Let’s look at two styles of prayer, and reflect on why one is praised by the Lord, and the other is meaningless. Begin with Matthew 6:7
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Now compare this to Luke 18:1-8
1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’
4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
5 ‘yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ "
6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.
7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
Both of these instructions on prayer were given by Jesus as He mixed this into His daily teachings. Some people are not persistent in their prayers because they are afraid that since they are repeating something, it falls under the warning of Matthew 6:7. Repeating a request is not a vain repetition. Jesus is speaking of the repetitions found in pagan religious practices. The word translated into heathen above also means pagan or paganism.
We can look at pagan cultures today and see the same things Jesus was addressing. Many pagan cultures believe in the power of words. They chant certain words over and over in order to cause a response. Jesus is warning the people of the church not to use chanting or empty (vain) repetitions, thinking they are causing a spiritual response. Vain means empty or meaningless. Vain repetitions is to recite words or sounds without meaning thinking it’s a spiritual discipline that God must honor. Not so. God is interested in us thinking upon Him and petitioning Him with our heart’s burden. He is not interested in the phonetics that expel from our lips. Even chanting ‘Jesus’ over again falls under this warning. It applies to any words spoken without thought.
The second illustration reveals the type of repetition God honors. To show the power of a godly prayer, the Lord uses the opposite of Himself as an example. A godless ruler who cares nothing about people and rejects God will honor a request if pressured enough. The lowliest person in that culture was a penniless widow. She had no political clout, no money to bribe, and no family to help petition on her behalf. Yet because of her persistence, she hounded this ungodly man day and night until he reached his limit. He decided to honor her request for no other reason than to just make her go away.
If an ungodly ruler will respond to persistent petitions and honor the requests of those he cares nothing about, how much more will God respond to His people, which He cares deeply about. Though the subject here is injustices that need to be overthrown, the principle also applies to prayer in general.
If there is a need, we are called to pray without ceasing. That means we pray consistently and in faith, knowing God cares about our needs and is directing our lives. Earlier we looked at the scripture where God instructed us to give Him no rest from our prayers. This is where that applies. This isn’t a selfish prayer where we are asking God to fulfill our desires, but a heart that seeks to right something that is wrong. It could be a need in your life. It may be a need in the life of someone you care about. It may be a barrier that hinders you from pursuing your calling in God’s plan. Give Him no rest, but come before the throne of grace night and day. This is our call to live by Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
That word ‘boldly’ is the Greek word ‘meta’. This word means: free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, and assurance. It does not mean to be arrogant and demanding. The throne of grace is God’s throne of favor. It’s still the throne, but it’s the place where God shows favor to His children and we are welcomed to come in at any time.
In the ancient times, people trembled before the king. When before a king, he had the authority to speak a word and judgment would fall. And that without question. People were afraid to come before the king – everyone except his children. Even tyrants are usually kind to their children. While others quake before him, his children rush to meet him with confidence. They wouldn’t think twice about presenting a request. Even for the most petty thing.
This is the picture we should have of the throne of God. Though He is good, the earth quakes before Him. The enemies of God cannot stand in His presence. The Bible paints an amazing and fearful picture of God. Yet, because we are His children, we have the right and should have the confidence to rush toward the throne of grace. For us, that is what the throne represents. Grace – unmerited and undeserved favor of God. We have God’s favor, not because we have earned it, but because we are His children through Christ.
Jesus ended this teaching with a telling question. “Will God really find faith on the earth?” Does the Lord’s people have faith to approach the throne? Do we believe God can open the windows of heaven? Make a way in the desert? Move the mountains? Or do we walk away defeated after one request and don’t believe God will answer? God’s call is that we discover our purpose through intimacy with God, and then pursue our lives based on that relationship. We then can approach the throne with confidence and persistence. Do not cease from prayer until He reveals the answer – whether it be yes or no. If you are asking according to His will, the answer is always yes. But only those who persevere will see the miracles of His hand in their lives.
Don’t give up, but pray until God opens the door.