A new week, and a new challenge. Don’t worry if you’ve only just caught up with this; just start from here. If you did start last week, hopefully you found the experience of practicing radical generosity both challenging and rewarding. I certainly did (you can read my personal reflections on my own blog here).
A little bit of housekeeping – although this started as a little personal project, so many people have joined in that it’s taken on a bit of a life of its own. So my friend and colleague Jamie Cutteridge has agreed both to take the 52 challenges with me, and to help me write and edit this site. From now on you’ll be hearing from both of us, and we’ll be devising most of the challenges together. He’s a good egg – please be nice to him.
This week, I’m going to focus on the central Spiritual Discipline of prayer. Challenge #2 is all about persistent prayer – and so there’s an obvious Biblical reference to draw on, about a well-known widow:
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: 2-8)
Luke actually explains the parable in verse 1 to make absolutely sure we get the point. No ambiguity here – Jesus told the story to show us that we should always pray and not give up.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle less with giving up on prayer, and more with giving time to it. My prayers often take the form of a quick-fire list – a few words of praise and thanksgiving, and then a rattled-off series of problems and hopes that I’d like to see positively resolved.
I suffer from a kind of attention deficit syndrome when it comes to the subjects of my prayers. If I’m praying for ten minutes, I might cover ten or even fifteen different areas in that relatively short time. This week’s challenge then, is going to really stretch me:
2: Pray persistently about one thing for three hours this week.
Horrified? I hope not. But you may well feel as challenged as I do. Now, just to clarify, you don’t have to do a continuous three-hour stint – you can break it up into as many chunks as you like over the next seven days. And when I say ‘one thing’, that can be as wide or narrow a subject as you choose, from praying for one individual’s healing, to interceding for your local community. I would suggest though, inspired by the parable, that you choose a situation where you would love to see a change; a miracle even.
Luke 18 gives us one of those ‘how much more’ pictures of God. If this judge, who is unjust, agrees to answer the persistent widow’s plea, how much more does God, who is totally just, love to answer our prayers? Jesus takes the time to spell out this model of persistent prayer, but in truth I rarely practice it. This week, why not join me in exploring why he said what he did. You could see a miraculous result, but perhaps even more excitingly, you get to spend three hours in the presence of God.
If you’d like to write a guest blog on the subject of persistent prayer (we have short deadlines, sorry), please get in touch by clicking here.