe and delights in keeping things from us rather than giving all good gifts to us.
The Christian engaged in persistent prayer fights this temptation. We know the Father loves to give good gifts to His children. He gave us the gift of all gifts. Christ did not secure the love of the Father for us by dying on the cross. The Father’s love for us sent Christ to the cross. His love was antecedent. It was the cause. The Father’s love did not become ours by virtue of Christ’s death; Christ’s death became ours by virtue of the Father’s love. “For in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1st John 1:9). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). As John Owen said, Christ, the Son, is but the stream flowing from the fountain of love, God the Father. The Father is like the sun that shines in the sky and Christ the beams that radiate from that sun. We know the sun by the beams, but it is the sun that is the fountain.
The Father loves you, dear child of God, and one of the chief ways that we enjoy His love is by coming to Him in prayer. He not only loved us, but continues to lavish His love upon us. That is what Fathers do with their children. They don’t just love them for a moment; they keep on loving them—at least any good father does. And He is not just a good father, but the best of Fathers. He doesn’t turn a deaf ear to our cries. He is moved with compassion and mercy. And Jesus is saying, “Don’t you know that when you pray when you plead, it is to such a loving and caring Father?” What a privilege we enjoy in prayer. Keep praying and do not lose heart. Our prayers do not fall on deaf ears or an uncaring heart. Rather, they are heard by our Father, who loves us as His dear children.
Jason is an ordained pastor in the PCA. He is an Assistant Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. Jason is a regular blogger on the Gospel Coalition and Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals websites. He is also the author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home. He is married to Leah and they are blessed with two wonderful children, Gracen and Ethan. When he isn’t pastoring or writing, Jason enjoys spending time with his family, laughing, watching a good Chicago Bears’ game (as rare as they are), and feasting upon Chicago-style pizza. He is also a man marked by great faith and hope as he awaits the realization of a Cubs’ World Series championship within his lifetime.