I think nowadays we’re not that patient in prayer anymore.
It’s a common complaint that our “instant” society wants everything now. That email or text or Facebook post or tweet demands an immediate response (regardless of how trivial it is), and we expect an immediate response to our messages, offended when it doesn’t come. We can’t be bothered or don’t have the time in our busy lives to cook our own meals, so we go to restaurants instead. Those are just a few examples and I’m sure you can think of many more.
This mindset has of course affected those within the church as well, and we’ve applied it to our relationship with God. We want instant sanctification (hold the discipline, please!), and for God to immediately provide all our needs or bless us despite our actions or circumstances.
This attitude has also affected how we pray. We spend maybe 5 minutes asking God for His intervention in a certain area or for a touch of His presence, and then expect to have an answer or to feel it right away. And when we don’t, as I’d wager is often the case, we feel like God is rejecting us, or maybe there’s something wrong with us.
This problem is compounded by popular depictions of prayer from the pulpit or from Christian media, with the idea that if you’re holy enough then you will have instant results. You see faith-healers proclaiming people healed after a brief touch and a few words spoken.
Or maybe more likely we know that we need to be persistent in our prayers, and that God’s timing is not our timing. We nod our heads wisely with mental assent when the pastor tells us this, but our prayer life still looks the same, and we go away with the same doubts as to it’s worth or benefit.
But if we look to Jesus as our model for life and spirituality (as we should), we see that he often spent much time in prayer (Luke 6:12, for example) often before the major decisions in his life. “But he’s Jesus,” we say, “come on.” But he addressed this very issue, in Luke 11 and 18, teaching us to persist in prayer. To be tenacious.
In Jeremiah there’s a story about some soldiers who come to Jeremiah and ask him to pray for them, seeking God’s will on their behalf. They come both humble and expectant, and Jeremiah says he’ll do it. The text then says “Ten days later, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah” (42:7). Ten days. That doesn’t sound like a long time, honestly, but when I think back to the last time I continuously prayed about something for 10 days… I come up with nothing. But maybe that’s just me.
In any case, if we want to be a people of ‘mini-Christs’ then we need to be a people of prayer. Patient, persistent, prayer.
And we have God’s character to rely on:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!