Pestering Prayers

How does God really feel when we wrestle with him about our requests?

The great people of prayer—Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, and a nameless Gentile mother from the region of Tyre and Sidon—insist that prayer is a dialogue with a personal God, even at times a struggle and a wrestling. In fact, it was this anonymous mom whom Jesus singled out as an exemplar of prayer after she had wrestled with him over her request.

This had to chagrin his disciples. They'd tried to send her away because she was an annoyance, a pain in the neck. "Pain in the neck" is a good expression for someone who, like a stiff, sore neck, will irritate you no matter which way you turn. She wouldn't take no for an answer. She pestered and probed and cajoled until she got what she wanted. And Jesus, the master of prayer, lauded this pain in the neck as a great example of how to pray. That's the way it so often is with God: his ways are not our ways, and what makes us want to stop our ears, opens his. God, it would seem, likes to be pestered.

Shameless in Her Pleading

Part of what so moved Jesus about this woman's prayer had to have been the fact that she was a mother. Matthew's Gospel (15:21-28) says that she approached him when Jesus went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. "A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely'" (Matthew 15:22).

She was a mom at prayer. There is something deep in the character of God that responds to the prayers of parents, and to all who pray the way parents pray. Maybe it's because the prayers of moms and dads can be so humble and self-effacing, because to be a parent is, almost by definition, to be humbled, even humiliated.

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May 25

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