The Essentials of a Victorious Importunate Prayer Life (1)
Do you know to Who you are making a request? Are you convinced He can perform on your request?
And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Luke 11:5-10, NKJV)
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' " Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:1-8, NKJV)
The two passages of Scripture above are parables Jesus told to indicate what is essential if we are to be victorious in prayer through persistence or importunity. The first parable is about a man who needed bread from his friend for his guest, and the second is about a widow (typifying someone who has no other means of support, having lost her husband, and without hope), who needed justice for herself from a judge. These two individuals had needs that could only be met by someone else. They both had no other means of obtaining their desires but to depend on the provider they had identified. If the recognised provider refused to grant them their requests, they would have no other means of obtaining that need. These are grounds for importunity.
In application, all humans have needs and cannot obtain them unless they depend on God. No matter how powerful, mighty, wealthy, or healthy, every human being has needs beyond their reach—needs that only God can provide! And this is good grounds for importunity in prayer.
A few important factors in these parables teach the essence of victorious importunity in prayer. And we shall be looking at these factors in a series of articles beginning with this.
Persistence not insistence
We must distinguish between persistence and insistence, which both carry the connotation of importunity. Persistence is about a continual pleading, from a position of weakness and humility, whereas insistence is making a demand from a place of strength or authority and arrogance. The distinguishing attribute between the insistent and persistent person is that the insistent person is proud and arrogant, but the persistent person is meek and humble.
The most insistent of persons will have to succumb to persistence when they realise that what they want cannot be obtained otherwise. Many people do not get what they want because of insistence, whereas all persistent people receive their requests due to their humility.
It is crucial to note that prayer is petitioning God, who is greater than you and can meet all needs. It is, therefore, a misnomer to speak of "insistence in prayer" but perfectly alright to "persist in prayer".
Some people seek illegitimate means to obtain what they want when they cannot pay the price of getting it legitimately. Some others go through such unlawful means because they lack knowledge of who can legitimately give them what they want. Some others go through illegitimate means because though they know the right way of getting what they want, they are either unqualified or unwilling to get it legitimately. Our discussion is on obtaining things legitimately from an appropriate authority!
Knowing who you have gone to for help
The first thing to note from the two parables Jesus told is that the man who wanted bread from his friend knew that his friend had bread. Likewise, the widow knew that the judge she went to could give her justice. In applying this to importunate prayer to God, we must know, with irrevocable conviction, that God can do what we are asking of Him.
Imagine going to a friend who does not have what you want; whether you persist or even insist that they give you what they do not have, you would be wasting your time; you would be "barking up the wrong tree!" If the widow had complained to somebody who was not a judge or a judge who had no jurisdiction, she would not have gotten the justice she needed.
If you will persist in prayer to God and be victorious, you must be irrevocably convinced that God can do what you are asking of Him. Otherwise, after a while, you may feel that you are asking for something that God cannot do and would give up and say, "Maybe God cannot do it", and then go elsewhere. But when you are fully persuaded that God can give you what you desire, then the next issue will be to ascertain whether He is willing to provide it and direct your importunity as such!
What does it mean to be convinced about God's ability?
In Matthew 8:2-3, a leper approached Jesus saying,
"I know that you can make me whole; what I do not know is if you would want to." (My paraphrase)
This leper knew with conviction that Jesus could heal him. He was, however, not sure whether Jesus would heal him—he never once doubted Jesus' ability to heal him.
To persist in prayer victoriously, you must be convinced that God can do whatever you are asking of Him. When you are thus convinced, your importunity will be well worth it because you know that God can grant your request.
Taking your conviction about God a notch higher
In Matthew 8:5-13, a Roman Centurion went to Jesus to plead with him to heal his servant. When Jesus offered to accompany him to his home to heal the servant, the Centurion said that his house was too lowly for Jesus to step into; he asked Jesus only to speak the word, and his servant would be healed! Even the Lord Jesus commended the Centurion for his faith. And indeed, all Jesus had to do was speak the word, and the Centurion's servant was healed!
The Roman Centurion knew that if he, a mere man, could command his soldiers to do his bidding and they obeyed, then Jesus, the Son of God, can give a command, and it would be done! It is obvious that the Centurion believed all that he was told about Jesus!
The flip side of conviction: lacklustre inquiry
In Mark 9:21-24, a man wanted Jesus to heal his son of epilepsy (seizures). When he came to Jesus, he said,
"If you can do anything, please have pity on us and help us." (Mark 9:22, ERV)
This man had no convictions about Jesus' ability to heal his son, unlike the leper and the Roman Centurion. Observe that he prefaced his request with, "If you can do anything …" which betrayed his lack of conviction in Jesus' ability to solve his problem. To him, Jesus was one of many other possibilities to explore. It showed that if Jesus had failed, in his estimation, he would be on his way to find another person or means to solve his problem.
Indeed, this man had first gone to Jesus' disciples, and they could not heal his son. So, when Jesus came on the scene, his thought was to give Jesus, their Master, a try before proceeding elsewhere.
Jesus' response to the man's request, however, placed the full responsibility for the healing of his son on him when He said,
"Why did you say 'if you can'? All things are possible for the one who believes." (Mark 9:23, ERV)
The epileptic boy's father could have left the scene believing that Jesus could not heal his boy, not realising that his lack of conviction in Jesus' ability was the real problem! Unlike the leper and the Centurion, who believed firmly in Jesus' ability, the father of the epileptic boy did not. Such a lacklustre attempt at getting help does not bring relief. You cannot be importunate on something you are not sure the person you have gone to can provide.
What is your conviction about God's ability?
Now, the question for us is, "Is there anything that God cannot do?" When you can answer that question unequivocally, your importunity will not be in vain because you would be sure that you are not "barking up the wrong tree!" As you continue to ask, you will know that you will be heard (all other variables being right), and your request will certainly be granted.
Once we are fully persuaded that God can do absolutely anything, we continue to ask and implore Him until we get a response from Him. Whether you are requesting a personal or family matter or a matter that affects a community, city, or nation, you can be importunate with God in prayer, resting assured that He can do anything regardless of the scale of the need.
What we must do, is just what the widow did with the judge: continually take the matter to God in prayer, thus,
"Father, there is a problem, a challenge, an issue in my life, my family, community, city, nation. I have brought this matter to You because I know you can resolve it. Please solve it for Your glory, in Jesus' name, Amen."
You should keep at this for as long as it takes—until you get a response from God, bearing in mind God's sovereignty.
We shall look at another of the essentials for victorious importunate praying in the next part, but for now, let us seek conviction about God in our hearts. This requires that we study God's word and pray about it.