Persistence is often a good thing. However, blind persistence can also be incredibly limiting. As my younger children are about to begin their college journey (yes, still a few months to go), I look back to my time in college. I chose a major I wasn’t skilled at. I chose a major that I would not be successful at.
I chose the wrong major for a dream. For 4 years I pursued that major. The result? Another school, another (bad) major, and finally dropping out of college.
But I was persistent, and I was a fool.*
There is no doubt that some people find great success in being persistent. What is often not recognized in that is their innate skill, passion, or support, which can make all the difference.
Sometimes the persistence can be like a drip on a rainy day. You can’t get the sound out of your head, even though you “know” your roof is good. It beats on your head and in your heart. Sometimes it tricks you into thinking that your roof really is leaking.
While the nagging wife could be considered persistent. That kind of persistence (whether it be wife, husband, mother, father, whomever) is generally destructive. It destroys hearts, souls, minds, relationships, lives. That’s not good persistence.
Persistent prayer is different. Whether it’s the story of the friend or the story of the widow, the goal may originate with the self, but there are positive forces at play. In the case of the friend, hospitality is actually center stage. In the case of the widow, justice is at the center.
We often focus on the people in the stories, and not the greater “ethos” that the story surrounds.
Persistent prayer is not nagging prayer. Nagging God to get you a Rolls Royce would not be positive persistence. Persistent prayer for justice for our neighbors? Persistent prayer for their finances and spiritual health?
Often, we will dress up our persistent prayer in “Godly” language, such as, “give me wealth that I may be more generous.” This can be positive. It is often quite negative, as the person is operating from a scarcity mindset, rather than generosity mindset
Other times it could be, “Lord, let them get a speeding ticket.” The justice might be correct; the heart motivation might well be revenge or desire for their punishment.
Persistent prayer may involve the self. Jesus even tells us that we are to bring our cares and needs to the Father.
1) How would you define the difference between stubbornness, nagging, and persistence? How do you know when you are being one or the other?
2) What are some signs or language that you can use to determine the intent behind our prayer (i.e., justice versus vengeance)?
3) If God is faithful in answering prayer, why do we not always get what we want?
Lord, may our prayers be full of your life-giving water rather than torrential waters of destruction; to lift up your people and the world to you. Amen.
*Just for clarity, the fool part is my stubbornness regarding my major pursuit. Without that second college, I wouldn’t have found my wife; so, that part is a win. I did eventually go back to college and complete a degree. It just took a bit longer.